A few months ago, I posted about plastic reeds, and reported some of what I had read on another woodwind blog about the Légère Signature Series and Forestone clarinet reeds.
For reasons unknown to me, the post from which I originally quoted has been removed, but there are similar thoughts expressed in a more recent post.
Anyway, I got a kind offer from someone at Légère to send me a few samples.* They asked about my current cane reed preference, and sent three reeds in different strengths close to what I currently use.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I have used Légère reeds (not the Signature Series) on the largest clarinets, but have not, until now, experimented substantially with the smaller Légères.
I am pleased to report that the Signature Series are highly playable reeds. In fact, they respond nearly identically to my current cane reeds of choice (a popular, leading brand).
I mention response first because I think it’s the most important aspect of how a reed plays, but of course the question on everyone’s mind is tone. I have been playing the Signature Series reeds exclusively for the past week, and I find the tone of these reeds to be clear, dark, flexible (but not overly so), and characteristic of good cane reeds.
The reeds are very well-balanced. Since the reeds I received are of different strengths, I don’t think I can comment conclusively on consistency from reed to reed, but they strike me as having identical playing characteristics other than a predictable difference in resistance between the strengths (which isn’t always the case with cane reeds).
With the usual traffic of students and colleagues in and out of my studio, there have been a number of raised eyebrows at the sight of a plastic reed on my clarinet. In casual demonstrations, the consensus is that these sound like the “real” thing.
Here’s my exhaustive list of what I find to be different between the Légères and my cane reeds:
- Inside my head, there seems to be a little more articulation noise with the Légères. However, after recording myself, I’m convinced that it’s not audible to a listener. Still, perhaps it will push me to further refine my tonguing.
- The flat side of the reeds seems slightly more slippery than cane, which means I have to take a little extra care to get them positioned just right on the mouthpiece.
- The plastic, at least in my studio in January, feels just slightly cool against my lip. I find this minor thing to be vaguely pleasant.
- That’s it.
I would tend to choose the Légère over cane reeds in doubling situations and in my teaching studio, where the advantages of stability and non-warpage are clear. I also wouldn’t hesitate to use them for ensemble playing. As I do have a solo recital coming up, I’ve been doing a little soul-searching about whether I will use the Légère in that situation. At this point, I think I can find and adjust a cane reed that will outplay the Légère by a small (very small) margin. But in a pinch I would gratefully fall back on the Légère, and I think no one would be the wiser. I think these are worth keeping on hand for just such an eventuality, even if you’re not convinced that they’re right for normal performance situations.
On the Légère website, you can take the blindfold test with Richard Hawkins playing the Légère against a cane reed. I figured I might as well offer my own blindfold test, so you can gauge whether the difference is audible with a clarinetist rather less accomplished than the esteemed Mr. Hawkins. Can you tell which is the plastic reed?
I understand that Légère is in the process of releasing a Signature Series reed for tenor saxophone, which I am anxious to try as well. Since they are releasing a tenor reed and not an alto reed (yet?) I assume that the saxophone Signature Series is geared more toward jazz players.
*In the interest of full disclosure:
I received three reeds from Légère at no cost, but I was not asked to do anything, including writing a review, in return. I am reviewing the reeds in what I believe to be an unbiased manner. (Phew!)
40 thoughts on “Review and blindfold test: Légère Signature Series clarinet reeds”
I guessed wrong on the blindfold test.
Didn’t we all. I was mad at myself, as I consider myself to have a very trained ear.
I actually thought the Legere sounded noticeably better than the cane reed.
So did I, especially on the slurred interval leaps. (and I guessed right—I’ve been playing legere tenor reeds)
I did as well.
I agree. I expected the cane to be the richer sounding one, which is why I was surprised when both the intonation and tonguing were better on the Legere. Very fascinating. I play saxophone, and these reads are a lifesaver for me, but I didn’t realize the extent of the tone difference on the Clarinet.
I got it right because imo the Legere sounded so much better :)
I love the sound and response of the Legere reeds. I suspect that I would have to buy 2 or 3 boxes of high quality reeds and do some work on the best couple to get two reeds comparable to any 2 Legere reeds.
