The reed in your saxophone can make you or break you, sound-wise. They are a vital part of your tone, and especially for jazz musicians, buying the Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz is important.
This is a bone of contention in some circles, and some myths have grown up surrounding this issue. One of which is that the strength of the reed you use is a measure of how well you play. This is not necessarily true.
The Numbering System
You may know that on the back of the reed is a number. That has nothing to do with the gauge or thickness of the reed. It is a measure of the reeds’ resistance to pressure from your breath. The higher the number, the more resistance it has by being a little stiffer.
Don’t get caught up in this idea that your progression through reed strengths means you are getting better. Some people progress very quickly from one to four. It doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly become Charlie Parker overnight.
These days the natural cane reed has been joined in the marketplace by synthetic reeds. There are some advantages of synthetic saxophone reeds in that they don’t warp, wear out or crack. But they are a little slick, and fitting can be awkward.
They are also more expensive per reed, and I have included an option a bit later. The sound, of course, can be different. Most pros use cane, so the decision is yours.
The reed will affect just about every aspect of your performance while playing jazz on the sax, especially the tone, intonation, and response. It can also affect the embouchure formation around your mouth.
There are many brands to choose from, and as the price of reeds has risen, it is important to get the right reed by narrowing down the choices. So, let’s have a look at some Reeds from some top manufacturers.
Top 5 Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz in 2023
1 Vandoren SR2125 Alto Sax Traditional Reeds Strength 2.5, Box of 10 – Best Value Saxophone Reeds for Jazz
Eugene Van Doren, who originally played clarinet at the Paris Opera, founded the company in 1905 in Paris. Since then, it has been passed down and is still family-owned. This tends to ensure that standards of production and the quality of the products are maintained. And so it is with Vandoren.
A Respected Manufacturer
Still based in Paris, they are now a respected manufacturer of reeds and mouthpieces for woodwind instruments. The quality of the products, especially their reeds, have made them a major player in the market.
Reeds that have more traditional designs have certain characteristics. They give a clear and concise response in all of the registers. And they even allow a certain attack, even in quiet passages.
The design of this reed produces a very clear sound. This is mainly due to the reed tip being shaped thinly. The tip of the reed is where you will get the maximum vibration. As the reed extends towards its heel, it has significantly more cane used in the construction, which produces solidity.
It was the favored reed of French Classical saxophonist Marcel Mule. Today it is still used by many intermediate and professional players. But as they are rated at 2.5 strength, they will still be suitable for adult beginners.
This is undeniably rich and gives plenty of body to the sound. Something everyone has come to expect from Vandoren reeds. To ensure the reeds reach you in prime condition, each reed is sealed in a “Flow pack.” A quality product from a respected company at a very attractive price.
- A quality product that has a traditional design.
- Box of ten at a very cost-effective price.
- Might not be suitable for younger age beginners.
2 D’Addario Rico Select Jazz Alto Sax Reeds – Best Sounding Saxophone Reeds for Jazz
D’Addario is a New York-based company that is probably better known for its guitar strings. They produce a wide range of accessories for guitars but also work with orchestral instruments. Because they produce good quality products, you might expect that the reeds and mouthpieces they manufacture to be the same.
They were originally established in Italy, where they had been making strings since the 17th century. However, they relocated to New York in 1915 after an earthquake devastated their village.
The Rico brand
They are a manufacturer of reeds, mouthpieces, and other accessories and were acquired by D’Addario in 2004. Rico was already a recognized brand name in the manufacture of reeds.
And because of this, D’Addario was reluctant to change the name. They, therefore, incorporated it into their own profile. The Rico Jazz select are saxophone reeds specially designed for Jazz players.
These reeds are designed with a longer vamp. This is especially important for Jazz sax players because they are more flexible and much more responsive.
This particular box includes filed reeds. This indicates they may be better suited to players with some experience and not beginners. They have a strength rating of three, or soft to medium strength.
This reed helps to produce a big sound that gives plenty of projection. It is smooth, bright, and prominent in the mix of instruments. They also offer good sound control. A good quality reed sold in boxes of ten.
- A well-made reed that offers a powerful sound and good projection.
- Designed with a longer vamp specially for Jazz players.
- It may not be suitable for complete beginners as they are filed.
3 D’Addario Select Jazz Tenor Saxophone Reed Sampler Pack – Most Versatile Saxophone Reeds for Jazz
Another reed product from D’Addario but this time in their own name rather than under the Rico banner. I have included this option from D’Addario because it goes some way to solving the problem of which saxophone reed to choose.
Time to Experiment
Are you new to the Tenor saxophone and unsure which reed might be best for you? If so, then this is a cost-effective option for you to try.
