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 clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-03 23:34

Hi all - adult beginner here!  Thanks to BBoard recommendations, my "family heirloom" R13 is currently awaiting its overhaul at Tim Moran's shop.

In the meantime, I'd like to order a new mouthpiece, ligature, and reeds.  (The stuff in the case from 1957 is not in the best condition.)

I'm a beginner, so I need *forgiving*, but I'm not on a strict budget.  I'm willing to spend a bit more for higher quality gear, even if I won't benefit from it immediately.

I've read many threads on this board and elsewhere.  Here are some recommendations I collected, below.  Would anyone add or subtract anything from this list?

Bottom line, what's a good quality beginner's set-up for the experienced musician (piano, guitar, bass)?

Mouthpieces:
Valdoren M13 Lyre
Clark Fobes Debut
Behn Overture

Ligatures:
Rovner Dark 1R ligature
Vandoren Optimum Ligature
Vandoren Leather Ligature

Reeds:
Valdoren blue package 2.5 / 3.0


Pete

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-09-03 23:53

I think the Fobes Deput is sorta marketed as a "beginner" mouthpiece but it is better than many of ANY price.



Personally I'd go with the NON Lyre M13 (try before you buy, you may prefer the Lyre)



And without fear of contradiction the Rovner Light is FAR better than the Dark (just a difference of a "hole" in the middle basically). It gives much more projection and color. Probably the best ligature on the market without starting to get all wonky and specific (and I own most of them).





...............Paul Aviles



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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Max S-D 
Date:   2021-09-04 00:46

I've recommended the Fobes Debut to many beginners and budget-minded doublers over the years and I have always been impressed by its quality.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2021-09-04 01:08

the vandoren b45 is a good choice as well. i like bonade lig s on clarinet but rovners are always a good choice

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-09-04 01:29

I've used the Vandoren 5RV for decades. Easy blowing with my 2.5 Vandoren reeds.
I use a standard Bonade metal ligature but I'm one who figures there is very little difference in ligatures. I use my stock Selmer one when practicing on my student model Selmer clarinet. No difference from the Bonade.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2021-09-04 02:14

Since you say you have some money to devote to this project I would recommend that you invest in some private lessons from a good teacher and follow their recommendation for equipment. Even a series of say six weekly lessons at the beginning of study will give you an understanding of the habits you should be developing - and which tendencies you might fall into that you should work to avoid. More importantly, you'll actually have some experience of what all that actually means in action. Six lessons at the beginning to help you avoid pitfalls may well be more effective than six months (or more) of lessons down the road.

That said, the Fobes Debut is by far the most teacher recommended mouthpiece for beginners, and for good reason. It's inexpensive and readily available. Quality control is excellent. Its specs are middle of the road in a way that is going to work well for almost anyone, especially in the beginning.

As Paul says, it's a very good mouthpiece - not just a good mouthpiece for beginners. Some of my top All-State students play on it all the way through high school. Others change along the way. It all depends on the individual after the beginning stages.

I wouldn't try a bunch of mouthpieces. That doesn't make sense if you are a new beginner. Get something suitable and stick with it for awhile. Once your fundamentals are well established you'll be able to discern and evaluate the differences in a way that WILL make sense.

I'm going to disagree with the B45 recommendation. It's too open to be a good beginner mouthpiece. You are going to want something that is going to facilitate good embouchure form in a balanced and natural way. The B45 is great for a small minority of students, but many more suffer on it unnecessarily due to high school band directors insisting on it.

Anders

Post Edited (2021-09-04 07:37)

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-04 06:48

Hi Pete,

I did something very similar about three years ago, and have had a wonderful time learning. I hope it goes really well for you.

Jen

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-04 17:21

Thank you everyone who responded so far. There’s a consensus around the Fobes, and since I’m not looking to spend money unnecessarily, that’s what I’ll get. I can upgrade later if I feel a need for it.

There isn’t much passion for ligatures so far. I suppose it doesn’t matter as much.

