Teaching with Synthetic Reeds

Mike Lawson • • August 30, 2018

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As both a teacher and a performer, I have used Légère premium synthetic woodwind reeds for years and want to share my experience with this great product.

These reeds have been around for over 20 years and are being used by some of the most accomplished performers in the world. They are made from a unique oriented polypropylene which produces a full spectrum of harmonic overtones while requiring less effort from the player. The most frequent reasons given by teachers who don’t try them are not knowing how to begin and the cost. As a performer, I have used Légère reeds beginning when I was a touring clarinetist with The U.S.Army Field Band and found t hem to be equally useful as a band director and as a private instructor.

The Mechanics

Cane reeds warp around the “chamber” of the mouthpiece after the first playing. The reeds bulge there, because it gets moist when played while the rest of the reed is dry (the reed can warp elsewhere as well). Cane reeds sometimes have uneven tips and inconsistent hardness and thickness.

Légère reeds are made from polypropylene, are always symmetrical, and do not react to moisture. One can get a bigger and better sound because the reed has more surface contact with the mouthpiece and the air isn’t going behind a warped reed. Légère Reeds do not need to be adjusted like cane, saving you valuable time. Légère reeds have a warmer, more mellow sound (they are not buzzy like other stamped or molded plastic synthetic reeds are).

Using with Students

Once your students are comfortable assembling their equipment and their reed strength is determined, they can easily transition to Légère reeds. Students will have the freedom to focus on their playing and spend little time adjusting their reeds. As teachers, we can now assume it is not the reed that is causing problems and can then focus on the real issues.

Légères never need to be soaked and play directly out of the box so the lessons and rehearsals are always focused on playing, not on reed maintenance. Bear in mind, like any cane reed, cracking, chipping, or bending the tip of the reed will render it unplayable.

With proper care two Légère reeds can last for 3-7 months. It is important for students to have two reeds, so they can rotate them after about an hour of playing or practice. This helps the material to relax back to its original form. Reeds will need to be replaced when they begin to sound too soft or buzzy, just as with cane. It is important that students do not use the reed past its lifetime because they will get used to the softer reed which will weaken their embouchure.

Where to Begin

Start your students with the Légère Classic Series, which is made from a thicker tip material, making it ideal for projecting and providing full, rich, sounds. They are for professionals, beginners, marching bands, or large ensembles.

Choosing the correct strength is crucial. As a band director and instructor, I keep several strengths of reeds with me for students to try (ensure proper sanitation between tests). They should blow easily, and you should hear an improved sound almost immediately.

Ensure the mouthpiece is in proper condition, not chipped or broken. No reed will work well on a bad mouthpiece. Légère reeds are compatible with almost all popular mouthpieces but may not work as well on asymmetrical ones.

Educate both the student and parent of the advantages:

• instant response right out of the box, no pre-moistening needed

• consistent and reliable

• unaffected by weather, humidity or temperature

• durable and long lasting – two can lasts for months, not days

• cost effective

For more information, sound samples, a comparison chart, artist rosters and more, please visit legere.com.

Cathy A. Ogram is a retired clarinetist from the U.S. Army Field Band, and former band director at Hargrave Military Academy. Cathy still teaches and is a frequent performer in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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