What do you think of Synthetic Reeds? This is a question I get asked just about everyday…
I guess saxophone players are really frustrated with the inconsistencies of cane reeds and they’re looking for an alternative.
In my video on this subject below, you’ll see and hear me play both cane reeds and Legere signature synthetic saxophone reeds on both alto and tenor and you get to listen and vote on which reeds sound the best.
This is going to be a blind test. You’re not going to know which reed I’m playing. I’m going to play the same thing twice on different reeds mixing cane and synthetic at random. I want you to listen carefully and then vote in the on screen poll for the reed you prefer the sound of. Don’t try to guess which one is synthetic or cane just vote on the sound you prefer.
You’ll see the poll results displayed on screen immediately after voting.
Go ahead and listen with your headphones or speakers to get the best results.
Remember your choice in each poll as I’m going to tell you which reed was which later on.
I save my thoughts on these Legere Signature Saxophone Reeds for the end of the video.
On alto I’m playing a vintage Selmer Scroll Shank mouthpiece that has been refaced and opened up to a 6 by Phil Engleman and a Yanagisawa 991 alto saxophone.
On tenor I’m playing a Phil-tone Intrepid 7* on a Yanagisawa WO2 tenor saxophone
Use the comment section below to share your thoughts on what you heard.
Two Important Elements to Consider.
Sound and comfort.
Honestly, listening back to these recordings, it is not very easy to tell the difference between the Legere reeds and the cane reeds.The poll results show this as they are quite mixed.
To me the Legere reeds sound good, they sound natural, and they don’t sound synthetic.
I also find them comfortable to play. Everything I can do on a cane reed, I can also play on a Legere signature reed.
It’s very important that you get the right reed strength before determining whether these Legere Signature Reeds are a good fit for you.
I found that the 2.75 strength was the best for me. It gives me a good balance between resistance and playability.
However, the Legere reed strength chart is off for me.
Notes On Legere Reed Strength Chart
On alto I normally play Rico Select Jazz 3M, according to the Legere chart, I should be playing on a Legere Signature 3.25. I have one of those as well and it it’s way too resistant for me.
According to the Legere chart, the 2.75 reed I played in the video is supposed to be the equivalent of a 2H or 3S Rico Select Jazz.
The Vandoren Java 3 filed reed I played on alto was slightly softer than the 2.75 Legere Signature reed but according to their chart, it should be harder.
For me the Legere 2.75 is more like a Rico Select Jazz 3H and the 3 would be like a Rico Select Jazz 4S.
I also have a 3, 3.25 and 3.5 Legere Signature all of which are too hard for me to play comfortably.
On tenor I found the same thing. The 2.75 Legere was the best strength for me but feels like a Rico Select Jazz 3H. The 3 Legere feels more like a Rico Select Jazz 4S and the stronger reeds are much too hard for my setup.
How to Find the Right Strength Legere Signature Reed
I would look at the Legere reed chart and go for .25 or .5 strength lower than what it suggests on both alto and tenor saxophone mouthpieces.
Use Legere’s Replacement Policy
Legere offers to replace reeds within 30 days of purchase to help you find the right size. You need to fill out a form that you can find on their website and send a photo of your receipt. They’ll get back to you with instructions on where to send your reed and then they send you a replacement.
I would purchase 3 different strengths a quarter size apart and then once you’ve determined the correct strength for you, send the other 2 in to be replaced with your preferred strength. This way you will still have a reed to use while you’re making the exchange.
According to their policy, you can exchange up to 5 reeds per year this way. But you probably will only need to do this at the very beginning.
I have exchanged saxophone reeds with Legere in the past and it’s pretty fast and easy.
Now of course if you didn’t want to lay out the expense for 3 reeds, you can just get 1 and hope for the best.
Give Synthetic Reeds a Fair Shot
I get the feeling that quite a few people try Legere reeds out for the first time, but don’t have the right strength and then they decide that they don’t like synthetic and move on.
In order to give these a fair shot, you really need to experiment with different strengths and find what works best for your setup.
Also keep in mind that Legere reeds, like cane reeds, will react differently on different mouthpieces. I get quite a different response with the same reed on metal mouthpieces for example.
Who are Synthetic Reeds For?
Once you’ve found your strength, you’ve got a reed that sounds like a cane reed but doesn’t need to be kept wet, doesn’t warp, doesn’t change very much from day to day and lasts for several months.
There are a lot of advantages. Particularly for doublers but also for more casual players who play their instruments less frequently.
There are lots of professional musicians using these as well and I can certainly see why.
Consistency is very important when you’re performing. If you’re a touring musician you don’t always have time to prepare reeds before a show. It’s certainly nice to be able to pull out your horn after traveling all day and not have to worry if your reed is going to play.