On reeds, does anyone disagree with the Valdoren blue box reeds at 2.5 and 3.0? I’ve read mixed things about the Rico brand. Then there’s the rest of the Valdoren line and all the other manufacturers. Marketing copy for clarinet equipment tends to be…vague. For example, the 56 Rue Lepic reeds are well-liked on forums, but are they suitable for a beginner?

I just want to start off right. My objective is to eliminate the instrument as a source of “the problem” and focus on learning. To that end, I do intend to find a teacher as you recommend, Anders. I’m concerned about the safety of in-person lessons given the current state of the pandemic, but that’s a different issue.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Katrina 
Date:   2021-09-04 19:25

Vandoren Blue Box 2.5 is where I'd start an adult who isn't worried about $$. Vandoren's Juno line is geared toward beginners, though, so that's what I usually recommend to budget-minded parents of students.

There is no way to know as a beginner whether the reed part of the instrument is the source of the problem, unless you go synthetic. I have had adult beginners start with Legere synthetic reeds with some success, because the reeds are all the same.

Many of us are teaching online (Zoom, Skype, Facetime etc) during the pandemic. I've successfully started quite a few students this way.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-09-04 19:50

Vandoren Blue Box for sure! You could go V21 (warmer and more colors than Rue Lepic) but as a beginner you just want to figure out how things work and sound first; no need to spend the extra cash for a while.




Good luck!






..................Paul Aviles



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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-04 23:05

As an adults starter, I had to start on blue box 1.5, so if you find it's a struggle getting things working then it might be a good idea to go softer. I still struggle to play 2.5 after 3 years, but that might just be me.

One thing I would say is - you probably do want to budget money for a bit of trying around of different gear.

You will get to know what you like, but a clarinet is not really like a violin or piano. People don't seem to just buy one set of gear, and then play it for 40 years without any further costs. I really didn't get that at the start, because my fiddle cost me £52, with no further expense for 20 years of playing.

There really does seem to be a lot of trying of different gear, even among people who've been playing for decades. Different mouthpieces, and ligatures and reeds are a constant theme. In my grade 3 exam I found I got much better performance if I changed brand of reed in between tunes, just because the demands of the music were totally different.

I didn't get this at the start, but it's really a good idea to put some cash aside because clarinet playing costs a bit, even once you have the instrument.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-09-04 23:53

PeteCT wrote:

> For example, the 56 Rue Lepic reeds are well-liked
> on forums, but are they suitable for a beginner?

I don't think there are reeds that are unsuitable for beginners. I wouldn't start a 10-year-old beginner on Vandorens or anything else beyond a minimal price level because the average 10-year-old can go through reeds at a fantastic rate at the beginning, especially energetic, fidgety kids who aren't always aware of where their arms and hands are and what they're doing. The can destroy a lot of reeds by scraping them against shirts and sweaters, jamming ligatures and mouthpiece caps into them, banging them against their front teeth, etc...

There aren't any reeds that are unsuitable for a reasonably self-aware adult who is careful in handling the reeds during assembly, while playing and during disassembly. You have to find the right strength to go with your mouthpiece. But if the reed plays easily with a clear sound on your mouthpiece, it's fine whatever your level of playing.

Karl

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2021-09-05 01:34

i agree with sunnydaze blue box 2.5 is too hard for a novice . i would try 1.5 or 2. blue box are approx 1/2 strength harder than a =rico

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2021-09-05 04:31

I'd actually start with Juno reeds, regardless of cost. They are designed to be a bit easier to get a decent sound out of for beginners. One 3 pack of strength 2's and then move to 2.5 after a week or three. Again, it's about balance - hard enough to require decent embouchure form, soft enough, especially in the beginning, to not require excessive jaw pressure (biting) - which is one of the worst and most common habits to contend with.

Online lessons can work very well, especially for post-elementary school age students. A decent (doesn't have to be pro quality) mic and stable internet connection are crucial. I'd look for a local teacher who you could transition to in-person lessons with down the road if you wanted to keep studying. I wouldn't wait just because of COVID. My studio is about 50/50 right now online and in-person - both can work very well, although in-person is almost always going to preferable, all else being equal.

