Dec 10






I’ve been using FIBRACELL synthetic sax reeds on all three of my saxes (soprano, alto and tenor) for  the last 10 years. How I arrived at the decision SYNTHETIC OR CANE SAX REEDS? was quit a journey.

I was using Rico Royal cane reeds. When I had a good reed they sounded awesome. I have no skill whatsoever in trimming or shaving reeds, so it was a real hit and miss, and expensive experience. I would buy a box of 10 reeds, and then if I was lucky there would be 1 or 2 reeds that sounded good. A good reed would last me maybe a month, or if I was lucky maybe 6 weeks. Inevitably I would be halfway through a gig and the reed would just die. I never seemed to manage to develop a stock of good reeds that I could rotate…..DOES THIS EXPERIENCE OF CONSTANT STRESS WITH REEDS SOUND FAMILIAR?

In November 2001 I went home to South Africa to get married. While in S.A. I mentioned the stress I was having with reeds to a good friend Lewis Ferreira. Lewis is a great Pretoria based saxophonist and teacher. He mentioned to me that he was using FIBRACELL reeds, and that he was totally sold out on them. On the way back to Lanzarote, passing through Germany, I bought a FIBRACELL reed for each sax. Tried them, and didn’t like them. Their response and feel was different to cane reeds. This could have been the end of the story.

About a year later,I didn’t have any soprano sax reeds. The music store in Lanzarote had run out of stock, and being a remote island were not likely to get any stock soon. I had no choice but to use the FIBRACELL reed. It took me a couple of days to get used to the different feel, and blow the reed in. This was an EPIPHANY experience for me. My mind was made up. SYNTHETIC OR CANE SAX REEDS?……For me. DEFINITELY SYNTHETIC.


I can hear the cane purists. “PLASTIC REEDS WILL NEVER SOUND LIKE CANE REEDS.” I know I’m stirring the pot here, but I have heard cane purists say this. (Plastic reeds) The first thing to remember is that they are not plastic reeds, they are a synthetic product that very closely simulates the cell structure of cane. THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING. Or in this case the HEARING.Do they have the WOODY sound of cane reeds? The answer is YES. If you had several recordings of the same tune, and asked you the listener to spot the synthetic reed, I’m sure the you wouldn’t be able to.



–  COST. One synthetic reed costs roughly what a box of 10 cane reeds would cost. So therefore in the long run considerably cheaper than cane.

–  CONSISTENCY. Each reed is consistent, in that each one will work, and the sound is consistent. Pick up      and play. They are  not influenced by temperature, humidity and climate. No wetting and licking  is needed.

– RELIABILITY/LONGEVITY. Each reed lasts me anything between 6 months to a year of daily playing. I  usually split the reed before I blow it out.

– WARM UP. No warm up time needed, or soaking, making synthetic reeds the perfect choice for multi instrumentalists.


Never say never, but I doubt  I will ever go back to using a cane reed. Its just stress I can do without. Playing 3 saxes multiplies the stress by 3.

DO REMEMBER they do feel different to cane, so give yourself enough time to get used to the feel before deciding synthetic reeds are as not for you. Also remember they do take some blowing in, so don’t judge the sound of the reed directly out of the box.

COMMENTS. Please leave comments about your experience, with synthetic and cane reeds.

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SYNTHETIC OR CANE SAX REEDS?, synthetic reeds, cane reeds, FIBRACELL, shaving reeds, STRESS WITH REEDS,


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  1. Charley Langer

    I also use Fibracell. My album was done on cane, but I got tired of spending precious time on reed adjustment. I don’t use cane anymore. :-)

  2. saxaxeman@gmail.com

    Hi Charley. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You make a really good point. How much time is actually wasted fiddling with reeds when you could be making music. cheers. Patrick.

  3. Mike Allen (@mikedronfield)

    I have been using Legere Signature which seem to last for ever and sound good. I have tried Fibracell on my Sop. It makes it sound like an oboe which is not necessarily a bad thing in some circumstances!

  4. Sandra

    I use plastic coated Rico Royal cane reeds. Now that I have read your recommendation for Fibracell I will try it.

    Many thanks for that.

  5. Alain Meakings

    Hi Patrick,

    I have used both in College, I do know what you are talking about the stress of constantly changing wooden reeds I was constantly rotating 4 reeds for 3 saxophones at the time as well I was in 5 ensembles and doubled on 3 of the ensembles for 2 years. I have tried fiberacell and yes they do work! they didn’t work as well when in college band though since my sound was too bright over powering the other saxophones. I ended up sticking to the Rico plastic cover reeds (wood reed coated with plastic) it worked well for me and still does.

    Thanks for the review :)

  6. Richard Page

    I’ve used both – mostly, I play Rico Royals on sax & Rico Reserves on clarinet & bass clarinet, but I’m a fan of Legere. I find that the trick to synthetic reeds is to dial in on the correct strength.

  7. Jamie Toms (@jamietsax)

    I have always used traditional cane reeds on my saxes although I had a brief stint on the Plasticovers about 10 years ago. I would be interested in trying the Legere reeds though for my clarinet as I am constantly using it for teaching a need a reed that doesn’t need warming up. I have also considered keeping one for the sax as a rehearsal/backup reed but not got around to it yet.

  8. Sal Lozano

    Traditional cane for me. Vandoren blue box on alto, soprano and baritone bass cl. V12 on clarinet and v16 on tenor. I find that those reeds play in tune for me.

  9. David G. Maki II

    I’ve used Fibracell for the past 20yrs. I’m with saxaxeman though…CAN’T STAND WORKING ON REEDS! I’d buy a box of ten and only have one of the reeds actually work. I don’t have the time, energy and especially the money to invest in cane reeds when this scenario has happened to me on multiple occasions. Such a waste.
    One thing I have noticed with Fibracell reeds is that their quality has gone downhill a bit. What used to last me a couple months now lasts me about a month unfortunately since they switched to a “premiere” style reed which is softer so I had to up my strength. I am fairly hard on my reeds to where I blow the plastic backing out of them and that is like the worst feeling EVER…haha!! I’m thinking about switching over to Legere’ to see if they give me the durability that I want. I bought a few on Bari when they were first up and coming and they were…ok. But now that they have had time to work some kinks out for the last two decades, I’m willing to give them another shot!:) Hope this post helps anybody out with synthetic decisions. I get the ridicule as well…”You should really go back to cane reeds!” I look at them along with a quiet smile and nod as I’m thinking…”Don’t tell me what to do!” 😉

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