Dec 14



The post this week SYNTHETIC OR CANE SAX REEDS?  drew some attention, with many comments on twitter and on the site.

Thanks to everyone who got involved in the discussion, even if it was to let us know what reeds you are using.

I noticed on the sidelines that 2 of the reed makers were watching the discussion. They will be pleased to know that CANE REEDS are still the most popular.


I did have several of the traditionalists trashing the SYNTHETIC REEDS without having tried them. However that was expected.

There is still a perception that SYNTHETIC REEDS are  PLASTIC REEDS. If they were plastic the pre-conceived ideas would be valid. The material used in the SYNTHETIC REEDS closely simulates the cell structure of cane, and hence they have the WOODY sound of cane. They will float on water like a CANE REED.

I had several people commenting who had really done their homework, having tried several brands of synthetic and cane. Several of this camp use a combination of both.

Legere seemed a popular SYNTHETIC REED. Several mentioned Bari synthetic reeds, which is a new brand for me. Looking forward to trying them out.



Music is an organic art therefore i use cane reeds’ @RicoUK jazz select 2H on Tenor and Rico Royals 3 on other saxes. Cheers!

Tony Kofi ‏@tonykofi

I definitely think cane, in fact I’m convinced. I’ve switched to synth & back 5/6 times. Cane gives you a human sound,and synth gives you good sound but it’s not convincing enough, def saves money but listen back through the years then you’ll know.Now I’m back on cane for good. After years of searching I found my own sound through cane. But remember everyone’s different.
It takes me about 2hours of tonal exercise for 10days to make an Embouchure change. I’ve recently found legere reeds could possibly work for me, but alas I’ve not a window of time to make the switch. Synthetic reeds are way more consistent and sit on the mouthpiece face flat with no leaks. No warp or crinkle so that’s all good news as is the altissimo register. However I can’t get the same warmth in the lower mids, 200/300 hz is much less and so sounds like an extreme hpf has been added. I have my tone and really that’s all I’ve got, I’m not a technician so am hired for the noise I make, I can’t risk it not being there. I always say I’m only as good as the last time I played, consistency is everything. For this reason though I will try to find a synthetic reed as they will be way more consistent in the long run. Bob mintzer play bari reeds on soprano and that sounds great.

Eric Mercer ‏@ericjmercer

I use both, but I like real the best
I play Vandoren V16 only. my reeds are alway in water, so the reeds could longer used and I´m always ready to play
actually use a little of both. For quick gigs I prefer synthetic. Hope this helps.
Fibracell. My album was done on cane, but I got tired of spending precious time on reed adjustment. I don’t use cane anymore.
Sandra (Sandra Grant)

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.


Alain Meakings

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.

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.

The Legere have a much thicker heart than the Fibracell – make sure that you go softer
CANE REEDS are the REAL DEAL. However because they are an organic material they can have inconsistencies. This is the reason to consider SYNTHETIC REEDS. Even if you keep a SYNTHETIC REED in your sax case just for the gig where cane is just not happening.
For those of you who are multi instrumentalists or doubling instruments SYNTHETIC REEDS are probably your best option. This is my main reason for using SYNTHETIC.
At the end of the day we are musicians. The reeds are tools to assist us in making music. Its good to have a choice, so we can find something to best suit our circumstances, gigging conditions, stylistic preferences, and FIND OUR OWN VOICE.
Feel free to keep the discussion going by leaving your comments
SYNTHETIC OR CANE? FEEDBACK AND COMMENTS.,synthetic reeds, cane reeds,


  1. Matt London

    CANE reeds all the way! I find far more depth and quality to the core sound. On the tenor I play Rico Jazz Select 3H filed [ even for classical! ]. They are by far the most consistent tenor reeds I have found. I used to play Alexander DC 3.5 which were lovely but the consistency and quality from reed to reed let a lone tin to tin varied greatly!

    7 out of the 9 tracks on my debut album SPEAK NOW I used the DCs with the other 2 tracks on the Jazz Select Filed. Can you tell which is which?!

    Alto and Sop I use Vandoren blue box 3. Synthetic reeds have their place, probably very useful for the mulit / doubling instrumentalist or young learners who need a robust reed instead of breaking lots of cane ones unnecessarily!

    Big Noises!

  2. Mike Krawchuk (@mikesax2)

    I use number 3 Rico Jazz and V16. I prefer the V16 but they may need a little time to break in. The Jazz are easier to play out of the box if you have no decent V16’s ready but don’t last as long. I have tried synthetic reeds – they have a different sound and are consistent, but I had troubles getting the altissimo range. I prefer to stick to cane, but I do waste lots of $$ of “dead” reeds that will never sound good. I don’t have time to shave them, trim them etc. so I just keep trying them out of the box until I find some good ones. The rest go in the ’round file”.

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