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Probably one of the cheapest brand of saxophone and clarinet reeds on the market, but something I keep going back to. These can be described as 'no frills' reeds coming in a box without the little plastic holders and being seperated by tissue paper. They generally work out at about under £1 for a reed so at this price you cant really complain about packaging.
The standard of the reed itself is absoutley fine, one thing I would say is that they tend to be slightly softer than others and those that are used to using other reeds such as 'Vandoren' might want to thinking about traiding up a size, ie getting a 3 instead of a 2 1/2.
I am very fond of the sound they produce, which tends to be more colourful then that of the more classically focuused reeds, the sound from my clarinet has a rougher edge when played with a rico which suits be fine as I am more into jazz and popular music, however, if this is not the sound you are after - you might want to try sticking with what you are used to, or maybe trying the 'premium' rico royal range.
Rico clarinet reeds were the first ones I was introduced to when I started to play clarinet. These a re natural reeds and tend to vary in quality. I started with a very soft one (they range form 1 to 5) and progressed through to a three. I have never got any further.
Reeds can be expensive and beginning and less practised clarinet players tend to go through quite a lot of them. I have found a few split reeds and ones that were so thin that they were almost like paper at their tips among the reeds in a box of Rico standard ones. Rico reeds are cheap but they are also low quality.
The Rico reeds tend to take time to break in and once they are suitably moist and playing well, they tend to split and have to be replaced.
The Vandoren reeds are more expensive and they last longer but they tend to be a little bit harder than the Rico ones. For example, if I wanted a Rico number 3, I would buy a Vandoren 2 , in order to get the same sound.
Rico also have a Royal and a premium range which are a little more expensive but certainly last longer. The best place to buy these and to try out the range is in a big music store, or online at somewhere like Gear for Music. Rico also do a plastic coated reed which is harder to get used to but lasts a lot longer and you don't have to worry about breaking it in before you can play.
Every clarinet player has their own favourite brand and strength of reed, but I prefer to use a fairly soft one and to change reeds very often, so the low price of the Rico standard ones certainly suits me best. I would rather have a ready supply of cheap, fresh reeds, that try to play with a split reed to save buying new ones.
Rico reeds are great for learners and especially good for children who tend to go through a lot of them because they over wet them and tend to bite on them and cause chipping and splitting at the tip. As any clarinet player knows, you can't get the right sound with a broken, or split reed.
If you are a clarinet player then, chances are, if you go into a standard high street music shop and ask for a reed then you'll be asked whether you want a Vandoren reed or a Rico reed. The choice won't get much further than that.
For those non-clarinettists who are mad enough to be reading this a reed is the "disposable" bit of a clarinet that actually makes the sound.
Rico is a reed manufacturer who will be familiar to most. Their standard reeds are generally one of the cheapest and, as such, favoured by students who will go through more than their fair share. For a pro-musician they're probably associated with a poor sound and unreliable tone.
The standard reed comes in a variety of strengths from 1 (softest) to 5 (the hardest) in ½ sized increments. Beginners will start soft and then, as they grow in ability, progress through to harder reeds with most people stopping between 3 and 4.
Since reeds are made of natural reed they will vary and Rico seems to produce more than its fair share of duds. Rico reeds are also, in my opinion, about ½ a grade softer than their same numbered counterparts produced by Vandoren..
Rico reeds, like all reeds, require "breaking in" and I've generally found that Ricos will soften quicker than others. They also, for me, last less well and the buzzy sound of a poor, "on-its-way-out" reed will appear much sooner than you like.
They are, however, cheaper than the Vandoren reeds and so, maybe it's just a case of "you get what you pay for".
Rico do produce some "premium" reeds but you're unlikely to find these on the high street (although you might find the slightly superior Rico Royal). You have to go to a specialist retailer or order online. Of the "premium" reeds the Rico Reserve are particularly good, but you pay for the pleasure. Rico also produce La Voz and Mitchell Lurie reeds amongst others (there was a time when these were independent).