Anders

Post Edited (2021-09-05 04:37)

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2021-09-05 10:48

My advice for a beginning adult is to avoid thinking about reed brands in terms of "good reeds" and "bad reeds" without having tried them. You can really only tell by playing them. Try buying two or three different brands in boxes of # 2s. See what they have on Woodwind and Brasswind. Start with ones that are around $17-25.00 for 10 reeds. Make sure it's a box of 10, sometimes it's not obvious. Pick a few from each box and try them out. If some don't work at all, don't use them. Try:

Rigotti Gold
LaVoz
Vandoren blue box

Gonzales and Rico Grand Concert are probably not good for beginners. Some better reeds have a thicker heart and require a more developed embouchure and breath support.

Student reeds are thinner at the tip, so they are easier to start on. They may not be as high quality, or last as long, but they may be easier at first, so give them a try.

Finding reeds you like is important eventually, but it's much more important to learn to adjust them. Learn how to flatten the backs, and balance them. I would consider some rudimentary skill in adjusting reeds to be as important as learning to play. You can learn to flatten the backs even before you start playing.

I haven't played Vandoren Blue Box for decades but I still have bad memories. When I played them some were great, but they were very inconsistent. I got about 2 in a box of ten that worked, and several more that I could suffer through. I didn't know the first thing about adjusting them though. The clarinet version was better than the saxophone version.

Maybe someone will say that you should try a certain brand and stick to it for a while. I would agree about mouthpieces, but not reeds. They're so variable from one to another that being able to play reeds that respond differently is a good skill to have. Also having a few different choices to experiment with will help you to learn what is you, and what is the reed. It will also tell you what works for you. At first play the easiest ones, but as you get experience try to work towards playing 5 or 10 in rotation.

You can't go wrong with getting a Rovner ligature, but the stock metal one will work.

Invest in a nice swab, and a good reed holder. You can get more expensive reed cases, but a a couple "Reed Guards" are good to start with. Don't keep reeds in the plastic holders they come in.

- Matthew Simington


Post Edited (2021-09-05 10:57)

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-05 11:09

Everything Matt says fits with my experience as an adult beginner. I started on blue box 1.5 and it took forever for me to realise that sometimes the bad playing days (weeks) were just bad reeds. I needed to learn to keep throwing them away and opening the next one in the box until one worked. I do not like wasting money, and I really struggle with this. I'm getting better at adjusting reeds.

I've played a rovner dark ligature for years very happily. All the other ones I've tried seem to make life needlessly difficult in one way or another. I've never tried a Rovner light.

I have been having clarinet lessons in person, by zoom, and now over email. If anything I think I'm finding email the most helpful, because I don't get performance anxiety in the lesson room. I used to go to lessons and feel under time pressure to perform.

With email lessons, I video all of my practises for the whole week, and watch them back multiple times to see what I'm doing right and wrong. Then I make a small compilation video that is maybe three minutes long, and put it on youtube. Then I email that to my teacher with my questions.

He is really smart and sees things that I would never see in a million years, and sends me really insightful replies.

The thing I do miss about in-person lessons is playing along with the piano. My teacher plays the piano beautifully and with great expression and sensivity, and when I play along with him, I think that starts to rub off on me a bit. That is th thing that I really don't get with having remote lessons.

From that point of view, I do think it would be well worth getting a local teacher, who you could visit in person when things get back to normal-ish.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-05 16:25

Thank you everyone -- this is a helpful and welcoming community! I appreciate all the recommendations and tips.

Last night I ordered:

Clark Fobes Debut mouthpiece
Rovner Light ligature
softer Juno reeds, to start
Vandoren blue box 2.5, for the future

An article on the Clark Fobes website mentions that students shouldn't play softer than Vandoren 2.0 on the Debut, based on its design, and should transition to 2.5 or 3.0 as soon as possible.
https://www.clarkwfobes.com/pages/intonation-basics

Now I wait for the overhaul work and locate a teacher. Back to school!

