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Jazz reeds are designed to give musicians more brilliance and projection. They enable saxophonists to stand out in a jazz or rock band, cutting through brass and amplified instruments.
Compared to traditional reeds, jazz reeds generally have a slightly thicker tip and a less pronounced core, favoring higher harmonics for a brighter sound.
A musician playing with a jazz reed benefits from an energetic response, greater flexibility, and more pronounced color variations.
This enables the musician to accentuate their playing with clearer articulation and more powerful blowing, something better supported by the thicker tip of the Jazz reed. This also makes it easy to cover the entire tonal range, delivering an effective and expressive performance.
The thickness of the central part of the reed, known as the "blank", plays an essential role in reed strength. Contrary to what you might think, for a given model made from the same reed, a reed with a thicker blank will actually be less hard. This is due to the very characteristics of the cane used to make the reeds, which is less dense in the middle and harder in the bark. Reeds from thicker blanks are therefore cut from the less dense part of the cane (fibers, parenchyma cells), making them better suited to jazz.
Depending on their preferences, classical musicians generally favor a thinner blank, as this offers them greater resistance and a more focused sound. Jazz musicians, on the other hand, generally opt for a thicker blank, giving them a softer sound.
Filing of the reed is another important characteristic to consider. A filed reed means that it has been filed down to the bark. This filing is carried out just above the cutting area.
Classical musicians generally prefer to use filed reeds, as this makes them stronger and more centered, allowing a slightly freer vibration, while preserving the warm, dark sound characteristic of classical music. Jazz musicians, on the other hand, prefer unfiled reeds, as they offer a little extra resistance, resulting in a brighter, more energetic sound.