So maybe the Legere’s are only “just as good” as the best cane reeds that have been optimized, But with the Legere’s, once I get the series and strength right, every one is perfect.
I have Baritone sax Legere Classics that I have played for 3-4 years, although I have chipped a few by accident. I’m using the newer models now and so far, they show no signs of wear.
I also guess wrong on the blindfold test! They both sound great, but with the Legere I notice a richer core / less of the upper partials in the sound as compared to the cane recording.
For me personally, that makes me happy because if I could really hear a better sound with the cane, I don’t know if I could keep playing my signature. But alas, I feel even better about playing it.
I too, guessed wrong. From that playing sample, I would have to go the the Legere.
I didn’t guess at all but more importantly to me, the quality of the tone in clip [# – edited!] is better.
Being a Signature player I was a bit afraid that this is the cane reed so the answer was a relief!
This need not in itself be important because it might have been a less than optimal cane reed. Question then, is the cane reed what you consider a good one?
I hope you don’t mind that I have edited your comment so as not to give away the answer.
“Question then, is the cane reed what you consider a good one?” This is an excellent question and one that I didn’t really address in the review. The cane reed was the best that I had at the time in a pretty average batch of broken-in reeds. I considered looking for a really excellent one for the side-by-side comparison, but it seemed to be a better real-world test if I used what I had immediately at hand.
On a related note:
As I mentioned in the original post, I thought it was likely that I could find/adjust a better cane reed for my recital, and keep the Légère on hand as a backup. This is indeed what I ended up doing. The cane reed that I chose felt/sounded better to me than the Légère, but only by a very small margin, and I do still believe that no one but me would have detected the difference.
After listening to :20 of sample A, I then played sample B. I was absolutely sure that Sample A was [edited] within ten sections, the difference to me was not even subtle. I am surprised by the several who picked wrong. I use Legere and Hahn reeds on soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, therefore feel I am fair in judging a product category of which I am familiar. I continue to use my cane reed of choice on my R13 Prestige. In this test, the [edited] produced the more rich, complex, and desirable tone.
Thanks Don—I have edited your comment so that it doesn’t give away the answer.
I have been using a Legere reed on bass clarinet and was so impressed I bought a reed for soprano clarinet. I mainly like the way I can pick up an instrument and play without worrying that the reed has dried out. It gets abused on my practice clarinet by being left on the mouthpiece and put away wet etc. Not things I would risk with reed.
I thought that clip [# – edited!] sounded happier (in the sense that the player seemed to be having a easier time of it). Either cut shows a delightful tone, sensitivity and good intonation. The [# – edited!] cut does seem woody and natural. In tests such as these where both results seem professional, the small differences could easily be explained away by player variations and not equipment. I would be much more likely to ask the player which he preferred. Only he can know what his ideal sound is. We can only know what our goals are, and any two artists have different desires. The musician here says that he could get a slight edge with a well adjusted cane reed. For me the consistency and peace of mind that the Legere offers would be more than enough to go with the synthetic choice. I have not yet tried the Legere but I probably soon will.
Thanks for your comment. I have edited it so as not to give away the answer.
I have only recently discovered the Legere reeds, and they seem easier to play with in that they seem to have a consistent even sound, unlike the cane, which can vary according to whether it is dry or wet, or whether it is evenly spaced to produce a good sound overall. The Legere reeds seem to give a good sound first time with hardly any additonal effort, which is relative to the cane reeds.
I think I will try the Signature Series.
I played the legato piece for a solo, and I wasn’t that good; the legere’s amazing!
Okay, so we all agree that the right hardness of Legere reed can sound just as good as a cane reed, and be considerably more consistent. Let’s discuss the drawbacks.
They aren’t adjustable. If you don’t know which hardness us right for you, you can easily spend $100 for a few useless pieces of plastic that will just sit in your case. I have yet to find a distributor that will allow me to try them before purchasing. Let’s face it, the wrong Legere reed feels and sounds awful. I feel that this experience is what keeps most skeptics away.
My other complaint is that they do have a break-in cycle. The first several hours on a new reed sound and feel awkward, and the moment it get soft, it’s unplayable.
And how about value. As I mentioned, finding the right reed for you will break the bank. The price one one reed is the same as a box of cane reeds but I’ve never had one Legere outlast a box of cane.
