I've been playing Légère Reeds for months now. I hope to play all repertoire in upcoming orchestral season on a Légère Signature. I wasn't always that sure about them.
Several years ago I bought a few at the Atlanta Clarinet conference, but they didn't click with me, being too different from cane.
This past April, while trying mouthpieces at Richard Hawkins studio in Oberlin, OH, I noticed he is still playing them. I tried his Legeres and loved them. I decided to give them another try.
I asked Richard a few questions to help me, and others, adjust to these revolutionary reeds.
1- How long have you been playing Legeres? Since 1998 without looking back!
2- Do you play Legere reeds exclusively (no cane reeds)? Yes
3- Do you use every Legere reed you get, either for practicing or performances? I would say on average I use about half the reeds that I get- once you get used to them, you start knowing what to look for-- much like cane reeds in the beginning.
3a- What percentage of them do you use for performances? I use them for all teaching, chamber music, recitals, orchestral performances (even when I have played with the Cleveland Orchestra on Bb/A, E flat and Bass).
4- Do you ever adjust them? I used to, but I found the best ones are always ones that nothing has been done. I have not worked on them in years.
5- What advice would you give to a new user to help them get used to Legeres? My biggest advice is to pick a reed that is slightly harder in blowing resistance than you would normally pick out on cane reed. Once it is played on for a bit it has a break in period and gets a little softer- be sure to pick out ones that do not make you bite the mouthpiece reed combination. Especially since the new model (Signature) has arrived the flats are perfectly flat-- within 2 microns-- which is really fantastic. His (Guy Legere) newest machining process is remarkable. I just spent 3 days there helping with the new Signature E flat and Bass reeds which are due on the market any time now. The Bb Signature is available now and many people are starting to give them a go.
Since April I've done my own research. I have to admit these things take time, and money! I report here to save you as much.
Legere reeds take more air in general, though the Signatures are MUCH closer to the response of a cane reed than any of the previous models, Traditional, Ontario and Quebec. Of those models, the Quebec is very resistant to me, the Traditional less so and the Ontario even less, though it can sound a bit buzzy.
They do get softer after some playing, so be careful of quick judgments about their resistance. I heard they can be softened by soaking in very warm water, and this is true.
Position them carefully on the mouthpiece. A small variation in position can change the reed, more than with a cane reed. But you can use this to influence the reed: a tiny move to right, left, up or down; find the sweet spot, then keep it there.
As for ligatures, Peter Randell of Legere advised me to try the old fashioned, simple Rovner, and to tighten it well. This advice has worked well.
Legere Signatures work well on any good mouthpiece. I am using them on a Behn Vintage model D, but they work really well on my Hawkins B and R as well.
I played Traditional models last Spring in the Columbus Symphony, and they worked pretty well. But I was relieved when the Signatures came out. As you may know, I used a Signature on my recent mp3 snippets for the Jeanjean 1st etude. I was quite happy with how well they respond. I could not have played such subtle, pp phrases comfortably on a Legere Traditional.
One thing about them. I agree with Richard that not every reed is great. In fact, I'd say one out of three is really good. That can get a bit expensive, considering the Signatures cost $30 a piece! But hey, it's a small price to pay for stability, reliability and peace of mind. And they last forever, by reed standards. I have not tested them long enough to report how long they really last, but I'll let you know in a few months.
(BTW- I also tested the other top contender in synthetic reeds, Forestone from Japan. Though they seem to sound good at first try, they fell "flat" literally, in rehearsals with the orchestra. I tried harder ones, but they just felt harder, not higher in pitch. I got tired of biting. Their sound is also flabbier, more spready. Attacks are unpredictable. Légère Signatures get my highest recommendation.)