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The Rico Story

The very earliest single-reed instruments were documented in ancient Egypt, and over the centuries, these instruments have spawned a whole host of woodwind instruments, most of which came about in the late 18th century. Dating back to the early 1900's, reeds for Clarinets and Saxaphones have traditionally been made using French File Machines - the only way to cut a reed for most of the 20th Century.

D’Addario and Co, a string manufacturer with roots in Italy, grew to be a bigger seller of accessories used for Musical Instruments and in 1986, they struck a deal with Vandoren - a small, traditional Reed Manufacturer. D’Addario then became the exclusive importer of Vandoren Reeds in the United States.

The partnership proved to be highly lucrative for Vandoren, as D’Addario was selling approximately 8,000,000 reeds per year by the end of their distribution partnership in 2004. In the background, the Rico company was a highly lucrative and experienced reed manufacturer and was sold to Boosey and Hawkes, who later ran into financial trouble and therefore had to sell Rico. As a result of the success with Vandoren, Jim D’Addario, decided it would be best for D’Addario to move forward with buying Rico alone. At this point, D’Addario had already acquired Evans Drumheads, Planet Waves, and several other manufacturers,  continuing their growth to become the worlds largest manufacturer of musical instrument string and accessories.

Like most things Jim D’Addario does, he immediately got to work on improving the Rico product and went out to some of the best players in the industry to ask them what reeds they played and what they would look to see as an improvement. A huge number of players gave feedback that, although they enjoyed the reeds made on French File machines, the accuracy and usability of the reeds was heavily compromised - to the point where some players were using as little as 30% of the reeds in a box of 10 were useable. Jim being the dedicated engineer that he is started working on whether you could cut reeds in a more accurate fashion, so he started toying with the idea of Computer Numerical Control (commonly called CNC), which is the automated control of machining tools (such as drills, lathes, mills) and 3D printers by means of a computer. This wouldprovide the player with a far more accurately cut reed allowing for a better and longer performance.

Reeds are made from cane and therefore cannot be artificially thickened or made thinner, so the sourcing of the Reeds was of utmost importance. Jim D’Addario spent six months flying back and forth from the United States to Argentina and France to not only shore up the relationships with traditional providers of this cane, and to promote sustaintable, ethical sourcing of Rico materials. 


The end product is a reed so good that players have come to expect almost perfection from  it. Rico has engineered the sound on records and concert stages around the globe for almost 20 years now. The orange box of a Rico Clarinet or Saxophone reed is synonymous with education and Music Education all over the globe. The blue Royal box features the same quality reed with a French File Marking that some players prefer. These two products make up the bulk of what players want but for the more discerning professional there are other higher level ranges in the Select Jazz and Reserve series. These specialised reeds come in alternate thicknesses and are tailored to either the Classical or Jazz player.


All-in-all, if you are a new player or a parent of a new student, Rico is a no-brainer for your first Reed purchase. If you're a player using another brand, give Rico a go. We think you may just love it.


Macron Music carries the entire Rico range and can special order in any product
that you can’t find in our extensive catalogue.

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