I still play Légère clarinet reeds, full time. It's been about six years since I started playing them. I thought I'd share some of my learning experiences to help those who might want to try them.
Ultimately, Légère reeds have made playing clarinet more enjoyable and much less stressful for me, working as principal clarinetist in the Columbus Symphony. I can now trust the reed to be there for difficult attacks, to be responsive for articulation, to be easily tuned with reed pressure, when needed. (For example, dropping the jaw to lower pitch on a soft low note on a cane reed risks a squeak if the reed has warped, but with a Légère the control is reliably stable.)
They've been particularly good for me because I always struggled with the changeability of cane reeds. The theater stage I play on for the Columbus Symphony was often extremely dry, causing cane reeds to warp regardless of preventive treatment. Once Légères break in, they remain remarkably consistent. (Unless the tip gets damaged, which can happen easily and is difficult to detect since they are translucent.)
Once I realized they respond best with a relaxed jaw and a bit more air, they played beautifully. To be comfortable you need to learn not to bite to get them to speak. Instead, use a bit more air and good voicing. Légères really do not work with unnecessary pressure from the jaw. In some ways, they force you to use better air support, proper jaw pressure, and good voicing (position and shape of oral cavity), when playing clarinet.
Finding the right strength reed can be frustrating at first, considering how different they may initially feel. But the strengths of Légères are about the same as cane reeds once you get used to them. They may also seem a bit hard when new, but once they are played for an hour they remain stable at that strength.
Depending on the strength of reed used, Légères can be played on almost any mouthpiece, including most Vandoren models. However, I find them most comfortable with my Richard Hawkins mouthpieces, regardless of the model style, S, B, R, or G. I've played them all but have settled on a B. Richard has been playing Légeres since they first came out 17 years ago, so he certainly has some experience creating mouthpieces that work with them.
I work on Légères occasionally to adjust for slight variations between reeds. While they are fairly consistent, they can vary in strength and response from reed to reed. To make them a bit clearer sounding (if they sound fuzzy), you can sand the back on 1500 or 2000 grit sandpaper. To help the tip respond better, you can swipe once or twice across tip corners with 400 grit paper, from center to side, perpendicular to reed.
For ligatures, I have found Légères like to be held on the mouthpiece by a solid, tight, railed style ligature. Since they are such thin reeds, some ligatures are too big. After trying several, I have settled on an Ishimori.
To sum up, Légère reeds-
- Take a bit more air, and less jaw pressure, than cane reeds in order to sound and respond their best
- Need to be broken in at first by playing them, to soften them to their stable level
- Work well on any mouthpiece, but may prefer closer facings, such as those of most Hawkins models
- Prefer tight, solid, railed ligatures to give them the most ping, such as Rico H ligature, Bonade, Vandoren, or IshiMori.
- Can be adjusted with just a few swipes of fine sandpaper
More and more top level players are using Légères now, including the clarinet section of the Berlin Philharmonic. Check out the multiple YouTube videos of principal clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer, known for his liquid pure tone. Yep, that's a Légère he's playing!