The short answer is yes. Typically reeds are numbered 1-5, 1 being the softest, and 5 being the hardest, with halves in between. Some brands simply label their reeds as soft, medium soft, medium, etc. Most students will start on a 2, or soft reed, because they’re easier to play than hard reeds as they develop a stronger embouchure or playing technique. The downside to a softer reed is that they don’t have as full of a sound as a harder reed, and are more difficult to reach higher notes with. A music teacher or private instructor will most often have a suggestion on what the student should start out on, and maybe even offer a few to try. Choosing is a process, but finding the reed that’s right for you is an important part of being a wind player and getting the best tone you can from your instrument.
How do I know my reed is the wrong strength for me?
There are a couple things you can look for if you think your reed might be the wrong strength. If you’re blowing hard and using a lot of air but can’t get a good full sound, your reed is probably too hard. If you can’t seem to reach high notes and find yourself squeaking a lot, your reed is probably too soft. There is a process of trial and error to finding the reed that’s going to work for you.
How long will my reeds last?
Due to the nature of reeds, and the material they’re made out of being organic, there’s no saying how long your individual reed will last. Some may last weeks, but others only a few days. Drying your reed and keeping it in a case can increase the longevity of it, but it’s good to keep several on hand. Plastic reeds last much longer than cane reeds, but the tone is considered to be far inferior.