This being said, I use Legere reeds on bari sax and bass clarinet. Everyone should. And all those wrongly sized reeds in my case? I pass them over the guys next to me who are struggling with their warping cane reeds an they thank me.
For the middle reeds, I soak them 24 hours a day. Say what you want, they play just as consistently as a Legere, they’re completed adjustable, they last 6 months of constant playing, and they’re cheap.
Clarinet and soprano, I just suck it up and deal with a few wrinkles here and there like everyone else.
“If you don’t know which hardness us right for you, you can easily spend $100 for a few useless pieces of plastic that will just sit in your case. I have yet to find a distributor that will allow me to try them before purchasing. Let’s face it, the wrong Legere reed feels and sounds awful. I feel that this experience is what keeps most skeptics away.”
Did you know that Legere (the factory) will happily exchange your “wrong-strength” reeds for different strengths until you get it right? You just email, send the reed you don’t like back and they send out a new one of a different strength at no charge. And with a smile. I was very impressed.
I’ve tried to do the same with Harry Hartman reeds, and they won’t even respond to my emails.
I guessed wrong on the blindfold test too as so many others did…..
I’m shocked too! :) Still can’t believe I went wrong … Very impressed.
I have a question for anyone playing bass clarinet, which is better; Legere Bass clarinet reed or Tennor Sax Signature reed?
I tried Tennor Sax Signature reed for 15minutes and I was quite happy with it, so my question is, is Bass clarinet reed better or worse than the TennorSax Signature?
Either may be better. Reeds need to ‘mate’ with the mouthpiece facing. A different facing may require the other of the two. I have always used tenor reeds on my bass clarinet mouthpiece.
This was a great review. I just ordered a legere contra alto clarinet reed because of the mostly good i have heard about them like the consistancy and durability. For the hearing test i couldn’t really tell much of a difference.
Good review, but I actually guessed right – there was a really small difference in sound. The cane, in my opinion, actually had better tone, projection, and smoothness. The Legere really came close, though.
I just got my clarinet 5 days ago, and I’m still struggling with how to blow to produce a sound at all, and learned that the strength reed 1.5 and 2.5 that I have aren’t “strong” enough for the high register – right or wrong… I don’t know so I am looking at trying out stronger reeds… and in my research stumbled on Legere and this site. I guessed it right (might be a lucky guess). At around 00:18 the cane reed produces a bit more of a vibration whereas the legere produces a more “stable / smoother” sound, with less “vibration”. Not sure which is “better” sounding.. a matter of taste, but I certainly notice it quite clearly – although without such a close “side by side” comparison where I can replay a certain section, it would probably be much harder to tell.
I just went to Legere’s web site and tried their comparison test challenge and I guessed it wrong :(
On a separate note, I’m curious – how long does this reed last?
I am glad to see some recent posts, so that I might actually hear back about this. I have been using a Forestone B-flat clarinet reed for the past 2 1/2 months and love it!! My only complaint with it is that it isn’t as wide as my mouthpiece which makes it a little hard to put the reed on correctly. It plays beautifully, but I am wondering if the Legere might be slightly wider and/or a better fit with my mouthpiece. I have a Genusa “Exellente” GE (star) Z – which has greatly eased my problems with upper register issues. I haven’t seen a review with this mouthpiece combination for either Forestone or Legere – so maybe someone will comment???
Abandoned playing for over one year because of 100 hour/week job. Sold and/or gave away Buffets and everything. Quit old job for new 40 hour/week job. Now playing Ridenour instruments (an improvement, I think …) and decided to exclude cane reeds from my life if possible. Used regular cut Legere #3 with Vandoren M30-lyre and later #3.25 signatures. Nicer sound and better articulation. I’ve dug some left-over V12s out of my archives (some still in flow packs) and just can’t use cane reeds again! Life is beautiful with Legere!