Pete

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: hans 
Date:   2021-09-05 18:36

Pete,

Re: "My objective is to eliminate the instrument as a source of “the problem” and focus on learning." - IMO that's a very sensible approach.

One variable that you can (nearly) eliminate at the start is the reed, by getting a synthetic Legere. They require no prep, play consistently, don't warp, and last a looong time. Starting with a softer reed will give early comfort and success and you can go to the next strength as your embouchure develops over time. FWIW, Artie Shaw played on plastic reeds and seemed to do well with them.

Assembling the instrument correctly - especially at the bridge - is important. You should have some guidance for that, to avoid damage and squeaks.

Happy playing.
Hans

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-09-05 21:34

I am by no means an expert on plastic reeds, having owned 2. The present one is great for practicing in that is always plays the same and never warps. I did try using it once at a rehearsal and immediately switched back to my wood reed. The quality just wasn't there. I was advised to buy a plastic reed that was 1/2 strength size lower than my wood reed, so bought a 2.0 Legere which did the trick.

A standard wood reed we always used for beginner band kids was Rico (#2s). Easy to blow and not too expensive (well, back then). I have used these for practicing as well.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-09-05 22:02

I just wanted to add to that thought on Legere reeds. I am a devotee and have been on plastic reeds exclusively for the last six years. HOWEVER, I still believe that cane is more "flexible" in that it is more forgiving of irregularities in embouchure. Legere are great but you have a smaller window to work with in terms of what will create a good sound and a stable pitch. It is certainly better by far on the European Cut than it ever was on the standard milky colored ones of the past. But cane will allow a greater margin of error. It still seems best to me to learn on cane first.






...............Paul Aviles



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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-05 22:54



After I got really proficient at grade 3 standard, I tried to switch to legere European cut synthetic reeds, but I couldn't get them to work at all. I am still on cane reeds, and I just find them so much easier to use.

Looking at it through my recently-a-beginner eyes - I think the important thing is to set the conditions for the best possible chance that the instrument will make a noise at all. That means eliminating all risk factors.

Given that it is an older refurbished instrument, I think there's a decent chance that it will have leaks still, which could be a real problem.

That means, to get it to definitely make a sound, it would be best to go with the completely reliable gear, which for me would be:

- 1.5 cane reed
(blue box, and keep throwing them away until one works.)
- If synthetic reeds were needed for budgetary reasons - I would use Bravo reeds. They always make a noise for me, but not a good enough one to get through a grade 3 exam.
- Rovner ligature
- Tune a day for clarinet book 1 (new edition) - Fantastic fingering chart included.

Would it be helpful to pass on this blog post that I wrote recently? I had the most epic struggle to get a very old clarinet to play, when I knew nothing about them. I did eventually manage it. I think Pete's is a considerably newer model then mine, so he's probably in with a much better chance.

https://lovelyoldclarinet.blogspot.com/2021/05/and-now-i-am-going-to-play-it.html

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-05 23:31

Thanks sunnydaze - I read your post. There's good wisdom in there.

I'm optimistic about my particular clarinet. Before I dropped it off for service, I was able to play a couple octaves worth of scales using a 3.0 reed I found in the case. It squeaked here and there, which I expected as a beginner, doubly so with crusty pads that didn't fully cover holes.

I think a good teacher will get me going with technique. I did the same on guitar 30 years ago: a couple months worth of lessons, then self-taught. I'm fortunate to have started in music with 5 years on the piano. I'm comfortable with the music/theory side of things.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-06 00:00

Hi Pete,

It sounds very good indeed if it does that.

Playing a couple of octaves on a no. 3 reed is well ahead of where I am even now after three years playing. :-) I think a lot of the question of reed strength is down to how strong your breathing and embouchure muscles are, so it sounds as though you are well set up for it. I think you are in for some fun!

It's great that you have so much musical knowledge too. I think you will really enjoy this. I have enjoyed it enormously.

