When to Upgrade Your Reeds, Strings, and Mouthpieces

Every musician, from professional clarinetists to beginner saxophonists, understand the importance of high quality accessories. From reeds and strings to mouthpieces, every part of an instrument affects its sound. One thing that’s not so obvious, though, is when those accessories should be upgraded or replaced. From knowing when it’s time to replace reeds to understanding the differences between a student and a professional mouthpiece, this blog should help answer some of your questions.

Replacing Reeds

They may be expensive and they may need to be replaced often, but reed makers are in the business of helping your instrument produce the best sound possible. Contrary to what you might be thinking, they aren’t just trying to rip you off. If you aren’t sure when is the right time to replace your reeds, here are a few things to look out for:

  • A chipped tip
  • A cracked reed
  • Black mold
  • Deterioration in sound

Whether you play the saxophone or the clarinet, knowing when to replace your reeds can be tricky. Your music teacher can help you determine when to change reeds, and can even demonstrate how it’s done. In addition to knowing when to change reeds, it’s important to know how to break in and store your reeds. Here are some tips from a professional saxophonist himself.

Popular reed manufacturers: Giardinelli, Vandoren, Rigotti, Rico, D’Addario

Do Your Strings Need an Upgrade?

Upgrading to a set of brand new strings can dramatically improve the sound of your instrument, but you may be wondering how often they need to be changed. Obviously, a broken string is a good indication that your strings should be replaced, but beyond that here are a few other things to keep an eye out for:

  • Tuning issues
  • Poor sound quality
  • Vibrato issues
  • Using more pressure to create sound

If the set you’re using isn’t brand new and one string breaks, it’s a good idea to replace the entire set. You don’t want one string to sound different than the others, and if one string breaks the others are sure to follow. If you can’t remember the last time you changed your strings or are feeling generally dissatisfied with your strings, switch them out. Strings aren’t super expensive, and sometimes a fresh set of strings can make all the difference. Here’s more information about strings for the cello, violin, and the guitar.

Popular string manufacturers: Thomastik, D’Addario, Elixir, Pirastro, Ernie Ball

Upgrading Your Mouthpiece

Upgrading your mouthpiece has less to do with a mouthpiece wearing out, and more to do with upgrading from a student to a professional model (aka installing a better mouthpiece on your student instrument to help improve its sound.) Professional mouthpieces differ from student mouthpiece in a few different ways, including:

  • Material
  • Manufacturing
  • Tip openings and facings
  • Engineering

A mouthpiece is more than just getting air into the brass tube–it’s your most intimate connection with your instrument, and a different mouthpiece can completely change the tone. Although there are no good or bad mouthpieces per se, many student musicians notice a difference in sound when they upgrade their mouthpieces. Here’s more information about buying mouthpieces for the trombone, tuba, clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone.

Popular mouthpiece manufacturers: Bach, Schilke, Yamaha, Vandoren, Selmer Paris

Music & Arts Has You Covered

At Music & Arts, we’re dedicated to bringing you one of the largest offerings of professional band and orchestral instruments, products, and accessories in the world. From mouthpieces and reeds to strings for all types of instruments, we’re a one-stop shop for students, parents, and educators alike. If your child is a student, a great place to start is by speaking with their music teacher or band instructor. Otherwise, head into your local store or contact our customer support team if you have any questions.

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