Reeds may all look pretty much the same, but they play differently. Some reeds are great just about every time while others require you to take the good the with bad. These 10 options include some of the best alto sax reeds so it’s a great place to get started if you’re unsure or just looking to try some new ones.
10 Best Alto Sax Reeds on the Market:
1. D’Addario Rico Alto Sax Reeds
- Box count of 3, 10, 25, or 50
- Long-standing brand trusted by band directors all over
- Designed to be easy to play
- Ideal for student musicians
Rico reeds are an affordable place to get started. They’re the best reeds for beginners due to the durability and price. More advanced players usually don’t favor this brand but beginner alto saxophone players enjoy these.
These are easy to play for beginners and are a common choice among new musicians for many reasons. Beginners love these trusty reeds. They aren’t always the most reliable for those looking for high-quality performance reeds so more advanced players look elsewhere for a reed with more consistency.
- Easy to play
- Designed for beginners
- Band director recommended
- Inconsistent quality
- Not great for intermediate or advanced alto sax players
2. Vandoren SR213 Alto Sax Traditional Reeds
- Flexible reeds made for all kinds of music
- Produce good tone quality
- Long-lasting thanks to high cane quality
Vandoren is the best reed brand for alto sax. These reeds are beloved by musicians across most skill levels and remain a popular choice for saxophone players all the way through skill levels. They’re relatively consistent and mid-priced. This is often the most highly recommended reed since it’s a great choice where affordability and quality meet.
These are the best all-around reeds on the market. The price is at a mid-point so it won’t break the bank but your money won’t be wasted on low-quality reeds that will affect tonal quality. They’re high-quality reeds that are ideal for concert band and cross-genre musicians.
- Made from quality cane
- Good tone quality
- Individually wrapped reeds
- Ideal for most genres of music
- Somewhat pricey
- Take longer to break in than beginner reeds
3. Glory Reeds Alto Saxophone Reed
Glory reeds are the best reeds for beginners who don’t want to spend much to get started. These cheap reeds aren’t the best quality but neither is the sound of a beginner. They’re not bad for getting started but expect to switch brands once you start getting the hang of the alto sax.
If you’re going to just try something cheap to get initial sound out of the instrument, Glory reeds are okay. They are far from ideal and shouldn’t be used regularly. The lifespan on these is reflective of the price and you’ll likely end up spending more in the long run since these will make their way into the trash so quickly.
- Good for beginners
- Includes reed case
- Won’t last long
- Can’t produce quality sound and increase chances of squeaking
4. Hemke Alto Sax Reeds
Hemke reeds are the best sax reeds for alto sax beginners. They’re made by the same company as the popular Rico reeds but designed with a short vamp to achieve the darker tone desired for jazz music.
Hemke allows for beginner jazz musicians to try out a reed designed for jazz. These affordable jazz reeds won’t be the best choice for all-around use but provide a good introduction to the difference between reeds for students.
- Jazz reeds
- Darker tone
- Responsive Articulation
- Inconsistent quality
- Only good for beginners
5. Cecilio Alto Saxophone Reeds
Cecilio are decent saxophone reeds for beginners. These are known for being pretty fragile but also cheap at under $1 per reed. They’re fine for getting first sound out of the instrument but expect to have to upgrade to higher quality reeds after just a couple of boxes if not sooner.
For a cheap reed, these are pretty playable. However, they’re more fragile than pricier reeds meaning that they won’t last as long and you may end up spending more in the long run based on how quickly these crack. The cases also aren’t that great so you’ll likely need a reed case if you want any chance of prolonging the life of these reeds beyond a couple of practice sessions.
- Great for beginners
- Under $1 per reed
- Decently playable for the price
- A reed case will be needed just to hope they’ll last
6. Vandoren SR412 Alto Sax ZZ Reeds
Vandoren ZZ is the Vandoren take on the tradition JAVA jazz reed. Every reed is individually sealed and in its own case to ensure optimal quality. These are the best jazz reeds for alto sax and come at a pretty middle of the road price. They may seem a little stiffer for early beginners, but they are ideal for pretty much everyone.
Vandoren ZZ are the optimal reeds for playing jazz music. They’re a little pricier but the tone quality and longevity make them worth the price. These reeds are designed for jazz but some musicians like them as all-purpose reeds thanks to the amazing responsiveness of these reeds.
- Highly responsive
- Individually wrapped
- Great for musicians of all skill levels
- Consistent quality
- Somewhat pricey
- Not a favorite for general use – specialized jazz reeds
7. Yinama Alto Saxophone Reeds for Alto Sax
Yinama reeds are designed to be easy to play. They tend to play like a lower thickness reed from competing brands which makes it easier for beginners to make music on. They aren’t great for more advanced woodwind musicians but ideal for first-year students.
In terms of cheap beginner reeds, these Yinama reeds are the best choice. They are very affordable and easy to play on. They don’t produce the best quality sound so aren’t ideal for more advanced sax players but they’re a fine product for beginners on a budget.
- Easy to play
- Ideal for beginners
- Not ideal for musicians beyond very beginners
- Don’t produce the best sound quality
8. D’Addario Reserve Alto Saxophone Reeds
- Ideal for advancing students and beyond
- Thick reed blank for rich and warm sound production
- Mid-priced reed
D’Addario Reserve reeds are where quality and affordability meet. While the reeds are still a little over $2 per reed, these are worth the premium. They are cheaper than some of the other higher quality reed options but offer similar tonal quality.
D’Addario Reserve reeds are leaving alto saxophone players raving that these reeds are affordable for the great quality. They are comparable to more expensive reeds. The only thing that causes hesitation is that the reeds aren’t individually wrapped which means they are more prone to getting warped prior to use.
