Selecting the right reed can be confusing, especially for beginners. To a certain extent it is a personal choice and will take experimentation and experience to figure out what’s right for you and your playing style. Even for experienced musicians, it is often a difficult and frustrating aspect of playing a reed instrument. The following information from A Guide to the Art of Adjusting Saxophone Reeds, by James Rötter, gives some tips.
Every reed from a particular maker, model, and instrument designation has almost identical profile dimensions, regardless of strength, or at least that is the goal of makers. The relative strength of a reed is determined at the end of the manufacturing process by measuring each reed’s resistance to bending, and thus the cane’s density, on a machine.
It is our job, as performers, to find a reed make, model, and strength that provides us with the basic sonic and other musical characteristics we are seeking in a reed.
After you have selected a reed make, model, and strength, it can be considered a point of departure for conditioning and further adjustment and customization, detailed in A Guide to the Art of Adjusting Saxophone Reeds from Eastman Music.