In my opinion Rico offer good value reeds for the beginner and student clarinettist but don't really, as a standard product, offer enough for the pro or semi-pro musician.
First off- apologies. I asked for this product to be included but while dooyoo has separate categories for keyboards/synths and pianos, there is no category for woodwind instruments! Can I just restate that the clarinet is not, I repeat NOT a kind of keyboard. Thank you.
I began playing the clarinet when I was 11 years old, after several months of pestering my mum and dad. Although I wasn't particularly good when I started, I loved the look and feel of the instrument and I persevered, and I finally ended up as a music student at Leeds University with the clarinet as my first instrument. I didn't find the notes that hard when I was a kid; I could produce a tune without too many tears, but my tunes just didn't sound very nice until I'd got to about grade 6. A lot of young players experience the same problem, and the problem is really twofold- 1) producing a beautiful sound takes lots of practice, and 2) producing a really beautiful sound depends on your Reed.
*****************What a Reed is all about*******************
If don't play a Reed instrument you may well be wondering what I'm talking about, so I'll explain a little bit here. (For the already initiated, I won't be offended if you skip this bit!)
A clarinet is fundamentally a tube which is approximately 2 feet long, in fact the same length as a flute or an oboe. The flute has a small hole which you blow across. This makes the air inside the tube start vibrating (like if you blow across the top of a bottle and hear a note). The oboe and the clarinet, however, use Reeds. These are small bits of cane, (or sometimes plastic), which are attached to the top of the instrument. The cane goes in your mouth and you make it vibrate with your lips and jaw, and this sets the column of air vibrating, and hey presto a note appears. (It's very hard to describe how you actually do this because it all happens inside your closed mouth!) You can't play the clarinet (or the oboe) unless you have a Reed attached to the top, and these essential bits of kit have, unfortunately, quite a short life span. How long a Reed lasts depends on lots of things, like how often you play, what brand you're using, and even what the weather's like. (It's a natural material so it's affected by the humidity of the atmosphere).
***********The Reed you really Need***************
So now you know you need a Reed, off you pop down to your local music shop, or find one online. The first question they'll ask you is what kind of Reed do you need? Narrowing it down to just "a clarinet Reed" won't get you very far. You have to specify the Strength of your Reed. And choose a Brand. And choose one of a range of Reeds within that Brand. And how many do you need to buy?
So how can a little bit of cane be so diverse and complicated? How can you possibly choose?! Let's take a look at the first dilemma: Strength.
Reeds are categorised by their thickness, and given a grading from 1 to 5, including half grades. Basically speaking, the thicker the Reed, the more difficult it is to produce a note, but the nicer the note will sound. So, if you are a beginner, (and therefore in possession of relatively weak jaw muscles compared to a veteran), you should choose a low number, known as a "soft" Reed. Around 1.5 would be good, but go for a 1 if the 1.5 is too difficult to blow on. As you get better, you'll gradually be able to progress to stronger Reeds (known as "hard"). To get a decent sound, you need to be playing on a minimum 3.5, and most professionals will be playing on 4.5 to 5s. Personally, I play on a 3.5. OK, let's move on to Brand and Product:
In the UK there are 2 companies fighting it out in the Clarinet Reed field, and they are Vandoren and Rico. This review is about Rico Reeds, but it's hard to talk about them without giving some comparison with the main competitor, since your basic purchasing decision will be between these two brands. Here's what Vandoren say about their standard B flat Clarinet Reeds:
"The most widely played Reeds in the professional world."
And here's what Rico claim about their most similar product:
"The world's most popular Reed."
One thing you may be able to deduce from this is that Vandoren Reeds are better and also more expensive. They produce a better tone for professionals, who are more picky about these things than amateurs. However, there are many more amateurs piping away in their bedrooms on a Sunday afternoon than there are professionals, and they tend to choose Rico, so they can't be all bad.
Here's how the prices compare from 2 reputable online firms, for a box of 10, (the normal number you get in a box).
