Reeds What's the difference between Vandoren Blue, Java Green and Java Red?

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
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I put a Vandoren Jazz 2 1/2 on my alto this morning and the sound was different from all the previous cane reeds I have played. However, it felt like it was harder to play and might be better in a 2. I couldn't find a 2 at the store. I was curious about the Javas, since I've never had any, so I bought a Green and a Red to see what's up. I haven't played either yet, but I will before I look back at your replies, if any. It's best if you have played them.
 

GCinCT

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I currently play Java Green on alto and soprano and they have been my go-to reeds for a long time. I have tried the Reds and I play them on tenor. The Reds are file cut. I find them to have a bit of rasp in them and not quite as bright as the Greens. According to Vandoren, the Greens are the brightest jazz reed they make. I think the Reds are equally good. Both are responsive and I have good control. I just like the extra brightness. On tenor, I like the rasp from the Red.
 
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randulo

randulo

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Thanks for that. Who has used and what do you think of these various reeds, including the Jazz or ZZ, Java Red and Green.
Which cut do you like best? Or maybe you don't like Vandoren at all? I've tried several Vandoren and also a few Ricos and I have a small collection of synthetics and black-coated as well. I actually am starting to like the Plasticovers, but they do have a particular sound. I'd like to try a ZZ in a 2, thank you, but they didn't have any. They find it too thin. I'll keep trying the 2 1/2 from time to time. As I said, it had a really nice, "round" sound, but was a little harder to get to sound.
I knew about this and find it... interesting. It felt to me that the ZZ was harder to play than the Trad (Blue), yet it compares to a 2?
12594
 

Ivan

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I'm a softer reed kinda guy who started life on Ricos

Van D reeds are harder than Rico when their numbers are aligned on the scale and I would have had to reset my mental numbering/ hardness calculations to get into Vans

I didn't

I'm now a syntheticist anyway
 

David Roach

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The different cuts from Vandoren are basically an exercise in changing the response and tone colour of a reed. Simply put, a viable reed has to conform within certain basic parameters in order to vibrate well, i.e.to have good tone, intonation and response throughout the given instrument.

By response, I mean the immediacy or amount of resistance of a reed to the breath, and also the flexibility of the reed once it is vibrating.
By tone colour, I mean the relative amplitude (i.e. what you hear most of) of the high upper partials.

I reckon I sound exactly the same on pretty much any reed, but the subjective ease of producing what I want can vary enormously from one type of reed to another. E.G. You will almost never catch me using Vandoren Blue Box on tenor, but I can happily play them on soprano and clarinet.

Theoretically, if you had all the Vandoren reeds in the same medium strength (2.5/3):

Java Green have the least resistance and the most flexibility of the Jazz/Rock orientated reeds and will most easily produce a bright tone with some warmth and a lot of very high upper partials which give a sort of 'hash' to the tone. Typically this is a more Vintage sound, with good attack and projection, but less meat in the centre of the sound. I grew up with these and am sort-of addicted to them, although they can be a little hard to handle on mouthpieces with high baffles.

Java Red are an attempt to lower the predominant upper partials and to provide more meat in the tone and a touch more resistance in comparison to Java Green. Consequently they are a little less flexible. I think they are a more modern tone, but feel as if they lack some of the warmth of the Greens. Not my personal choice.

ZZ are, to me, more like a Java with less very high frequencies and a little more aggression. My next favourite to Java Green because they retain good flexibility and response. These work out about the same resistance as Java Green.

V16 are even less flexible and have the ability to cope with high-baffle mouthpieces better than Java Greens. They have the best projection of any Vandoren reed, but are solidly geared to a bright and aggressive tone. They are quite a bit more resistant (quarter strength harder?) than Javas or ZZs.

Blue Box are the original Vandoren Classical reed and produce a very fast response and a very clean sound (little or no hash) with very balanced upper partials and loads of heart, but they are particularly designed to work with French classical mouthpieces that have, in the main, low baffles. They are the clarinettist's and the classical sax player's gold standard.
My experience is that although some players like them with jazz-type mouthpieces (Link, Larsen, Meyer etc etc), I find that these reeds are inclined to sound hollow, and IMHO, unconvincing unless used on close classical mouthpieces. If you use a Jazz or Rock type mouthpiece that is at all asymetrical in the facing or baffle (i.e. duff) steer clear of Blue Box because they tend to generate squeaks and squeals very easily because of the very thin and responsive tip. They are a half strength harder than Javas.

V12 Are Vandoren's attempt to provide a Classical reed with even more tonal depth and thickness and somewhat less very high upper partials, but the sound is still very well balanced. I like these on clarinet because they produce a smooth and opulent tone more easily than Blue Box but I have never really liked them on sax because the bigger reeds are perhaps less responsive.
Vandoren advertise these as a little softer than Blue Box, and on Clarinet that is true, but strangely not so on Saxophone. To me, they are quite a bit harder (quarter strength harder than Blue Box, so 3/4s harder than Javas?).

V21 are designed as a 'Universal' reed with less immediate refinement than Blue Box, better response and clarity than V12, more heart and solidity than the Javas, ZZs or V16s. Vandoren claim that the V21 also copes with wide interval leaps very well.
I really like these reeds on soprano sax and clarinet. where I tend to use closer mouthpieces for increased stamina. They last well and IMHO have the best balance of sound of any of the classical reeds. I have yet to get into them on any other instrument. They are, like Blue Box, pretty much a half strength harder than Javas.

I hope this helps people to choose what might suit them best.
 

