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Vandoren was founded in 1905 by Eugene Van Doren (1873-1940), a clarinetist for the Paris Opera. The original location was eventually moved to 56 Rue Lepic, Paris where his son, Robert Van Doren (1904-1996), took over the business in 1935. While owner of the business, Robert created the 5RV mouthpiece which was "quick to become a classic standard throughout the world."
In 1967, Bernard Van Doren (b. 1945), grandson of Eugene, took over the company. During this time period, the company started making its most famous mouthpiece for clarinet, the B45. Bernard also introduced new machinery to the company, and moved the factory to its current location in Paris at Bormes les Mimosas in 1990. With the improvements in technology, Vandoren was able to increase production, and presently Vandoren is one of the most popular manufacturers of reeds for woodwind instruments.
The company produces clarinet reeds in a variety of styles, both for French and German style clarinets. Additionally to clarinet reeds, Vandoren also produces reeds for saxophone and double reed instruments such as oboe, bassoon and English horn.
French styled clarinet reeds
Traditional reeds (blue packaging) are the most widely played style of reed. They are available in strengths from 1.5 to 5. They are made with a .09 mm thickness at the tip and a thickness of 2.8 mm at the heel. Vandoren V.12 reeds are produced from the thicker cane that is used to make saxophone reeds. At the tip, V.12 reeds have a thickness of .10 mm and at the heel, they have a thickness of 3.15 mm. This is equal to .124 inches, which is where the name V.12 comes from. The V.12 reeds come in strengths from 2.5 to 5. These strengths do not correspond to those of Vandoren Traditional reeds (a strength 4 V.12 has a similar hardness to a strength 3.5 Traditional reed). The V12 reed produces a darker tone than the traditional reed.
The 56 rue Lepic reeds (black packaging) are named after the address of the Vandoren central offices on 56 rue Lepic, Paris. They differ from the other two types of Vandoren reeds in that they come from the thickest cane. At the tip, 56 rue Lepic reeds have a thickness of .11 mm and at the heel, they have a thickness of 3.25 mm. They are very similar to German style reeds.
German styled clarinet reeds
The White Master and Black Master are designed for German and Austrian clarinet players, respectively. Their cut is calculated to suit the characteristics of the German system clarinet mouthpieces. Black Master reeds have a larger and thicker cut than White Master reeds.
Like clarinet reeds, Vandoren saxophone reeds come in a variety of styles. The most basic is the Traditional reed, which is very similar to the Traditional clarinet reed.
The JAVA reed, available in filed and unfiled varieties, for jazz playing. Vandoren has also released the JAVA Red cut for jazz. The JAVA Red cut is more flexible with a slightly stronger tonal body than the original JAVA cut. In 1993, Vandoren began producing V16 reeds, also for jazz, which have a thicker tip and a longer pallet than the JAVAs. The ZZ is also intended for jazz.
Vandoren has recently released the V12 for classical music which is modeled after the success of the Vandoren V12 reed for clarinet. The V12 has a precise attack, homogenous timbre in every register, warm high notes, and a velvety warm sound.
Reeds for other musical instruments
Vandoren also produces double reeds for oboe, English horn, bassoon and double bassoon.
Vandoren has a large range of accessories for clarinet and saxophone: reed cases, Hygrocase (digital case designed to control the humidity of reeds), reed resurfacer, cleaning swabs, mouthpiece cushions, and saxophone straps.