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  • Writer's pictureQueen Reed

Vandoren Clarinet Reeds - What's the Difference?

At some point you were probably told, or decided for yourself, that you wanted to try Vandoren reeds. Maybe you were upgrading from student reeds, maybe you were just curious. And I’ll bet you found out right away that there are several different types of Vandoren clarinet reeds: the Traditional, V12, 56 Rue le Pic, and V21. All of these reeds have different physical characteristics and these physical characteristics create differences in the way the reeds sound and feel when you’re playing.

Here’s a quick run-down of how these reeds feel and play for me. As always, your results may vary. (We can’t really talk about reeds without talking about mouthpieces. I use a B40Lyre mouthpiece. All my observations are based on that).

Vandoren Traditional - nice all-around reed for me. Slightly less expensive (usually) than the V12’s, so I tend to use these for practicing, and when I get a fantastic one, I save it for performances.

Vandoren V12 - also really nice all around, slightly more depth to the sound than Traditional. They feel a bit “easier” at the same strength as the Traditional. So, if I have a mouthpiece that I’m trying, and my 3.5 Traditional reed is a bit too stiff, sometimes I pull out a 3.5 V12 to use on the mouthpiece. The V12’s are definitely not a big difference in strength, not a size, not a quarter-size, just a shade easier for me.

56 Rue le Pic - I like these reeds for chamber playing. I get a warm sound and they speak pretty easily for me. When I need to blend precisely, and play with a ton of sensitivity in an up-close situation (chamber music), these are a good go-to!

Vandoren V21 - these are powerhouses for me. I can use these in orchestra to help project from the back of the stage. And I think they are a nice option for clarinets in marching band because of their beefier sound. They always sound very powerful and dense for me, but even after a good break-in process, they quickly begin to sound fuzzy and whiny. But, many of my students and colleagues love these reeds and don’t have that problem. So I think we have to pin that all on me!

Special notes:

On my very old Buffet R13, V12’s in size 3.5 and 3 are by far my best all-around choice.

On a Buffet R13 Prestige that I had for a while, with the same mouthpiece as I use on the old Buffet R13, the Traditional cut consistently out-performed my V12’s, AND I needed to go down a strength! (Interesting, that the same mouthpiece on a different clarinet needed a different reed. I think we can chalk it up to the fact that the particular R13 Prestige I was using was a bit of a dud for me).

On a Buffet RC Prestige, all of the cuts of reeds tend to work nicely, except the V21s.

My best advice for you is to see for yourself - experiment! That's half the fun, right? Reeds are expensive, so see if someone you know is willing to give or sell you one or two reeds of a particular type. Vandoren also sells a Clarinet Reed Mix Card - which is a set of four reeds, one V12, one 56, and two V21's.

Happy Practicing!

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