Next, some tell-tale signs that your student might need to change their reed or reed strength:
There is more air than sound
If you are hearing more air than you are sound, it is likely the reed is too hard. To test this, have your student move the reed down below the tip of the mouthpiece. If this improves the sound, the reed strength is too hard, and a softer strength might be more appropriate.
If the student has consistently poor intonation, particularly over the break and you’ve ensured the student’s embouchure is good, try a harder reed. An increase in reed strength will force the student to push more air through the instrument and in turn bring that intonation where you want it to be. If your students are currently playing on JUNO reeds, it may be time to move up to Vandoren Blue Box Traditional reeds. (Refer to Figure 1)
When a student has slow articulation, there are adjustments that can be made to fix the problem. You want to be sure that they are using their tongue to articulate at the tip of the reed. As we suggested moving the reed down for less resistance, you could also try moving the reed up a little on the mouthpiece, which makes the reed seem slightly more resistant. If neither of these work, it is time to move up to a harder reed, which can often provide a better launching pad for consistent articulation.
* You can also try moving the reed side to side, as this can improve the response of the reed.
When in doubt, experiment! Move the reed around on the mouthpiece and see what works best for the student.