This is a sampler pack of reeds for jazz players. With this option, you can try various cuts of reed and differing strengths. Plus, if you have never tried filed or unfiled reeds, then this is a good opportunity to compare them.
Test the sound
It is also a good way to see how it affects your sound. And after all, that is the most important thing. In each box, you will get two different strengths for jazz players in both filed and unfiled.
Each reed is individually packed and sealed to ensure they are in pristine condition. They are set at strengths Medium and Hard. Rather than committing yourself to buy a full box, this at least will show you some varieties you could choose from.
- Allows you to try out some different options.
- D’Addario makes good-quality reeds.
- Some might think them expensive as they are only for testing.
4 Rigotti Gold Tenor Saxophone Reeds Strength 3 Medium – Best Premium Saxophone Reeds for Jazz
We move a little more upmarket now as we look at some Reeds from French company Rigotti. They were established over fifty years ago in Cogolin, near Marseille in the South of France.
Since then, Rigotti has been making high-quality reeds using a cane that is locally sourced in Provence. Besides reeds for saxophones, they also produce them for clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and even bagpipes. They are rightly very proud of their ‘Made in France’ stamp.
The cane is hand-picked, then cut and shaped very precisely. To form a precision reed, you need quality materials. That is one thing Rigotti uses and is well-known for.
Even the process of cutting the cane is a precise business and only undertaken at certain times of the year. This is to ensure that the cane is mature and ready to be used. They produce a consistent tone that is clear and sharp. Also, they tend to be very durable.
High yield from the Box
Inevitably, with some manufacturers, some reeds in a box of ten must be discarded as not up to standard. However, you will find that the number of throwaways from a Box of ten Rigotti is much less than other manufacturers. A great reed that is a little more expensive than some, but with real quality.
- High-quality materials used.
- Produce a consistent and clear tone.
- Not cheap compared with some.
5 Legere TSS250 Bb Tenor Saxophone Studio Cut No. 2.5 Reed – Most Durable Saxophone Reeds
We mentioned in the beginning that these days there are other materials than cane that are used to make reeds. Synthetic reeds do have some advantages and, of course, some disadvantages.
Legere is a Canadian company that produces synthetic reeds for a variety of woodwind instruments, especially the saxophone. They tend to be thinner and stiffer than what you might find with a traditional cane reed. This does make them easy to play and able to produce a nice tone.
Plenty of Vibrato
If you play with a lot of vibrato, then this reed is ideal. It is bright and great for jazz with high projection and a responsive feel.
One big advantage, other than the durability, is that these reeds need no initial preparation before use. They have many of the properties of if not the exact sound of a real moist cane. The materials used in manufacture are non-toxic.
As with most synthetic reeds, they tend to be quite expensive. The upside is that they last a long time. The downside is that you need to ensure you get the right reed the first time. A mistake in that area could be costly. The price point is for one reed only.
- Create a decent sound, not unlike a cane reed.
- Durable and long-lasting.
Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz Buying Guide
When you buy your reeds, if you get the chance to have a look at them first, there are some things to look for. You need to see the following.
- A consistent pattern of grain on the vamp.
- No discoloration on the vamp.
- A coarse grain will not give a good sound.
- Look at the blunted end at eye level and check the symmetry; it should be flat.
There will, of course, always be some reeds that have got through quality control but will not be usable. On average, you might expect that to be about three in every box of ten. That might sound a lot, but this is a precise and highly skilled manufacturing process.
The final thing to be aware of is the fit. No matter how well made it is with great materials, if it doesn’t fit your mouthpiece, there will be problems. The reed needs to fit the style of your mouthpiece.
If your mouthpiece has a narrow top opening, it is usually better with a harder reed. Wider tips are often better with softer reeds. You might need some advice on this as many mouthpieces differ in style and design.
Looking for a Great Saxophone or Sax Accessories?
We can help you find what you need. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Alto Saxophones, the Best Tenor Saxophones, the Best Soprano Saxophones, the Best Selmer Saxophones, the Best Beginner Saxophones, and the Best Yamaha Saxophones you can buy in 2023.
Also, have a look at our detailed reviews of the Best Saxophone Brands, the Best Saxophone Neck Straps, the Best Alto Sax Mouthpieces, and the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz currently on the market.
What are the Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz?
Many good manufacturers are creating good reeds for the saxophone. And getting a good reed is vitally important for your sound. All things considered, including cost, I think I would choose a traditional cane reed, the…
A quality product with a traditional design, and best of all, you get a box of ten at a very cost-effective price. All in all, they are easily my choice as the Best Saxophone Reed for Jazz for most players.
Until next time, let your music play.