Clip the reed to strength | Clarinet Reed Making

Clip the reed to strength


The theoritical 'ideal' tip line is marked in black. Clips above the line result in a softer reed, clips below the line are harder. The space between these clips is for illustration purposes only, you should aim for even smaller clips.

The ability to exactly tailor the strength of the reed to your playing style is another huge advantage of making your own reeds. It’s much more precise than even quarter strength sorting.  With practice every reed in your collection should be the perfect strength.  It’s liberating to get away from an arbitrary strength numbering system and bring the reed to you and your playing style rather than the other way around.

As discussed in the profiling section, it can be useful to profile reeds with tips a millimeter or two longer than they need to be.  This ensures that almost no reed that comes off of the profiler is too hard, saving the time of doing a rerun if that were the case.  Because of this you may have to clip the reed many times to get it to strength.  This is normal.  It’s not uncommon for the reed to be absurdly soft on the first play test.  This is also normal.

Many new reed makers are afraid to clip more than a few times, often not realizing they are still way above the theoretical tip line(that was marked on the reed after profiling). Clarinetists new to reed making often worry that adjusting the overall length comprimises the integrity of the reed, not realizing that a wide range of strengths can be achieved in a very small clipping range(a millimeter or so surrounding the ‘ideal’ tip area).  Another common mistake is clipping too much at once. When you feel like you are approaching the desired strength be very conservative with your clips, clip as little as possible.  A skilled reed maker can clip 5-8 times and only remove a millimeter of length.  Because each piece of cane may vary slightly in density, the location of the final clip will vary from slightly from reed to reed. I tend to leave my reeds on the soft side and decide if they need addition clipping as I break them in over the next few days.

Clipper Models

Cordier clipper with adjustment guide removed.

Cordier clipper with adjustment guide removed.Clipper Models


The Cordier is still the most common reed clipper used.  Unfortunately they are inconsistent in cut and shape.  I would advise any serious reed maker to order at least three to try out and pick the best from that lot.  The advantage of the Cordier is that it is very quick and easy to use and allows for infinite adjustment.  It’s main drawback is the tip shape does not match many modern mouthpieces.  I highly recommend removing the guide and clamp on the bottom end of the clipper. The very act of clamping the reed into place almost always skews it out of place slightly. With a little practice its faster and more accurate to line it up by sight and hold the reed in place with your thumb while you clip.






This is clipper uses a swinging arm with tip cutter on it.  The tip cutter is interchangeable and three different tip shapes are available.  You place the tip of the reed against a stopper and swing the arm to clip.  The drawback to this design is, there is no way to control the amount of reed you clip.  It clips off the same amount each time and the clip is much larger than I usually clip, especially when getting close to strength.  Because of this you run the risk of over clipping.


Computer rendering of proposed clipper design.

Computer rendering of proposed clipper design.


Hermann Uhl is producing a new clipper.  This uses the same blades from his industrial clippers.  The shape is very similar to a V12.  The blades are rate for 30,000 clips.  It uses eccentric discs to center and adjust the reed.  This clipper is scheduled to come on sometime in 2009.