With the various limitations that traditional cane reeds present to saxophonists such as warping, consistency, and longevity. There are more and more manufacturers coming to the market with synthetic alternatives to address these issues. I have tried various synthetic reeds from Legere, Bari, Fiberreed, Forestone, Fibracell, and although I still prefer traditional cane, I am noticing improvements in design, sound quality and consistency with synthetic reeds.
I was recently contacted by Bravo Reeds and was asked to test play their synthetic reeds for alto saxophone. These reeds are also available for tenor, baritone, soprano and bass clarinet.
Bravo Reeds were designed in California and made in Taiwan. These synthetic reeds come in traditional cane reed strengths: (2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4,). The Bravo Reeds were designed to meet the expectations and demands of professional saxophonist as well as beginners. Through over a decade of research and development as well as trial and error, Bravo Reeds has introduced a reed that feels, plays, and performs as well as cane. Through this process, Bravo has been able to guarantee consistency from reed to reed as well as ensure a non-toxic manufacturing process for workers and musicians. While many synthetic reeds are priced much higher than traditional cane, Bravo Reeds are priced competitively to cane so students and musicians can enjoy the benefits and not have to deal with traditional cane problems.
Musicians at all levels have tolerated the inconsistencies inherent in cane for many years. If you were lucky enough to find one or two reeds out of the box that played well, you would consider that box a great box of reeds. Reed players have searched endlessly for the “perfect” reed, one that is durable, consistent, and responsive. Up until now, the industry has offered cane or synthetic options with each category presenting its own problems.
A solution to the problems faced with traditional cane is a synthetic reed. Manufacturers have been searching for the right combination of plastic epoxy, composites, coverings, and filaments for over fifty years. The problems are threefold: first, there are the structural issues of mouth feel, responsiveness, and resonance; second, there’s the question of the safety of the materials used; and third, there’s price. Good synthetic reeds cost a lot more than cane, making it hard for musicians to justify even trying them out. This is why Bravo Reeds was invented.
I tried various strengths of the Bravo Reeds and found that the 2 and the 21/2 worked best for me. I found the Bravo reeds to overall feel comfortable and not too stiff, but at the same time the Bravo reeds did not feel as comfortable to me as traditional cane. These reeds were responsive and took very little air to make a sound. I found the overall sound quality I was able to achieve had many characteristics of traditional cane, but at the same time, I found that while playing chromatically, the sound quality varied from low to mid to high. I do believe with more and more time using the Bravo Reeds, I could obtain a similar sound as I find when playing traditional cane. However, I still believe like many other synthetic reeds, there is more research and work to be done before synthetic reeds match or surpass traditional cane.
I would like to thank Bravo reeds for sending me their alto reeds to test play. I will say the Bravo reeds offer one of the best values for players looking to switch or try synthetic reeds.