Will I be Switching to Legere Signature Reeds?
When I originally made this video, my answer was definitively no. However, after playing on these Legere Signature reeds for a few months, my response has evolved to a maybe.
I still feel as though the Legere reeds are lacking a certain warmth and graininess that you can get with cane. It’s very subtle but important to me.
Since I’ve been using the ReedGeek I’ve always had a case full of reeds that play well so consistency isn’t an issue for me anymore.
Now I know some of you out there who play Legere reeds have a staunch loyalty to them and feel compelled to try to convert everyone to your side.
So before you start into me, hear me out…
I think the Legere Signature reeds are great, and every saxophone and clarinet player should give them a try.
I think they are a great fit for a lot of people. Just like cane reeds are a great fit for some other people.
I know many great players who are very happy with their Legere reeds and won’t be going back to cane.
So if you want to give them a try, here are some links to purchase them on Amazon:
Legere Signature Alto Saxophone Reed
Legere Signature Tenor Saxophone Reed
Go ahead and let everyone know your thoughts on synthetic vs cane in the comments section below.
Answers to Blind Reed Comparison Test
➝Reed #1 – Vandoren Red Java 3
➝Reed #2 – Legere Signature 2.75
➝Reed #1 – Legere Signature 2.75
➝Reed #2 – Rico Select Jazz 3H
➝Reed #1 – Legere Signature 2.75
➝Reed #2 – Rico Select Jazz 3H
➝Reed #1 – Rico Select Jazz 3H
➝Reed #2 – Legere Signature 2.75
➝Reed #1 – Legere Signature 2.75
➝Reed #2 – Rico Select Jazz 3H
Interested in more content about saxophone reeds? Check out “The Best Box of Reeds I’ve Ever Played.”
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24 thoughts on “Legere Signature Synthetic Reeds vs Cane Saxophone Reeds”
I haven’t tried Legere – but have been using Fibracell for about 10 years and they are better than cane for me. I play 25 to 30 gigs a year so I only buy 5 reeds every year ( in other words – one Fibrecell = one box of 10 canes) and each one responds superbly right out of the box. They last a long time – but when they are done – they will let you know.
Thanks, I’m going to try to get some fibracells for a future test.
I agree 100% with your review. I started with a 2.75 and it was too hard. The 2.25 is a perfect fit for me right now.
My cane reed of choice is a Rico Jazz 2 Medium.
The cane reed “feels” better on my lip. Maybe it is just because that is what I learned on. There is also a subtle “warmth” to cane that legere signature is missing. It could be in my head. However, the more I play the legere the less I notice the difference. Perhaps it is because the legere has worn in a bit?
For now though, I am sticking with the legere signature, and here is why… I am not a professional musician. I play in my church and I try to practice everyday. I have three children a wife and full time career. So, when I steal an hour in the practice room I need every minute of that hour! Going through the cane reed process prior to practicing takes time. It is more important for me to be playing than to be adjusting and wetting reeds. As I get used to the feel of the Legere the less I miss using cane.
Selmer Series iii alto
Jody Jazz HR* 6
Rico H Lig
Nate, that is perhaps the best reason to use the Legere. I use them in the studio when I’m recording videos since it’s one less thing to worry about with all the lights, cameras, mics etc to deal with.
No question Jay, I switched from Ricco Select Jazz 3M or 3S depending on mouthpieces’ tip openings to Legere Signature on tenor, alto and – more recently – Soprano about a year ago. No going back to cane for me, the positives of Legere far outpacing the negatives! It took me a short while to fine the right Legere strength to suit a wide variety of mouthpieces though, but I can say that I happily settled for 2 ¼, 2 ½ & 2 ¾ depending what I play. I’m still on the initial reeds having played them on average 3 – 4x/week for 30’ since I purchased them. Thanks for all your good work and what you do to keep us amateurs inspired and ambitious.
Thanks Thierry, glad you found reeds that work well for you all the time.
I’m a bari player, and the reeds – any brand – are so damned expensive. I’ve tried ’em all, and the only artificial reed I’ve liked is the now-defunct Kahn reed. The bari exposes *a lot* of reed to your lips and tongue, and I just can’t stand the feel of a reed that feels like plastic in my mouth. Maybe that’s just me. But, i do miss Kahn reeds. I’m back on cane.
I am a new player. Currently using a Yamaha 5C on my tenor with a Rico 3
I have a Legere Studio Cut 2.5 but I am having some issues. Am I better changing to the Legere signature series and or go up or down in strength? Thanks for all the great videos.
