In previous articles, we’ve covered some of the Vandoren reeds, including the Java Green, Java Red, Traditional, and V12, all of which are undoubtedly great choices, as Vandoren is well-established in the area of reed-making.
As the Vandoren V21 proved quite popular among clarinet players, the company has decided to expand the line to soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones as well.
So, what’s different about the V21 from the rest of the bunch? In this article, we’ll be delving into the answer to this question, with all the related details that can help you decide whether the Vandoren V21 reed is the best option for you and your playing style.
Vandoren V21 Review
Size and Strengths
In terms of the size of the compatible saxophone, the V21 works with soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones. However, if you play a baritone, you might want to look for an alternative, like the Java Green or Red.
As for the strengths, they’re all available starting from 2.5 and going up to 4.5, with 0.5 increments. This is except for the alto variant, which is also available in strength 5.
Construction / Material
I’d like to think of Vandoren as one of the companies that are the real deal when it comes to music, and it makes absolute sense that their reeds would be made of cane.
That’s not to say that synthetic reeds aren’t as good, but cane ones give you better control and easier handling of the sound and the instrument as a whole. Sure, they aren’t as effortless to maintain and require some warming up before playing (and breaking in before first uses), but they give the player the fullest potential of hitting the notes exactly the way they hear in their head before materializing them on the sax.
In other words, if you want to sand some notes in the higher registers to sound lower or vice versa, you would be able to do so using a cane reed a lot more freely and without the music sounding any less natural.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the Vandoren V21 reeds are versatile enough to give you compatibility with pretty much any mouthpiece of your choice.
The conical design of the V21 gives its sound more darkness and focus, along with a full-bodied response. That’s not limited to any range as it can keep the same response and focus throughout the entire range, including the altissimo beyond the high F range.
In comparison to the other Vandoren reeds, the V21 would be ideal if you want less resistance than what you find on the V12 ones, but darker tones that you can hit with the traditional Vandoren reeds.
If you’re getting an alto V21, you might want to opt for a #3 strength as it’s versatile enough to capture whatever sound you want to reach. However, bear in mind that this line plays relatively harder than the average reed, in comparison to the corresponding strength.
Still, you won’t find any imperfections or faults in any of the reeds, which speaks volumes of how reliable the brand is, and you know you’ll be using each of the reeds that come in the pack.
The clean, consistent dark tones as well as the easy articulation you’ll get on the V21 reed makes it one of the best alto sax reeds out there, and it’s still an amazing choice for both the soprano and tenor.
It’s particularly impressive when it comes to playing consistently from the low Bb and all the way to the altissimo range. Not to mention, the pure sound comes with incredible projection, and there is remarkable ease when it comes to changing from one register to another, whether higher or lower.
Generally speaking, Vandoren makes some of the best accessories with a true value for price aspect in mind. The price per reed is quite affordable, and the fact that each reed is reliable and usable makes the investment worth it.
And the price you pay isn’t even that high, compared to other options you can find on the market, so it’s a pretty good deal overall. This is because they make cane reeds, which is a natural material.
Sure, this makes reeds less durable and require more changes than the case with a synthetic reed, but it’s a trade-off with the sound quality and control.
Vandoren V21 Pros and Cons
- Incredible projection
- Warm and centered sound
- Compatible with almost every mouthpiece
- Not very durable
- Play relatively harder than other reeds in the same league
How Often Should I Change My Reed?
The life expectancy of a reed depends on whether it’s synthetic or cane (natural wood). The former can last up to a couple of months, but cane ones -like Vandoren reeds-, might need changing every couple of weeks.
It could even be every couple of days, if you’re not that experienced with maintaining a cane reed or if the reed is exposed to very high levels of humidity or dryness.
It could be easier to make up your mind regarding the V21 reed if you’ve tried the V12, as it could be considered a V12 that has had its back part tapered, where the bark is.
It’s a great option for those who are looking to play classical music, though it can play a certain sound for jazz music. If you’re looking for an upgrade from the Traditional Blue Box Vandoren, the V21 is a very good choice and a good way to upgrade your skills as well as the sound of your sax.