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Adjusting saxophone and clarinet reeds

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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Suffering from the reed players' perpetual dream of the perfect reed - and wishing to advance my studies in the dark art of reed adjustment - I happened on this on the internet:

http://www.hopestreetmusicstudios.com/articles/adjusting-saxophone-and-clarinet-reeds

There are several contributors with varying ideas and approaches and at the end the compiler, Peter Spitzer, sums up areas of agreement and disagreement.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a certain amount of discussion, agreement and disagreement on this thread from Cafe saxophone members....
 

johnboy

Senior Member
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The easiest/quickest way to adjust a reed is the "Ridenour ATG System" (see it on Yuotube). I bought one at the end of 2011 and although expensive is well worth the money. I am still using the same tenor "Fibracell" reed that I adjusted then, which speeks volumes for the system and the reeds!!!!

Keeeep Rockin'
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
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1,711
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Norfolk, UK
The easiest/quickest way to adjust a reed is the "Ridenour ATG System" (see it on Yuotube). I bought one at the end of 2011 and although expensive is well worth the money. I am still using the same tenor "Fibracell" reed that I adjusted then, which speeks volumes for the system and the reeds!!!!

Keeeep Rockin'

Hey Hey John "You been Hiding from us"? ;)

Hope all is good with you and yours mate ...

:old: *Sunray Waves*
 
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177
Locality
Cumbria, UK
To me the reed you select need to be slightly harder than what you want. Some will be a bit softer and play from the off. Others need a bit of breaking in and, if you need to, a bit of scraping, to get them playing well. The process of working the reed a bit to make it playable takes some time and experience where you need to determine why the reed isn't freely blowing. Usually scraping at the high part of the ramp will have the effect of making the reed 'softer'. The fibres will of course still be the same hardness so sometimes you need to address the other end in the area where most people will tell you to leave well alone. So it takes a bit of experience to know when to address that part of the reed.

I've found trimming reeds can change its feel dramatically. If you imagine the shape of the reed from the side then push it forward a bit. The curve is then a long way off from where it was. I've found trimming reeds can knock the tuning off because I can't control the reed in the same way. So this means trying to get a softer reed to play as if it was harder by trimming, just doesn't work.

I have to come from a harder reed and work it down. I think this is how Ridenour's system works, though his system seems to address mainly the tip end.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
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1,179
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ISLE OF WIGHT, UK
To me the reed you select need to be slightly harder than what you want. Some will be a bit softer and play from the off. Others need a bit of breaking in and, if you need to, a bit of scraping, to get them playing well. The process of working the reed a bit to make it playable takes some time and experience where you need to determine why the reed isn't freely blowing. Usually scraping at the high part of the ramp will have the effect of making the reed 'softer'. The fibres will of course still be the same hardness so sometimes you need to address the other end in the area where most people will tell you to leave well alone. So it takes a bit of experience to know when to address that part of the reed.

I've found trimming reeds can change its feel dramatically. If you imagine the shape of the reed from the side then push it forward a bit. The curve is then a long way off from where it was. I've found trimming reeds can knock the tuning off because I can't control the reed in the same way. So this means trying to get a softer reed to play as if it was harder by trimming, just doesn't work.

I have to come from a harder reed and work it down. I think this is how Ridenour's system works, though his system seems to address mainly the tip end.

I have been scraping/sanding reeds for 55 years now (OUCH!!!), and the ATG System is the best method I have used by far! In the YouTube videos, the first adjustment seen, is the balance of the reed tip, where he blows from corner to corner of the m'piece. You notice that one corner blows nicely and the other sound stuffy, so he sands the stuffy side of the tip until both sides sound the same. That is only the first step in the use of the system, you then go on to sand the reed edges until it plays easily throughout the entire range of the sax/clarinet.
As I said, it is expensive, but believe me, a lot quicker and easier (foolproof!) than the traditional methods.

Keeeep Rockin',
John.
 
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ArtyLady

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I've wasted many many hours with my little how to book, scraping and tweaking reeds, totally in vain never managed to adjust a reed successfully ....now I just chuck the ones that don't work and keep the ones that blow well out of the box o_O
 

johnboy

Senior Member
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ISLE OF WIGHT, UK
Seriously, that's why the ATG System would be good for you. It really is easy.
 
