Synthetic vs Cane
Many of the woodwind players out there find themselves in a crunch, needing the next box of reeds. They find the local music store and plant themselves in front of a wall. Different boxes, different sizes, different brands, different instruments, overwhelmed with the amount of variables that comes with reed shopping. Which one do you pick?
A cane type reed, which are the majority of reeds out there, is naturally made out of a grass based plant that is specfically grown and harvested for reed manufactures. When collected it is sent to the home site to begin the construction of these perfectly placed reeds in their crafted branded boxes.
Cane reeds are known for their warm and detailed sound. It gives you that natural feeling that any woodwind player needs to have as well as the flexibility to allow the player to manipulate that sound. Woodwind players want consitency in every reed. With a higherend manufacturer such as, Vandorean, you are lucky to buy a box and have 7 out of the 10 reeds playable, of those 7 only a 3 of them are performance ready reeds. Meaning you will not have to soak them or file them down yourself, or however you work with your reed to make it play for you. We all have our own solution to making our reeds play!
Why does this happen?
Cane is natural wood. There are different types of cane, cuts, thickness and quality. With any living thing once taken from the ground, the growing process stops and the cane starts to dry out. This means there is still change happening. Manufacturers try their best to make sure tha with every reed made, the cut is perfect and matches the template before its put in its package and shipped off to local stores and companies. Environmental change effects each and every reed possible. Depending on where its shipped to, the enviornment maybe dry, moist, have a higher altitude, and all of those contribute to the outcome of each individual reed. This is why we get such ration in a box of 10 reeds.
Take a look at our cane reed selection HERE
Whats the solution?
Many Woodwind players are now exploring the world of the Synthetic Reed.
What is a Synthetic Reed? When they first started making synthetic reeds they were made out of plastic. They were constructed to feel, play and sound comparable to a natural cane reed. With the newer synthetic reeds, they not only came up with a more composite material, but they made them look and feel almost identical to the cane counterpart.
The new synthetic reed now helps with consistency to play in the higher and lower register and you don't have to do anything to them to make them playable! You can take it out of the box, put it on the woodwind and play.
The issues you wiil come across with these kinds of reeds are minimal but there is one big factor. With it being synthetic and not natural is that the action, the intonation, the touch of the tounge is not as crisp or as intonated as you would on the natural cane reed. The material that the reed is made out of is denser/thicker. The player will need to touch harder and their forcus wouldn't be on the music. Any musician wants to be able to soley focus on the music in front of them and not the technicallity of what they are playing on.
Athough that is a big factor on purchasing the reeds, you can rest easy with synthetic because you wont have to go through as many reeds as you do with the boxed natrual reeds. I think many woodwind players and teachers are getting tired of buying a box of 10 and only find a few that will work for them, and have settled with a more consitent reed that is not effected by the environment. It is a lot cheaper in the end to go with a synthetic reed which is why musicians are resorting to them.
I think there are pros and cons to both of them but I personally will stay true ot the Cane Reed. There is just something about those reeds that I cannot get over when I play on a synthetic. I guess it comes down to personal preference. Weigh the pros and cons for yourself and see which one you choose!
I would love to hear anyone's opionons on the matter!
If you would like to share, email me at Gilbertmgr@musicarts.com