“Tupperware” (Legere) reeds

Three years ago (give or take) plastics company Legere introduced a synthetic bassoon reed at the IDRS conference. There have been plastic reeds for years, my band director in high school in the 90’s tried to get me to play on plastic ones then, probably the Fox Renard reeds, but they were always notoriously bad. Flat, impossible response in the extreme registers, and they would frequently split down the middle. Anyway, Legere has made respectable single reeds for decades, and finally discovered a way of making polypropylene bassoon reeds that worked marginally well.

They were, of course, all the rage at that conference. Reeds you can’t adjust!? Of course I’ll take 6! Oh, they’re $135 each? Nevermind.

I played on a a few and found they played OK. They had three strengths then, “soft” “medium” and “hard”. I was told “you’ll hate the hard reeds” which was pretty untrue. They were a bit hefty to handle with the embouchure, but not terrible. The “soft” reeds couldn’t take any air for me at all. No dynamic range whatsoever. The “medium” was fine, although still not very full response in the bottom of the bassoon, and the extreme highs were … tenuous.

So fast forward to about a year ago and Midwest Musical Imports starts carrying the reeds. I tried a half dozen or so of the two new strength options “medium” and “medium hard” and found the medium to be like the soft was when they were first introduced, and the “medium hard” to be like the medium originally. Out of the first batch of ten, I found one that maybe would play OK for me. Not great, but doable. Still not worth $135.

But now I heard they changed the design pretty dramatically sometime in October/November of this year, and for the worse by all reports. So I tried about 10-12 of the medium hard ones and found one that I felt could actually play dynamics for me. Basically the most open, most boisterous one in the group. Way out on the end of the bell curve. I was always surprised at how many people preferred the “medium” strength, and even felt those to be hard/heavy. Unreal. Anyway, I went ahead and bought that one. The most comfortable one I had ever tried, and apparently the last of this generation, so I just went with it. I’ll hold it as a backup in it’s own little reed case in case I forget my reed case at home for a gig or something, I know I’ll have something that will work with me.

And further interesting, when I let one of my students try this reed that I liked, it was SO LOUD for him. These things definitely don’t react like cane. They don’t sound as good (although passable) and respond kinda weird. This one plays the very high notes very well though. But it’s interesting how different they are for different people. I don’t see them replacing my cane reeds for either myself or others any time soon, but there’s certainly a market for a reed that you can’t adjust even if you wanted to. Just make sure you try at least half a dozen and be able to return what you don’t like. They’re at least as variable as cane reeds, if not more so.