Clarinet Notes

Odds and ends of clarinet tech and training

First look at Vandoren VK1 synthetic reeds


In mid 2023 Vandoren released its first synthetic reed, the VK1. The numbering system was totally different from other reeds. Instead of strengths like 3, 3 1/2, it was 35, 40, 45, 40, 55, and 60. Reeds were also quite pricey, 25 to 30% more expensive than Legeres. EarSpasm offered a trial kit with one reed of each strength. Up front you paid full price, but could return all of them for a refund. This video describes my experience with the trial kit.

My trial kit arrived today. As a first experiment, I selected a bunch of reeds and did a somewhat blind comparison. Using my current mouthpiece and ligature, I just put the reed on without over-thinking and played a 3-octave F scale. Your challenge is to listen to the 16 test cases and identify 6 Vk1’s of different strengths, 4 Legere European Cut of different strengths, 4 other synthetics, and 2 canes.  Also, which sounds do you like best?

This is not really a fair test, because my mouthpiece is specifically made for Legere European Cut. It has a very short facing and a wide tip to match the reeds — which are extremely thin, have a short vamp, and a short stock. The Vk1 is shaped more like a Vandoren cane reed. It’s extremely thick, has a narrow tip, and an extremely long stock. They will probably work better on a different mpc, and probably with a different ligature too. That’s a future experiment. (Video recorded on Grabner S4P1 mpc, Silverstein Hexa Ligature.)

If you want to cheat, the answers are below the video (upside-down).


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