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Reeds All About Reeds

SEAsax

Member
Messages
63
Locality
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I went thru a week of difficult, frustrating practice, not being able to consistently play crisp notes because of a bent reed. I'm a newb, so I didn't know what to look for. Even if I'd changed the reed on my own I wouldn't know what was working and why.

Turns out I had a bent reed. Now I can see it, but I didn't at first. A new reed is not always a good reed. My teacher told me he keeps about 1 out of 10 in a new box.

Playing a good reed was a revelation. All part of the learning process and blowing my alto went from frustrating back to fun instantly.

I would like to know what works for people. I've been spending time scouring sites, videos, and PDFs. But since I'm at work and hanging out here is much more fun than work, I was hoping to get a thread started where you experienced folk could pass on some wisdom and knowledge.

What brands, what materials, why?
How to spot a bad reed?
How to play a bad reed when you have to?
How to repair a damaged reed to make it playable?
How to craft your own reeds?

If the topic is way to broad, and it may be, please feel free to delete the thread or break it up. I won't mind.
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Café Supporter
Messages
6,063
Locality
Minster On Sea
What brands, what materials, why?
How to spot a bad reed?
How to play a bad reed when you have to?
How to repair a damaged reed to make it playable?
How to craft your own reeds?
1. Any - it's a personal thing.
2. Play it - it's the only way.
3. Never been in that situation.
4. Don't. Bin it.
5. Waste of time.
 

Jonesy

Old Fart At Play
Messages
740
Locality
Birmingham, UK
What brands, what materials, why?
For some reason, cane reeds set me off coughing, so I prefer Plasticover, or Fibracell (kevlar/plastic).

For the rest, ditto what Nick said.
 

Jules

Formerly known as "nachoman"
Messages
4,918
Locality
brighton by the sea
1. Any - it's a personal thing.
2. Play it - it's the only way.
3. Never been in that situation.
4. Don't. Bin it.
5. Waste of time.
Pretty much sums it up for me too. Though re "3"- I do remember having an entire box of not so great tenor reeds when playing at a festival once.. no secret, I just sounded ropey & thoroughly failed to enjoy our set.. actually, thinking back- having blown the hell out of a faintly strangulated sounding reed I do seem to remember we then played a late night set in one of the bars it seemed to behave itself a lot better. Think I'd beaten it into submission...
 

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
14,777
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
I prefer the natural product and because it's a plant product some reeds are better than others.

The more you practice, the more you notice how the quality of reeds is improving and the longer you've been playing the less unplayable reeds you get.

French cut or American cut to suit your mouthpiece lay makes a big difference.

Too hard? move it back a little, too soft? move it forward. Reeds do vary a little in the same box and more so from box to box so adjust the position to accomodate.

Buy a reed trimmer to put a new edge on a good old 'un. Scrape the front and back to resurrect a well clipped good'un.

If your teacher only gets 1 playable reed from a box of 10, Im thinking the lessons will be quite expensive. £20 for an alto reed? I'm guessing he don't play baritone.
 

Reed Warbler

Senior Member
Messages
617
Locality
Marciac, France
If you tap "Reeds" into the forum search window you will find ten pages of opinion but Nick's response answers all your questions.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,349
Locality
leicester
What brands, what materials, why? -
stick to a brand you can get hold of easily, more obscure makes may be out of stock when you need one - Rico or Vandoren are the most common

How to spot a bad reed? -
difficult, I've had reeds that looked badly cut that played ok and others which looked perfect that played badly

How to play a bad reed when you have to? -
develop your embouchure, there may come a time when the only reed you have is the bad one. There are people who can scrape a bad reed and make it play well, you'd have to go back to the reed adjustment videos and pdfs you've already read

How to repair a damaged reed to make it playable?
I once managed to fix a reed with a wrinkled tip by soaking it in water then wrapping it in a bit of paper and clamping it in a vice overnight, it played fine and never wrinkled after that. Sometimes you can sand warped reeds flat with fine sandpaper on a flat surface, but you'll also be making it thinner

How to craft your own reeds?
this is the kind of thing that oboe players do, but sax players rarely bother. Renowned sax teacher Joe Allard used to teach his students how to scrape reeds down to make them play well, starting with a thicker reed and making it thinner -
http://www.neffmusic.com/blog/2010/...the-joe-allard-approach-of-saxophone-playing/
http://www.hopestreetmusicstudios.com/articles/adjusting-saxophone-and-clarinet-reeds
http://archive.today/2jepG
I wouldn't recommend wasting time trying to get reeds perfect, just play what you've got unless it's really bad, then discard it
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,490
Locality
the Netherlands
Wow! If your teacher keeps only 1 reed in 10 he must be charging a fortune for lessons to cover reed cost!

