Rico ~ A Long Family Tradition

Today virtually every clarinet or saxophone performer has at one time or another performed with a Rico reed—and it all began in France with Joseph Rico in 1928. Rico, a talented musician born in Italy in 1876, ran away from seminary school to America with his brother Libereto.

RicoReedBoxJoseph was a harpist, pianist, and guitarist, and his brother played both the mandolin and the violin. As a result of their hard work, both musicians became quite well known in Chicago and New York. Joseph Rico started composing and conducting, and went on to Paris where he became a sought-after composer. His Valses lentes are still played today.

In 1926, Joseph’s nephew, Frank De Michele, a clarinetist with Walt Disney studios, wrote to him complaining about the difficulty of finding good reeds in Los Angeles. Joseph began sending reeds to his nephew, who was able to quickly sell them to his fellow musicians. Soon Joseph’s supplier couldn’t keep up with De Michele’s demand for the canes from which the reeds were cut.

The resourceful Joseph found another source of excellent reed cane near his vacation cottage in the Var region of France and sent the first shipment of 772 lb. to America in 1928. Having secured a reliable cane supply, De Michele started his own woodwind reed line, and with permission from his uncle, named it “Rico” in his honor. Soon thereafter, Frank De Michele found partners, including musician and engineer Roy J. Maier, and created a woodwind reed factory in the U.S. that bore the Rico name.

With his knowledge of superior playing technique and reed characteristics, Maier devised the first equipment to measure the details of a reed’s cut precisely. Maier’s legacy of ingenuity and attention to detail lives on in today’s Rico reeds, inspired by generations of the world’s top woodwind players.

Among the traditions maintained by Rico, even now all cane harvesting is done by hand. Clarinetists and saxophonists will be glad to know that Rico is in no hurry to produce playable reeds from harvested cane poles. Rico patiently allows the cane to mature, drying the poles thoroughly til they arrive at their golden color and gain the desired acoustic properties. Along with time-honored harvesting procedures, Rico also employs modern technology to ensure that all Rico reeds are properly cut. The reed-cutting machines are meticulously calibrated to produce uniform reeds of specific strengths and sizes.

At Rico, musicians are in charge of quality control, and they carefully monitor the reed-cutting machines adjusting calibration many times daily and randomly test-playing finished reeds from each of the machines. Millions of reeds—all of them—are inspected for imperfections, and only those that pass Rico’s rigorous quality-control standards are finally packaged and shipped.


At Rico’s state-of-the-art reed research center, agronomists, scientists, and musicians produce top-quality reeds, including Rico Reserve Premium Reeds for clarinet and saxophone. Since its inception over 80 years ago, Rico has expanded to offer reed lines for professional to beginner musicians and classical to jazz performers:

-Designed for ease of play
-Unfiled for powerful tone
-Priced affordably for students
-Available for a full range of clarinets and saxophones
-Offered in quantities of 3 and 10 reeds and the 25 Novapak reed dispenser

Rico Royal:
-French filed for flexibility and fast response
-Work well for classical and jazz applications
-Premium cane for consistent response

Rico Reserve:
-Crafted from high-density lower-internode cane
-Sorted by color video inspection
-Accurately measured with optical lasers
-Cut with precision natural-diamond blades for consistency

Grand Concert Select:
-More wood in the heart for better projection
-Premium cane for longevity
-Outstanding articulation and response

Frederick L. Hemke:
-Professional-quality for classical and jazz performers
-Shorter vamp for dark tone
-Balanced, slightly thinner tip for quick response and articulation

La Voz:
-Unfiled reed for powerful tone
-Premium cane for consistent response
-Available in soft to hard strengths

-Coated with plastic to resist changes in moisture and climate
-Coating provides durable, clear tone

Rico Select Jazz:
-Huge sound with powerful projection
-Premium cane for longevity

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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