Forestone Reeds is a relatively new reed company based in Japan producing high quality synthetic reeds. According to their website this “new” synthetic reed is actually 30 years in the making.
Like many others, I have tried other synthetic reeds over the years. The appeal of the synthetic reed has been their longevity and consistency. The detractor has often been the sound quality. Some synthetic reeds do produce a bright, shrill and uncharacteristic sound – but not Forestone Reeds.
I actually contacted Forestone Reeds regarding writing a review here on SaxShed.com. They were more than willing to send me some samples for review. I gave them my current reed sizes and strengths of choice and they sent out a sampling of their reeds.
Six reeds were sent in two strengths each for clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone. The reeds have the look of a real cane reed as you can see in the picture below.
They have a nice inverted “V” shape toward the tip, as the reed becomes thinner and the shape of the tip matches nicely with my mouthpieces. The thickness of the heel is consistent from left to right, which is often found to vary in real cane reeds. Lastly the reeds I tested were hand marked without the Forestone logo.
Enough about how they look. Everyone wants to know how they sound and feel while playing, right? Well, I found 5 of the 6 reeds to work very well for me.
The 2.5 reeds for alto and tenor worked well with my set up. They were a bit too soft, yet they created more projection than my cane reeds of the same strength. The 3 reeds were better matched to my set up yet the difference was minimal. On clarinet I had great success with the 3.5 but not the 4. The 3.5 Forestone Clarinet Reed produced a bright, clear sound excellent for jazz, Dixie or even Klezmer. I would have expected the 4 to give me more resistance and great core, which I enjoy when playing “legit” clarinet. This particular 4 did not work well for me. Perhaps a bit of adjustment with a reed knife or other tool will do the trick but I have held off on making adjustments at this point.
The sound of these Forestone Reeds I had the pleasure to try is clear and vibrant with lots of projection. The tone quality produced is not thin, harsh, nor shrill. The reeds do respond well through the entire instrument and into the altissimo. Subtone works as you would expect from cane. The sound however IS different. It’s difficult to put into words but it’s not the identical sound to a cane reed.
Lastly, the feel of the Forestone synthetic reed in your mouth may take a bit of getting used to. I have found some synthetic reeds to be a little harder on the bottom lip. One other brand actually cut my lip when I tried it several years ago. I did not have that same experience with the Forestone reeds, however my lower lip did have a bit of initial sensitivity.
You can easily find quite a bit of additional information about the company’s history as well as their product line. The Forestone site is very well organized and informative. Although it’s unclear just exactly how long one reed will last, they do offer some tips and tricks on rotating several reeds.
Although I would hesitate to say that these Forestone Reeds are better than the best cane reeds I’ve ever played. They are better than the vast majority of the cane reeds I have played lately. For those who are tired of being disappointed in the process of selecting and breaking in cane reeds, Forestone Reeds may be the answer. They certainly have brought us closer to having a synthetic reed that mimics many of the favorable characteristics of real cane. At the very least we all should have at least one Forestone Reed in our case for the times our cane lets us down.