Your Questions About Reeds Answered

Updated July 27, 2020

Are reeds made from bamboo?

No. Reeds are actually made from the Arundo Donax plant, a member of the grass family, sometimes referred to as “giant cane.” It grows naturally in the Mediterranean Basin, where Vandoren also manufactures their reeds to keep them in their natural climate from start to finish.

The Mediterranean Basin provides the perfect amount of sun and water for the cane to grow. Trade winds, including the Mistral, flex the cane as it grows to provide strength and flexibility. It is the perfect climate for creating reeds.

What is the difference between a filed reed and an unfiled reed?

Filed reeds, or French Cut as they are sometimes called, are reeds with straight horizontal line cut just above the bark. Unfiled reeds, or American Cut, are identified by their distinct “U” shape at the bottom of the vamp, and no line. This feature has very little, if any, influence on the tone color of the reed. The actual profile of the vamp has much more influence on the overall sound. You can see some examples from our product catalog. 

Excerpt taken from our Jazz Saxophone Reed line

Excerpt taken from Our Classical Saxophone line

Why are there so many different styles of reeds?

Vandoren manufactures different styles of reeds to provide musicians with options for sound color, flexibility, and ease of response. The variety of Vandoren reeds provides something for every musician. Some reeds provide more flexibility and range of color while others provide more warmth and depth of sound. Visit the products page to learn more about the different styles of Vandoren reeds. There’s something for everyone!

My reeds are green, are they still usable?   

Yes. After new cane is cut, Vandoren stands the cane poles in the sun for a few weeks to give them a beautiful golden color. Some poles change more than others. A slight green color has no impact on the age or quality of the cane or even sound of the reed. It is simply aesthetic, much like the brown stripes you might find on the bark of the reed. Cane is a natural product and slight differences of appearance are normal.

Why are some reeds in my box harder than the others?

Reeds are not cut to a specific strength. After they are cut and profiled, the tip is tested for flexibility. The flexibility falls within a range or “window” for each strength. This is why some reeds are slightly harder or softer than others within a box. This is intentional. Not everyone likes the same #3, and depending on performance situations and/or location sometimes a slightly harder or softer reed is necessary.

Quick tip: If your reed feels too hard, try moving it down from the tip. This will make it feel a little softer. Too easy? Try the opposite. Repositioning can make a huge difference!

Excerpt taken from "How Reeds Are Made" designed by Sean Packard. See more here.

What do I do if my reed warps?

Prevention is your best friend. The most important step to preventing your reeds from warping is to wipe off any excess moisture from them after you’ve finished playing and make sure they are stored flat in a quality reed case that allows them to dry evenly. We have a technique you can use here. Vandoren offers a Hygro Reed Case to help keep your reeds at optimal humidity and prevent warping. Whatever you do, DO NOT leave your reed on the mouthpiece when not playing. It will lead to excessive warping and bacteria build up.

If your reed has already warped, try soaking it in water for a good amount of time and rub them on a flat, clean surface. When rubbing them, the key is to press down on the reed as you rub it across the surface. This may take some time depending on how warped your reeds are but eventually it should be useable.


Are reeds recyclable or do I just throw them out?

Since reeds are made from organic material, they are biodegradable! Vandoren recycles the cane that it doesn’t use from the manufacturing process into fertilizer for the cane fields and to heat the factory. You can even throw your reeds in a compost pile to recycle them!

Graphic Created by Alison Evans

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