I did choose the correct sample based on tone difference. I’ve been playing saxophone for over 30 years and have been searching for the “Perfect reed” for a majority of that time. I tried the Legere reed (studio cut) a few years ago and couldn’t find a size,tone or response that I was satisfied with. Recently, at the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) convention in San Antonio, TX, Legere had a booth present with an artist performing on tenor sax using the Signature series reeds. I thought I would give the Legere reeds another try since it was a different model than the previous Legere reed which I didn’t especially care for. After being fitted to the best size for me and my set-up (Otto Link 7*), I was amazed at the response from top to bottom of the horn, including altissimo. I do very little classical playing…mostly jazz standards playing with trios, quartets and big bands. However, I believe I have found the “perfect reed” for me. I have always had problems with my reed drying out during performances while another musician is taking a solo or if I’m doubling…not to mention the hassle of rotating reeds, reed clipping and sanding which I really don’t have the patients or time for. However, due to the bold and slightly edgy tone I get, I’m not sure I would use this reed for classical playing but then again classical saxophone doesn’t pay the bills… at least not for me.
I guessed right on the A/B test, which is no surprise, since I’ve played a Legere Signature reed for a while now. For me, there is a slightly different balance in the overtones with the Legere reed. However, while I prefer a really good cane reed, the reality is that the Legere outshines the average cane reed. And it’s a delight knowing that one can put on a Legere, and being confident that it will work, regardless of the circumstances.
I bought two legere for my tenor sax, I play for 1 to 3 hours depending on the day.
I got six months from the pair and they are now split but one is still playable.
I kept snagging my reed on things so I am a bit careless.
I was wearing out a cane at least once per week.
Tried a test with my sax ($700 new) versus a $5000 sax. Liked the expensive one more.
Put a legere on my cheap sax and it was prefered to the $5000 sax with cane.
Mouthpieces the same.
Have not looked back since. Nice tone and good over the whole range
I heard straightaway the Legere was ‘B’. The sound difference is hard to describe but there is slightly less ‘wind’ at the start of a tone, as if the reed is slightly better controlled. I think it is hard to talk about ‘better’ or ‘worse’ it’s just which characteristic one prefers. By the way, don’t try a Legere outside on a really warm day!
I’m going to get one soon. What happens to it on a really warm day? How warm is too warm?
I have been playing Legere Signature on clarinet for nearly two years. In listening to my own comparisons, I have noticed that note-to-note transitions are quicker on the Legere than on cane (I used to use Vandoren V-12). This was quite clear in Sample B and I guessed correctly.
The up side is that it does provide quicker articulation and faster ‘snapping in’ to pitch when slurring. The downside is that it is slightly less flexible (pitchwise, not enough to be a problem) and has a little more tendency to chirp/click on fast note transitions…I’m told that nobody but me hears this…
Bret (et al)…
an update on my journey with Legere reeds.
I have now converted completely to Legere reeds on all reed instruments (SATB saxophone, Bb and Bass clarinets) and very happy with choices. I play baritone sax regularly in big bands and have several reeds that are still going strong after 3 years (the standard cut…the Signature reeds seem to die after 1-2 years). The smaller reeds have shorter life, but none of them less than a year with rotations of 2-3 reeds.
I have made the leap and thrown away all of my open box reeds, and am selling off my remaining sealed reeds as I write this. The American Cut is now my regular on alto and tenor, and the Signature reeds on most everything else.
I have had good luck with beginners on clarinet starting on Signature Cut 2.25.
If you are at all techie and want to learn more about the science behind them, read the patent filed by Guy Legere here:
SO … 11 years later, I have retaken the test, completely forgetting that I took it before.
This time around, I guessed 100% correct and could pick out the Legere in 2 seconds.
Funny thing … I had the opposite reaction. I thought the Legere sounded thin with too many overtones and I much prefer the cane.
I wonder if it’s because back then I played legere and now I play cane?!?!
Well, I did not hear the difference between A and B. After playing Legere Signature clarinet reeds for more than ten years I feel that the tone quality depend more on me and my embouchure. The Legere is mostly the same every day; however it will be a little bent after much playing and will gradually loose a little tension, but not as quickly as cane. I used Bari reed on alto sax in 1980; that was not so bad, but for clarinet the upper register with Bari reed made a strange sound. To improve the cane I guess will be very difficult, but I guess that more research will give still better plastic reeds and the hunt for a good cane reed will be history.
I find it curious that people are surprised that a highly engineered process developed after years of continuous improvement (Legere) is superior to a slivers of bark that are completely unique one to the next…