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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2012
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks,

I was chatting with our beginning band director and she told me she has a visually-impaired student on clarinet who likes to shred reeds. Due to her severely limited vision, she's very tactile. Apparently, she loves the feel of her reeds and has a habit of pulling the fibers apart.

I thought I'd pick up a synthetic for her to try. It may get shredded, too, but hopefully it will survive longer than her cane reeds! 馃檪

With any luck she will break her habit and continue playing. What budget-friendly synthetics can you clarinetists steer me towards that might sound decent for a beginner on a 2 strength cane reed?

The teacher is pursuing some avenues through the student's IEP to pull her focus away from the reeds, but this could be another handy tool for success.
 

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There is a blind student before me in class (she plays clarinet and she started this year) and she does not destroy her reeds so maybe the student you mentioned will also learn to place her reeds without shredding reeds. Maybe you could give her some old reeds just to learn how it feels and how to put it on the mouthpiece? Not to play on them, of course, just to learn how to fit it correctly.

As for synthetic reeds, they are awesome, but the tip is also sensitive on the synthetic ones. Maybe somewhat stronger but they also are more expensive. So I am not sure this is the best solution until the student becomes less of a reed shredder.

I did not like Fibracell and Hartmans, so I would suggest Legere. The Studio cut is less expensive but harder to control.

BTW, I would love to hear the experiences of your band director about teaching visually-impaired students. Our teacher is a bit lost about how to teach her (we tried recording music and she will get a Braille sheet music soon). Feel free to pm me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your thoughts. My understanding is that the problem is less with her ability to place the reed and more on her habit of having her hands continually engaged. If she is playing, her hands are occupied. As soon as the director focuses on another section in the band and she is at rest, her hands start working on whatever attracts her attention. At the moment, it's her reeds. I don't know all the details, but my friend mentioned it was something she was struggling to deal with.

Her hands might find the tip of a synthetic equally interesting so you are right, maybe it won't be a really good solution. I'm willing to donate a reed for her to give it a shot though. I appreciate your thoughts on the brands. I'm a cane guy, and strictly a sax player at that, so I'm a bit lost in the world of synthetic clarinet reeds! :) Have your tried the Forestone reeds?

This student is not completely visually-impaired, but it is pretty severe. I'd be happy to ask my friend what she does for her in class and relay that to you. It's definitely worth the extra effort to share our love of music no matter the obstacles!
 

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I like synthetic reeds with my schedule (not saying that great cane isn't better, but that is an altogether different matter). Legere makes great synthetics and they seem very sturdy. I know next to nothing about clarinet, but according the Legere website (https://www.legere.com/products/clarinet-reeds/), their classic model is robust, so I would give that a try and I will be happy to contribute. I use BARI reeds for baritone (makes sense doesn't it), but would not recommend, as they seem like popsicle sticks for higher pitched horns (could just be me).
 

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Have your tried the Forestone reeds?
No, I gave up trying new kind after the Fibracell fiasco, especially since I love Legere reeds and there was no need to experiment further. So I have no experience with Forestone reeds.

It may be a stupid question, but does she have a clarinet stand? Maybe if she puts the instrument down, she would not be tempted to explore the reed? She probably would need something else, like a Braille Rubik cube, to occupy herself with, though.

This student is not completely visually-impaired, but it is pretty severe. I'd be happy to ask my friend what she does for her in class and relay that to you. It's definitely worth the extra effort to share our love of music no matter the obstacles!
Thank you, my fellow student is similar, she can see shapes somewhat but no music or small movements.
I completely agree with you. (Besides, this student has the best clarinet sound at beginner's level I have heard in my 20+ years of sharing class with fellow music students. And she composes pieces for herself, our teacher and I were pretty amazed when she came up with a perfect AAvBA form tune - she has no background in music theory.)
 