David Roach

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Following that essay :rolleyes: I did a bit of practice and ended up doing short clips of each of the Vandoren reeds in the order I listed them.
Here's a link to the clips on Soundcloud.
I know Soundcloud can flatten everything so that each reed will sound virtually the same, so if anyone would like access to the Wav file please PM me.
They are done with my Ref 54 alto, and a really great mouthpiece by Ed Pillinger which I am using when I need a bit more heft than a classical mouthpiece can give without losing that basic tone quality (i.e. Nyman Band). Its called the 'AF' in a 5*M facing and has a smaller bore than the PPT or the NYA. Similar in a way to a Vandoren classical mouthpiece, but rather better.
I used 2.5s in all the reeds apart from the V12. I tweaked a V12 #3 to play a bit softer than it normal would, but you will get the vibe I think.
 

Nick Wyver

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If you use a Jazz or Rock type mouthpiece that is at all asymetrical in the facing or baffle (i.e. duff) steer clear of Blue Box because they tend to generate squeaks and squeals very easily because of the very thin and responsive tip.
That is indeed something I had found in the past. Also in the last couple of days I have been trying an old Riffault baritone mouthpiece with some Blue Box 3s that I just paid £37 for 5 of the buggers. Horrible squeaks in the upper register. On examining the mouthpiece more closely I see this:
12595
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing saxophone 20 months - 2.3% of my life
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I think I have a serious problem with judging this because my upper frequency hearing is severely limited. I can hear all the notes of the soprano, but in the area of overtones, harmonics, the subtleties that make the sound what it is, I'm beginning to think I do not perceive them at all. My feeling of reeds is about the amount of force it takes to get the sound. I'm also realizing that I have been blowing too hard on the softer reeds. I made some progress today by trying to play notes with endings that don't cut off, in other words fading down as low as possible. This is also a difference in the various reeds.

Lots of work to do!
 

Colin the Bear

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I used to play vandoren blue exclusively and after a while on this forum became adept at adjusting them. However after experiencing inconsistencies I changed to rico reserve. The vandoren 2.5's were often harder than a 3 and the 3 were often softer than a 2.5. The scraping and clipping were eating into play time. The rico reserve is consistent and long lasting and satisfies my ear. Cheap too. ;)
 

Greg Strange

Well-Known Member
I've always found the ZZ 3 reeds hard to blow - a bit like trying to play a surfboard - I was playing a new V16 3 reed yesterday on a copy of a New York Meyer alto piece for over 2 hours and that played pretty good...good strong sound with easy articulation.

Greg S.
 

Filip

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Reading, UK
Cool subject. I've recently switched mouthpieces from 4C to an Otto link HR in 5 (tiny I know)... It feels better in every way but is so free blowing and easy to play that I've pondered on straying away from my current traditionals in 2.5... I bought it for it's awesome dark sound on alto ideal for my low grade tunes (Meyers misbehaved,) but would love to make it a tiny bit more zappier....
 

David Roach

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Cool subject. I've recently switched mouthpieces from 4C to an Otto link HR in 5 ............................but would love to make it a tiny bit more zappier....
It depends what your idea of 'zappier' is. My interpretation is that you want more dynamism to the attack and maybe some more 'garlic' (i.e. grit and interest) in the tone.
Vandoren Traditionals (BlueBox) will give you the fastest attack of any reed available because they have a very thin tip, but after that they are designed to produce a solid classical tone. Java Green will give you good attack, but Java Reds will give you more heft and retain some of the warmth you think is 'awesome' whilst adding some grit.
(But in the end you have to buy a few and experiment, because my experience and aims are not the same as yours.)
 

David Roach

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I've always found the ZZ 3 reeds hard to blow - a bit like trying to play a surfboard - I was playing a new V16 3 reed yesterday on a copy of a New York Meyer alto piece for over 2 hours and that played pretty good...good strong sound with easy articulation.
Greg S.
I agree that the step up from a Vandoren 2.5 to a 3 to a 3.5 sometimes seems very large and (fairly obviously) that certain cuts become less flexible at harder strengths. I suppose this is Riggoti's and D'Addario's (or originally Rico's) idea in having 3rd strengths to mitigate that step-up. Also that reed cane varies a lot still - after all it's a natural commodity.
Have you tried the reed flicking technique to soften reeds?
 
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randulo

randulo

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And yet, on the chart the set ZZ 2 1/2 with a Blue 2. I'm fined less hard to get a sound but harder to play for any length of time with the more demanding reeds.
 

Colin the Bear

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I would use what's easiest to be you with. I've tried them all. On alto. I do like a French cut reed

ZZ didn't last a set for me and seemed to turn into chewing gum.

Didn't like the java's.

I'm packing in the alto case at the moment

Rico Jazz select in a 3H. Just a little bit on the stiff side for me. I seem to get a nasal tone out of them. Maybe a bit kazoo like.

Claude Hemke in a 3. Very consistent. A very pure, muffled, dull tone. Very easy blow. Easy to blend in a section. In short
reliable but dull.

Gonzales RC Regular Cut in a 2.5. Also very consistent but not very flexible sound wise. Great for playing loud. They sound the same quiet of loud. Can't subtone with them but can keep up with any trumpet volume wise. They last ages and as a bonus taste great. A sort of underlying sweetness.

I'm playing through a batch of Rico reserve in a 3 at present and am very happy with them. I may return to Van blue at some stage just for a little variety. I've played them most of my saxophone career. I left them because I got fed up with strength inconsistencies. If they sort that out , who knows.
 

TootSweet

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Evilard Switzerland
Looking at the Vandoren Reed Comparison table, Green Javas and ZZ should be of the same strength. But this isn‘t the case at least with my RPC85 and the Morgan Fry85 mouthpiece. The Green Javas work fine, but the ZZ (and the Red Java btw) seem to be much harder, almost unplayable.
 
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