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Cumbria, UK
I've heard of kids that went through music college using the discarded reeds that others thought were no good.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
I've wasted many many hours with my little how to book, scraping and tweaking reeds, totally in vain never managed to adjust a reed successfully ....now I just chuck the ones that don't work and keep the ones that blow well out of the box o_O

As a boatbuilder I've spent much of my life attacking everything from trees still standing in the forest to tiny slivers and matchstick sized bits of wood - so I've got a considerable headstart on this (even though reeds aren't made of wood, botanically speaking...)

What I use is 400 grit wet and dry sandpaper - used wet.

I first soak the reed for a few minutes in blood temperature water and test blow it on the instrument.

If the reed is too hard, remove from mouthpiece and place it, flat side down (natch!) on a flat surface (a small beech breadboard is good - mine's teak, from a scrap left over from a boat yonks ago... posh stuff, eh?)

Wood is a good surface - when wet it has enough 'stiction' so the reed doesn't slide around. If it is a new breadboard and varnished (why?) and there isn't enough 'stiction' take the gloss off with said wet and dry (used wet!).

A small board (2" X 1" by, say, 6") could even go in your sax case with a bit of wet and dry in case of emergencies. You could wet the sandpaper with beer if need be. Take two little boards and you could help out the rhythm section on Latin numbers...

Cut a small oblong bit of wet and dry from the sheet, wet it, and using two fingers and moderate pressure, rub in deliberate strokes steadily from the top of the ramp towards the tip, stopping about half way towards the tip. Don't use the sandpaper dry - wet works far better for various reasons.

If you look closely at reeds you will see that the ramp is slightly rounded in section. In using two fingers to apply pressure the deformation of the pads of your fingertips will tend to remove material evenly across the curve of the cross section. A knife will not remove material evenly across the curve - unless it is ground to a concave profile, perhaps....even so the curve seems to decrease towards the tip...

If the reed is so hard I can barely get a sound out of it I give it twenty strokes before rinsing and trying on instrument. Then it might need another ten strokes before another try. Keep a tally of how many strokes - you are building experience which will enable you to estimate the probable amount of adjustment future reeds may need.

If the reed is less hard then obviously fewer strokes will be needed - ten or five or even just a couple if the reed is nearly right. Better to take too little off, and take more off later, for obvious reasons...

Don't sand the tip at all unless you really feel that it might benefit from one or two very, very light strokes after having done your work higher up the ramp. Sanding the tip is a very delicate operation and best avoided if at all possible.

A very few minutes - and I mean that, it took far, far longer to word this nicely and clearly and key it in than it would to sort out a reed - will get your reed close to perfection. Five minutes, including repeated testing? Ten minutes? No more.

Don't actually try for immediate perfection otherwise the reed will become too soft as it blows in. Leave it a little hard and use for a few minutes at each practice session and give it a chance to blow in. When it plays perfectly you can gig with it. If it remains stubbornly a little too hard for too long, give it a tiny bit more of the treatment.

I believe in KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid.

This method could hardly be simpler and easy to get the hang of and it WORKS. No more reeds rejected because they are too hard to play... and no need to ever use reeds which are OK but are not really perfect.

If you have reeds which you were going to ditch anyway because they were too hard then all you are investing is a few minutes of your time.

Reading the articles on the link will give you a lot of information on how reeds work which may not be realised even after years of playing - so it does no harm to read them. If nothing else, it shows that experts don't always agree 100%... and I bet none of them have ever shaped up a 30ft oak keel with just an adze and a plane...

Try the method I describe here. Light will dawn.

Remember KISS.
 
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Jane M L

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Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion
Thanks to kernewegors detailed post.

Could somebody post a photo or two of the ATG system tool - it looks like a shaped sanding block. And/or could somebody describe what it does in principle? Many thanks for that if possible.