Glen, depends on the problems you are having. It’s probably a reed strength issue. If it’s too resistant get a softer reed. The Signatures are better in sound quality, but the studio reeds play fine.
I am completely new to saxophone, never touched one. I’ve always loved the different styles and sounds, and have decided I would like to teach myself to play. I had great results teaching myself guitar, so I believe I can do this. However, I live in the middle of nowhere. I have to drive over an hour one way, just to reach civilization. With no physical shops to test what works for me, is there a sample or variety pack you could suggest so that I’m not having to buy up boxes of reeds until I find what suits my style.
Love the videos, and wealth of information you share. Look forward to learning more.
Thanks James. Start with 2.5 strength reeds. Rico Orange box is fine and inexpensive. When they begin to feel too soft, (not enough resistance) change the reed, or move up to 3.0 strength. Anything made by Rico, D’addario, Vandoren is good quality.
Vandoren now offers a variety pack so you can try out several (4 I think?).
I’ve been using both cane and synthetic. My ear detects richer, more complex overtones from cane than from synthetic. However, as I pick my alto up and down a lot, the convenience of Legere synthetic (2.25) is huge. So, they both have their time and place for me.
I went out and purchased Legere Signature Synthetic Reed for my tenor. What a difference especially playing outside. I don’t have to worry about making sure it’s wet, just pick up and play. I still use cane occasionally but I mostly use the synthetic. Thanks for the heads up.
I have a “spare” Fibracell (alto 3.5) I’d like to make harder. Any suggestions? Thanks!
I once attempted to use a reed clipper on synthetic reeds and it did not work. I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for this.
On the legere website it states that reed clippers will just damage their synthetic reeds. They say that a light sanding of the tip will work.
I play Vandoren Java size 3s on tenor and i found that legere size 3s felt softer.
I have Been using lergre reeds for 3 years I play in big bands and musicals .
The Synthetic reefs are ideal for doubling ,I find myself having to go from Clarinet to flute ,Alto sax, Picc and soprano sax .multiple times in the Pit.
My setups are Alto Meyer 6m 2.5 Clarinet Meyer 5 size 2 Sop selmer s80 2.5
Tenor Vandoren T45 java 2.75.all sax reeds are signature and Clarinet standard.
My tone never changed and cost saving great.
Thanks for sharing. Glad you have found setups that work well…
I was on a paper session with Legere at the International Clarinet Association meeting in Columbus, Ohio about 20 years ago, before he finished perfecting his reeds. I was talking about cane reeds and he was introducing his plastic reeds. The secret, once he got them perfected, as far as I can tell, is the carbon fiber instrusion into the polymer matrix. It mimics the vascular tissue in cane reeds.
You mention reed strength and this is important. Wet cane loses about 25% of its modulus of elasticity when wet, so Legere’s reeds are set for the strength of wet cane, not dry cane. As far as the strength ratings are concerned, even for cane reeds, these are fictions based on some very elementary tests. They are nothing more than ballpark figures. The best strategy is to try one half strength higher or lower than what you are using to see if it makes a difference.
The nice thing about Legere’s reeds is their consistency. Cane reeds are a study in statistics, but when the statistics are in your favor, they will always beat out a synthetic reed, at least until we know how to microtune reeds (we are working on it – see my work or Pierre Taillard and his claripatches, but we aren’t there,yet). Legere’s reeds are the best of the plastic reeds, because they closely mimic cane reed. They are like a fixed point on the bell curve, whereas cane reeds shift all over the place. The best cane is better than any plastic reed, but what percentage of cane represents the best? These are practical questions for player and there is no best answer. Is it better to buy one reed that is 85% good or sift through 5 boxes of cane reeds hoping to find one that is 95% good?
Thanks for that reply. It is a very good perspective on the subject. I’ve found the Rigotti reeds to be remarkably consistent. Rarely do I find one that is less than 85% consistent.
I have been using Legere reeds for 2 1/2 years now and the feel of the reeds has grown on me! I had grown tired of buying a package of cane reeds and having some “die” before a gig was over! ( Not a happy event) the Legeres are in my opinion absolutely identical no matter when or where you get them (ie the 3 you played today plays exactly the same as the 3 played a month ago) and that and their longevity is what has sold me on Legeres.
I am hoping to buy a Legere reed this week, perhaps a 2.0 Signature, and a 2.5 American Cut. Hoping the strengths are good, if not, I will use the exchange program. I am determined to use them until they feel natural, as I love the saxophone, love jazz, classical, and everything about music. But I hate reeds, with a passion. The consistency of Legere reeds, as well as the payoff in price with how long they last make them a no-brainer for me. Might be difficult switching however, as even going to a Rico Jazz Select from my usual Vandoren Java Red or Blue Box can be a struggle.