- Great sound quality
- Ideal for advancing students through professional musicians
- Not individually wrapped
- Not the easiest reed for beginners to play on
9. Légère Other Signature Alto Sax Reed
- Single long-lasting reed
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- Doesn’t have to be broken in
- Plastic as opposed to traditional cane construction
Légère Signature Series are long-lasting plastic alto sax reeds. These don’t need to be broken in as they’re pre-conditioned and you get a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. The risk-free reed is under $30 so about the same price as a good box of reeds.
Consumers are fairly torn on the Légère Signature Series reeds. A majority are in love with these long-lasting reeds. They produce good quality sounds and some say they would never go back to cane reeds while others use a mix of this reed and cane reeds for different purposes.
There are still a decent number of people who find the response and sound on these isn’t the same as what they’re getting from a traditional cane reed. Légère Signature Series can be a great way to save money on reeds as long as it works for you.
- Long-lasting reed (many report this reed lasting over 6 months to a year)
- Doesn’t have to be broken in or regularly moistened
- Good sound quality
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- Not for everyone
- Dynamics and articulation are a little more difficult
10. GOLOHO Alto Saxophone Reeds
Goloho reeds are an affordable reed option for beginners of a decent quality. They come prepackaged in a large reed case that holds all 10 reeds. The reeds run less than $1 each so the deal is good but the quality can be hit or miss.
In terms of cheap reeds, these aren’t bad. Don’t expect them to be a long term solution but they’ll work for the initial box or two while you learn to create sound on the instrument and how to take care of reeds.
- Designed for beginners
- Includes large reusable reed case
- Inconsistent quality
- Only for those just starting off
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Alto Sax Reeds
There are quite a few things to consider when you pick out your alto sax reeds. It may be hard to know your preferences if you’re a beginner, but you’ll learn quickly and your instructor will be able to help point you in the right direction.
Most reeds are made from cane but there are different kinds of alto sax reeds. These are disposable and even the best ones will only last a few weeks. Plastic reeds are better for longevity but they aren’t for everyone.
Not all reeds are created equal. In fact, some aren’t even close to others in quality. If it seems like a ridiculous bargain, there’s probably a good reason for it.
Reeds need to be carefully constructed from a high-quality cane. While you may get some lucky ones in a cheap pack, you’ll end up feeling the problem with these pretty quickly.
Consider what you can afford and how long different reeds will last. Sometimes cheap reeds make their way into the trash faster due to fragility and inconsistent quality.
There are varying strengths of alto saxophone reeds and knowing your preferred strength is important to your ability to play. Strengths range from 1.0 to 5.0 but most people play on reeds ranging from 2.0 to 3.5.
Some cheaper reeds don’t come in as many strength options but popular brand-name reeds will often have the full spectrum. Often playing on the same brand makes changing strengths easier when the time comes so this is a great thing to keep in mind.
Alto Sax Reeds FAQ
There are a lot of questions to ask about yourself as an alto sax player and about the reeds in general in order to pick the best reeds for you. The answer is definitely not the same for all musicians and can be a very individual decision at times.
Are plastic or cane reeds better?
Everyone learns to play on cane reeds so they’re more universal. Not everyone can get used to the differences with plastic reeds but many who do, swear by them. If you’re unsure, cane reeds are a lot safer.
I’m on a tight budget. What reed should I get?
Reeds that are under $1 each may seem tempting. Those are going to end up costing more in the long run though. A good plastic reed in your desired strength is likely going to save you the most in the long run even if it costs a little more upfront.
You won’t have to worry about another reed purchase for months or even over a year with this investment.
What strength reed should I get?
Most beginners start on a 2.0 or 2.5 strength reed. 2.0 will be a little easier to get sound out of than the 2.5 but it’ll also be a little more fragile. If you’ve been playing a while, it’s hard to say what your strength preference is. Check the strength of your current reed. It’s usually printed on the back of the reed toward the bottom.
How do I put a reed on my alto saxophone?
Line up the reed so the tip of the reed is at the same height as the tip of the mouthpiece. Refrain from touching the reed tip at any time. Tighten the ligature so the reed doesn’t move but be careful not to over tighten as that can restrict vibration and damage the reed.
There’s a bit of a learning curve when learning how to put a reed on a saxophone, but it will soon become second nature.
Does brand name matter?
Brand name reeds are often more reliable. These well-known brands don’t want to tarnish their prestigious reputation so they’re a little more reliable.
Off-brand reeds are often cheaper and more inconsistent. Getting a good one in the bunch is always great but the percentage of these reeds that are of decent quality is really not a gamble that most musicians will want to take.
Will any reed fit my alto saxophone?
Any reed labeled for alto saxophone will fit. The reed size is universal to the instrument regardless of which reeds you decide to purchase. Just make sure you’re getting the alto sax reeds.
Clarinet reeds and reeds for different varieties of saxophones will look pretty much identical. Ensure you get reeds intended solely for the alto saxophone or they will not fit or function properly.
Making The Decision
The best alto sax reeds may vary from person to person but there are still some that are better choices in general. The most beloved reeds are Vandorens. These reeds are relatively consistent and are of a quality that most musicians are happy with.
Beginners may have a little more trouble with Vandoren reeds in the beginning but they will find them to be a rewarding choice in the long run.
If you’re looking for a more affordable reed to get started on, Rico by D’Addario is the best alto sax reed for beginners. They’re made to be easy to play. These are the top reed choice for students and others who are just learning.
The quality isn’t quite the same as Vandoren reeds but Rico is a decent quality beginner’s reed. These are seen in most band rooms and will be one of the most highly recommended reed brands for students.