I should explain that I have just bought 10 of each of Glotin reeds from reedsdirect. @ £5 per box of ten! The reeds however just did not play at all - one or two made no noise at all. Others were terrible muzzy, fuzzy as if made of balsa wood. However I took a small sharp veg knife and scraped the top to make one look and feel like a lovely Francois Louis 2.5. that has played sweetly for months. And surprise surprise, it brought my LeBlanc Vito to life - it played expressively and freely as never quite before . The Francois Louis reed had a flatter top at the start of the sanded half , than Rico' or Marca Jazz and I more or less just flattened out the reed to have much less change of radius by the time it reached the tip.
The Vito has a very nice 'voice', but is stiff and reiticent to blow compared with Buffet Crampon 100 [ both altos ] that plays easily and flowingly. I'd been thinking I would have to have the Vito checked over perhaps for new springs as it has gold/brass [ colour? ] ones that could be at least 40 years old and presumably losing their springyness.
So I have another 18 reeds to sort and info on how the ATG system works, theoretically and with pictures, would be very helpful.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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I have just looked at the video out of curiosity.

You are right, it is a sanding block.

An ordinary hard rubber one would tend to sand the centre of the reed and not sand the sides... it could be a firm sort of foam rubber with just the right amount of resiliency in order to conform with the curved cross section of a reed... just like the pads of my fingers do...

I see he uses a glass or plastic surface to sand on, and he has to hold the reed to stop it from sliding.

My breadboard is non-slip, and the other side is great for slicing up my wholemeal bread.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
Here's a deal for anyone desperate to have Perfect Reeds Every Time:

Send a mere £5, and a first class stamp (or international reply coupon, as appropriate) and I will rush you by return the following:

(1) A printed copy of this posting plus my previous ones on this topic, giving you all you need to know about my Perfect Reeds Every Time method (patent applied for).

(2) One sheet of 400 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper, personally selected from a limited edition of 5,000,000, numbered and autographed.

To make the package available at the lowest possible price for musicians, artists and others of impecunious status I have not included a breadboard - forsooth, does not every household possess one?

A De Luxe version is also available

This includes all of the above, save that the printed material comes on sumptuous hand finished vellum and the autographs are lovingly executed in legal red ink as used at the Inns of Court.

This package comes with a de-luxe breadboard, finely balanced, hand finished and - of course - of a limited edition of only 10,000,000, numbered and signed as authentic.

It also includes a portrait of the system's creator in glorious colour against a breathtaking background and autographed - and which is yours to keep.

And that is not all - the De Luxe package also includes two sheets of wet-and-dry sandpaper, limited edition etc. as before and at a give way price of a mere £20, plus postage as above.

STOP PRESS!

A Super de Luxe version is now available!

This is essentially the same as the De Luxe version, except that everything is of an even higher specification (a remarkable achievement, but true)

For instance, the printed material is guaranteed hand rubbed parchment from the hides of specially bred, organically reared and humanely treated llamas whose short but deliriously happy lives are spent on the sun kissed pastures of our own North Cornwall farms, each sheet carrying an official stamp of authentication. And the sandpaper! Painters and decorators - not to mention car body repairers! - would kill just to catch a glimpse of sandpaper such as this...

The portrait comes in a tasteful gilt frame, and the whole is hand delivered by the postal authorities - a quotation for courier service is available on request.

And there are not two, nor even three - but four, yes, four sheets of sandpaper! Think of that!

And the price?

A mere £37.50 - and I'm robbing myself at that.

Buy now while prices can be held at their present levels.
 
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ArtyLady

Well-Known Member
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Essex
I looked at the video and couldn't understand how he could sand starting from the tip end without ruining the tip?!!
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
I looked at the video and couldn't understand how he could sand starting from the tip end without ruining the tip?!!

Yes, indeed, a woodworker he ain't - it goes against every instinct and all training...

Mind you, reeds aren't wood... the structure is rather different and the grain is very fine and close. The reed is on a flat surface, too, and provided the sandpaper doesn't pick up the tip...and he does it and it works... but I wouldn't sand in that direction!

There is very little material in the tip of a reed. Disaster is only a stroke or so of the sandpaper away with the result being a reed to soft to be any good, and clipping the end a limited option without recutting the ramp further back... unless I was clean out of reeds and desperate, not something even I would bother to do freehand... now if I made a jig...

I am very careful with the tips of reeds and only touch them in as the very last part of the process - and then only if needed, with a test blow between every (light!) stroke of the sandpaper.

It still only takes a few minutes - if it takes three minutes and you were going to throw away a £3 reed that's the equivalent of £60 an hour...
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Café Supporter
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Minster On Sea
It still only takes a few minutes - if it takes three minutes and you were going to throw away a £3 reed that's the equivalent of £60 an hour...

Only if you're going to throw them away.

I don't.

:)
 

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