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I've had students with vision impairments, and I've had students who liked to destroy reeds, but never a vision-impaired student who destroyed reeds.
It sounds like the student has some behavioral issues as well as vision challenges, so switching to synthetic reeds might just the increase the cost impact of the behavior, and maybe lead the parents to discontinue the lessons.
The behavior needs to be addressed. I like Gulo gulo's suggestion of a clarinet stand and something to occupy his/her hands while waiting to play.
The music teacher might want to reflect on the pace of instruction as well. Young beginners don't do well with long periods of inactivity, which is a particular concern in mixed-instrument beginning classes.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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The only decent synthetic clarinet reed is a Legere (signature) but I would say that being a legere endorser. But they are not cheap.

I will be happy to supply one free, I have 2.25, 2.5 or 2.75 and generally I would recommend a slightly lower number than most cane reeds.

They are still relatively fragile of course but without the same reedy tactile sensation this could work.

I do think it is a problem of some slightly compulsive nature, not specific to being visually impaired, however I can understand how the impairment could possibly amplify any such compulsions. As you may know I do fundraising in aid of special needs music education and this will all be a part of that if you want to put me in touch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for all the very helpful replies! There is some great advice here and perhaps a combination of these could lead to success. I'll try to get more of the story and background, but I agree that this sounds like a compulsive behavior and getting the horn out of her hands is probably a wise move until she moves past the reed destroying phase. I'm very much secondary to the problem so don't really have more details at the moment. I just know it's been frustrating for my friend and I'm very happy to share these great thoughts with her!

Pete, I'll shoot you a PM.
 

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I'm in a similar situation (buying synthetic reeds among many other things for a beginner band class next year) and I ordered a brown forestone trad reed combined with a bari esprit mouthpiece. I played forestone clarinet reeds for a long time on my soprano sax and they sounded very good. No I have leg猫re signatures on soprano (and clarinet, too), but I'll go with the cheaper reeds first until I get a feeling for what strenght children with this setup will need.
 

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The only decent synthetic clarinet reed is a Legere (signature) but I would say that being a legere endorser. But they are not cheap.
I think the Legere Signature European Cut is probably the best overall clarinet reed in the world. It's also the one I would recommend for a beginner, despite the cost, because it's so responsive. The Classic is a more resistant model -- not great for a beginner, IMO, despite the fact that its lower price probably results in greater use by beginners. The standard Signature is sort of in-between regarding feel and response.

The Forestone Black Bamboo is also a good, responsive synthetic clarinet reed, and it's lower-priced than the Legere Euro Sig. It's not cheaper than free, however. :)

But as other posters have noted, the student's OCD-type behavior needs to be addressed separately; otherwise, you could have very pricey reeds being torn up.

I did not like Fibracell and Hartmans, so I would suggest Legere. The Studio cut is less expensive but harder to control.
The Studio Cut for clarinet doesn't exist. It's a saxophone-only model.
 

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It's going to get expensive really fast when the student destroys the synthetic reeds.
 

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Give her some old reads to fiddle with until the novelty wears off.

She needs to learn that in life there are things you just don't do unless you want to really waste money.
Is she allowed to break pencils in half because she likes the sound?

I once had a clarinettist in the school orchestra I conducted.
He dug holes in his pads because he wanted his clarinet to be with the technician - myself - rather than face his clarinet teacher.
Little did he realise that I was the repairer. I contacted his mother and we put the puzzle together.

Perhaps this kid doesn't like lessons???
Perhaps she just likes all the attention she gets when she destroys another reed.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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You, sir, are a saint.
No, I am a sinner. :)

Many thanks, I will let you know when it arrives!
Well I think it is worth trying various things. It may that it's a behavioural thing that would be dealt with in some counselling, but let's see if this changes anything
 

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One thing I learned teaching beginning band for over 20 years is how important consistency is---especially in the beginning. Players starting out don't know if it is them or the equipment when things don't work or sound good. Using a reed that plays the same every time, doesn't need to be "wet" and doesn't warp can really contribute to consistency in tone production in a critical time in a student's playing experience. The downside of course is the expense and the tendency of youngsters to be careless. Having the students save their allowance and buy reeds with their own money can go a long way to solving the latter problem. Using Fibercell reeds for beginning oboe students was a common practice back when I was teaching. Back then synthetic single reeds were ok for larger instruments like bass clarinet and bari sax, but still had a ways to go for smaller woodwinds in my experience.
 
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