From www.myatt.co.uk Rico Reeds cost £8.50 and Vandoren cost £11.00
From www.dawkes.co.uk Rico cost £6.25 and Vandoren cost £10.25
Rico are well ahead in the tasty price league, so why is it that all these professionals are choosing Vandoren? It really boils down to the sound that comes out when you blow, which to the professional is the only major issue. For us mere mortals though, there are another couple of points to consider- how many of these 10 newly purchased Reeds actually work properly, and how long will one last before I have to change it? I've played on both these brands of Reeds over the 20 and a bit years I've been playing this instrument, and I believe that Rico are more consistent in the strength grades they put in the box, and they last for the same length of time as Vandoren's.
When you buy a box of Reeds, it is quite normal to find that some of them just won't work. This is rather annoying, (especially if you're paying more than a pound a piece), but it's a fact of life. The cane is rigorously tested by both companies, and left to mature for a considerable time, but nothing can stop the cane from becoming slightly modified once it's been packaged up in its box. My personal average from Vandoren is 50% usable Reeds per box, while Rico usually gives me 7 or 8 that are playable. So, in effect, they work out even cheaper than you'd bargained for. I think that Rico's testing technology is perhaps superior to Vandoren's, to produce these results. They are more effective at eliminating inferior cane earlier in the process, before it actually gets in the box. In my mind there is no doubt that Vandoren Reeds sound better, but the large difference in price is not justified by the small difference in sound. Going back to my earlier point about the quality of my early attempts at the clarinet, I should point out that playing on the correct strength of Reed, (and one that isn't too old), will ensure an acceptable sound from anyone. So how to find the correct strength? Read on!
**********How Strong is your Jaw?*****************
Rico Reeds come in strengths 1-5 (not all brands do). If you're a complete beginner, buy a 1, a 1.5 and a 2. (You can buy Reeds singly, both online and in shops. Some shops let you try the Reed out before you buy it just in case it's a duffer (see above), but not all of them.) Try the 2 first. If you produce a sound quite easily and without pain, congratulations! You've found the right strength. If you find it takes lots of breath to get a note and you can hear air escaping from the side of your mouth as you blow, the Reed is too hard. Try the 1.5, and repeat the process. Remember that with clarinet Reeds, the only way is up! When you have been playing on your 1.5 for some time, try the 2 from time to time. Don't play for too long, as your jaw will tire easily and you may bite into your bottom lip. If this happens, your mouth will be too sore to play until it's healed, and you'll have to start with a softer Reed again. Gradually increase your playing time, until you can play on the 2 with no problems. Then move on to the 2.5, and repeat the process. If you stick with a softer Reed once your jaw muscles have become stronger, your sound will deteriorate. Playing on a soft Reed produces a buzzy kind of tone and can sound flat. Higher notes on the instrument are more difficult to reach with a softer Reed, which is another reason why you need to climb that Reed ladder! Sometimes Rico Reeds are a little bit too hard or a little bit too soft, without being impossible to play on. You don't have to chuck them away in cases like this, you can "doctor" them slightly to make them more playable: if the Reed is too soft, trim a VERY narrow (hair's breadth) strip from the tip of the Reed with a sharp knife. Or push another Reed between it and the mouthpiece of the instrument, pushing it away from the rectangular hole in the mouthpiece slightly. If the Reed is too hard, you can sand it a little. Use a piece of 220-grain sandpaper. Rub just a little, then test the Reed- a tiny rub can produce a large difference (which is why they don't always get it right in the factory- it's a precision art!)
********Breaking in Reeds**********
All new Reeds need to be "broken in". They won't produce a consistent sound until they've been used a few times. Rico Reeds are faster to break in than Vandoren. You need to wet the Reed (in your mouth or with water- I prefer my mouth, but Rico advise water, as some people have very acidic saliva apparently, eeww), then play on it for just a few minutes each day, until the sound becomes consistent. It's good to have a few Reeds "breaking" as you never know when you'll need a new one.
