Some time ago, I remember Richie Hawley imploring fellow clarinetists to give D'Addario Reserve Classic Clarinet reeds a try -especially if they were using Vandoren V-12s, as I was. To be honest, my first thought was something like, "Well, Richie's gonna sound great on anything. I'm making what I have work well, so why bother?"
But, if you know Richie at all, you know that he's one of the most fastidious listeners out there -and, even more importantly, one of the precious links to a generation of clarinet sonority that has yet to be rivaled. So, my somewhat skeptical first-reaction ended up quickly morphing into an 'I'll give it a try.'
I'm glad I did.
The Reserve Classic reeds strike a balance between bright response and tonal richness, neither brittle nor dull, and they start ringing right out of the box. With V-12s, as I alluded to on D'Addario's website, I had an elaborate system of preparation, which began with the expectation that (after a short play-through) I would have to wait at least 10 days before those reeds were ready to handle an orchestra rehearsal. Further, I'd expect to lightly balance the tip and rails of at least 70% of them. Depending on the weather (we have pretty intense humidity in South Florida), that would sometimes mean ordering a quarter strength stronger so that "I'd have room" to remove material and produce a well-balanced reed.
I prided myself on this system over time, teaching it to others and believing I could at least count on the inconsistency.
But, what would happen on the rare occasion when I hadn't readied enough V12s in the weeks before? We've all had it happen... And, what would happen if those reeds simply weren't from a great batch of cane? Well, what it meant was having to hurry-up that process with a new box (never a good idea) and hope that I could superficially "condition" a few of them to peak at the right time -usually a weekend of 3-5 concerts. I'd know their little reed-lives would be shortened this way, but it was a sacrifice I'd come to expect.
Bringing this back to the present-day, you can imagine how different my experience is now. I find myself doing little-to-no work on each Reserve Classic reed, and I never have to order a heavier strength to work them down. The reeds do need a break-in period (and, as with any reed, a longer time is helpful), but they tip-their-hand with balance and sound right out of the box -the first time. You know what those reeds will become right away! And, they maintain a responsiveness and consistency from beginning to end. Honestly, the biggest challenge I have now with is knowing when they're dead -a good problem to have...so long as you euthanize humanely.
D'Addario is doing some other great work too. Their X10E mouthpiece (while too high-pitched for me in most situations) brings a much needed option to market (it has an excellent sound), and their humidity-regulated reed cases are convenient, well-thought-out, and inexpensive.
If it wasn't an easy enough choice for me to endorse D'Addario's products by all of this, the people I've worked with there made it a no-brainer. I want to give a big shout-out to Tom Kmiecik and Josh Redman for their fantastic involvement, great spirits, and great knowledge. They both talk about being proud of the work their company is doing on behalf of artists (and ultimately listeners), and I expect that D'Addario is quite proud of them too.
Feel free to message me here if there's something more you'd like to know about my experience. I plan to be a part of the next stages of development with D'Addario clarinet equipment, and I'd love to hear from you.