Jen

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-06 00:33

Well I didn't say I sounded any *good*, only that I did it :)

I'm really looking forward to it. It's such a beautiful instrument.

Pete

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-06 22:17

I think if you did it, then you are 90% of the way there. :-) Actually getting the sound was the hardest part for me. It's an amazing sound isn't it?

What sort of age is your clarinet? I think the the slightly older ones maybe have the better sound, so you might be about to hit gold.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-07 01:39

It's a buffet from ~1957 based on the serial number and its history in my family.

My mother played a school-owned clarinet in the 8th grade, and she must have demonstrated such potential that my grandfather purchased for her this new, expensive instrument. Then, a year later in 9th grade, she quit. My aunt picked it up for a year or so, but that's all. Low mileage.

Pete

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-09-07 09:57

Oh my! You are in for some fun then. :-)

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Paul Globus 
Date:   2021-09-07 18:28

With all due respect to Mr. Aviles above, I would forget about cane and go with Legere.



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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: PeteCT 
Date:   2021-09-07 23:05

Thanks Jen! I think so too.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2021-09-08 02:10

Cane reeds for sure. More flexible, as Paul says. More forgiving of both the player and the mouthpiece, not to mention placement on the mouthpiece.

Also, you are very likely going to change reed strengths pretty frequently in the first months as your embouchure develops. Legere reeds are a terrible value in that situation due to their cost and the fact that you will have to change strengths even more often as you rise through the quarter size increments. (Each Legere costs roughly the same as a box of 10 cane reeds.)

Many players all the way through the top pro levels never find Legeres to be a great choice except in very specific circumstances. Some do and play them exclusively. Wait several years to experiment with that if you can so that you are gathering data at a point when it will be accurate and useful to you. Learn to play (and eventually adjust) cane reeds first. You will learn quite a bit of important information about how the clarinet works in the process.

Anders

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: LFabian 
Date:   2021-09-08 08:45

When I bought a 2nd R 13 “Golden Age”, the salesman sold me a Fobes Nova, a Rovner 1R and #2 Juno reeds. At the time I was admiring the European stickers on the case. The R13 had a complete overhaul with a new adjustable thumbrest. That was 7 years ago. My embouchure has since improved. I have since up to 3-1/2 with a Fobes CWF. My go-to clarinet is that one. The clarinet is fantastic. Even though it is 50 years old, I still use the Nova and 1R with it and sound better. To end this thread, give yourself the time and effort to get the best out of your gear. Best of luck.

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 Re: clarinet gear set-up - beginner question
Author: Musix4me 
Date:   2021-09-08 17:34

Wow. I'm not sure I agree with several people who have suggested "beginner" equipment. If you have the money, and intend to stick it out, investing in the "correct" equipment will save you heartache.

I see you are already investing in the "beginner" suggested mouthpiece but I will suggest that later, when you feel compelled to invest in a decent professional mouthpiece (one of the most important investments for an important return), the Richard Hawkins mouthpieces offer easy, EVEN response across the range of the clarinet. Yes...more expensive, but you get a great mouthpiece that will serve you now and through the professional level.

Ligatures can make a difference but not like a decent mouthpiece. Rovner are great. But most any name brand will provide satisfactory results.

Reeds. Oh my. Of the cane reeds, Vandoren V21 have provided me the most bang for the buck with more consistency across the box. If you prefer Rico, I would go Grand Concert Select. The standard Vandoren Traditional reeds are horrible.

I -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4oS6NL1Ks0&t=1s
like Corrado Giuffredi -> https://www.youtube.com/c/CorradoGiuffredi and
Jose Franch-Ballester -> https://www.youtube.com/user/josefranchballester
and many others use Legere reeds. Clearly more expensive, but once you reach that plateau (usually around 3 to 4 strength), and since you ARE an adult, you might consider investing in a couple. The cool thing is that they allow you to exchange them for the correct strength after you try it. https://www.legere.com/exchanges/

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Robert Moody
Musix4me

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