It's easy to tell when your Reed needs replacing- after serving you well for a week or 3 (depends how much you play), one day it'll just sound rubbish, completely different to the last time you used it. Every time it goes in your mouth the Reed is getting attacked by various germs and other organisms, and your saliva begins the process of breaking down organic matter ready for your tummy, so it's no wonder that they don't last forever! Another obvious sign that you need a new Reed is when you accidentally slice it in half while attaching it to the instrument, a tragically common event. (It's held onto your plastic mouthpiece by metal band called a ligature. This has quite sharp sides and if you're not careful it'll cut right through in one go. Don't worry though, I've never heard of anyone cutting their finger on one!)
Rico is an American company, founded by an Italian family. The first Rico was called Joseph (1876-1957), and he grew up near Naples. He ran away to the United States while still a nipper, got quite good at playing various instruments, conducting and composing, and went off to Paris to study his beloved art with other serious minded young men. Meanwhile, his nephew Frank de Michele was playing the clarinet for the Walt Disney studios in LA, and was having a hard time of it getting hold of decent Clarinet Reeds. He knew that the world's best quality cane grew (and still grows) naturally in the Var region of France, where, handily, his Uncle had a holiday cottage. He got his Uncle to send some Reed over to the States, initially for his own personal use, but his Clarinetting colleagues wanted some too, and so the business was born, in 1928.
Cane was exported from solely France for many years, up until the late 1970s in fact. Then French farmers started selling off their land for a quick profit and Rico was forced to find another location for growing the cane, and thus they set up their own plantations in Argentina (although they still use French cane too). It takes up to 4 years to grow the cane to a usable height and maturity, and Rico says it is constantly developing its technology and testing processes to refine its Reed making. Apart from being cut on "meticulously calibrated" machines, musicians randomly test the Reeds to make sure they can be played. Rico has lots of different products in its Clarinet Reed range; the Reed I'm reviewing is their bog-standard one. Other Reeds can be chosen for particular styles or sounds, e.g. a jazz sound. They also use video inspection on every single Reed before it goes in its box. Rico was recently taken over by J. D'Addario & Co.
This is the technical name for the Reed plant which Rico use to make their Reeds. It grows in India and the Mediterranean, and can get as high as 6 metres tall. If you live in the right climate you can grow it in your garden, but I wouldn't suggest trying to make Reeds yourself from scratch, although some fanatics do ..
Apparently there was a new design out in August 2005, but I haven't seen it yet. My box is a rather horrid dull orange colour, slightly wider than a cigarette packet. (If my friends see a box lying around they often ask if I've started smoking a dodgy brand of fags all of a sudden!). Inside, each Reed is individually packed in a transparent plastic case, as they are very fragile items. You have to store them in these cases or they will very quickly become damaged, or you can buy special humidity-proof Reed cases (from Rico) if you so desire. Personally, I don't bother- if you are using very expensive Reeds it's probably worth it, but for these ones there's no need. The strength of the Reed is printed on the outside of the box, and also on the back of each individual Reed, so you won't get them mixed up if you have some of different strengths. The size of a Reed is about 6.75 cm long by 1.2 cm across.
********Other Types of Reed*********
For the standard clarinet, you will be buying Bb (B Flat) clarinet Reeds. It's unlikely that you would buy the wrong Reed size, as this is was 99% of people play on, but just for the record, there are also Eb (E Flat) and Bass Clarinet Reeds. Eb Reeds are for a smaller instrument, and Bass Clarinet Reeds for a beast of an instrument, so neither will fit. The A clarinet takes the Bb Reed, as it is only very fractionally bigger than the Bb instrument. (Orchestral players need two instruments, an "A" and a "B Flat").
The Rico Clarinet Reed is a great choice for the amateur player. They are reasonably priced, reasonably consistent within the box, and produce a nice sound. If you want to get serious on the instrument, you should probably move on to more expensive Reeds. They are easy to get hold of, and excellent value for money, especially if you frequently slice them in half.
Designed for a wide variety of playing situations.