Although real cane reeds can easily be a hit and miss it is possible to find reeds that are as close as possible to not needing much or any adjustment and get a better yield out of a box of reeds than 1/10th.

I Buy one or two boxes at the time of a brand (Rigotti) and a strength ( I’ve settled on 2 after many years on thicker reeds) that suit me.

I normally soak 4 reeds and start playing them. If they play well or as near as well as they should. I rank them from best to worst.

First I see if the best is what I want, then I start making some slight adaptations ( we are talking minor adjustments here) with a scraping knife or even more careful adjustments with very fine emery paper or if you wish sandpaper. Some more soaking ( the abrasive particles can otherwise painfully transfer to your underlip) and then playing until the four sound the same.

VERY rarely I will come across something that cannot be adjusted or that I have ruined by over-adjusting.

In tat case the reed goes in the bin. No point in keeping something that you cannot use.

Then you use the reeds in a rotation (some people use reed holders with numbers on it to help rotating reeds)

Occasionally you do find that despite your care in selecting reeds and working on them some reeds, all of a sudden die on you :( or, often due to the weather or air conditioning , they perform poorly because they aren’t well soaked.

Occasionally I have had to play with a reed that was no longer fit to be played.

Bearing in mind that I am used to play on soft reeds, if a reed is suddenly too soft for me to control, I might try to deal with this, extending the length of the reed a tad past the tip of the mouthpiece.

This is far from Ideal and gains you minutes rather than hours! Enough to finish what you are playing and then grab you reed panoply and get, as soon as possible, another , possibly well soaked, reed.

Wrinkly reeds are generally not damaged, they are just not well soaked. Soak it well, they will distend their fibers.It is possible to prevent wrinkling by “ sealing” the fiber of the reeds.

Despite saxophone players not being TOO obsessive about their reeds as double reed players are, there are many reed “ churches” few of which are of the same type of faith.

We are not permitted talking of any religious matters so I won’t go there!

Good Luck.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,733
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
My experience is the opposite of Colins. After starting to practice again after a layoff, several of my reeds seem to play to my liking. As my embouchure develops, the number of reeds that are acceptable gets smaller and smaller. Eventually only one or two out of about 20 meets my standard for a performance.

I can identify with the OP's teacher in that regard. I measure my reeds by response, resistance, and tone quality. Reeds must perform to my tastes in all 3 areas to be accepted as a "performance ready" reed. I gave up fiddling with reeds to make them play better many years ago. It either plays well or it doesn't. Yes it gets expensive.
 

Jane M L

Member
Messages
265
Locality
Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion
I was given some really good advice by Tomapfumo when I started learning the saxophone a year ago - to use Marca Jazz 2 and Francois Louis 2.5.
I've tried Rico, Rico Royal, Rigoletti Gold, cheap Razz and Glotin since but nothing has the clarity of the Francois Louis or the accurate softness of the Marca Jazz.
So I'm just pleased to know that I can always get a predictable sound from the 2 favourites.

Then on the other hand, I sometimes play the alto with huge tenor reeds from Razz that are just awful on the tenor.........but strangely wonderful on the alto.
 

Jane M L

Member
Messages
265
Locality
Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion
Thanks, Milandro - 'rigolo' is of course french slang for funny, or a bit of a laugh - which is how I found the reeds.! And I'm so surprised that they make the Francois Louis that I have found to be so much better. All in the mind? I'll try the Rigotti again.

P.S. So what does rigoletto mean?
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,432
Locality
Sweden
How to spot a bad reed? You can hold the reeds agianst a light. They should be even. If not, they need some work. Or back into the box. When it was possible to buy reeds individually it was easier.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,490
Locality
the Netherlands
No, there are many design factors that make reeds from the same maker not necessarily the same.

However Rigotti makes reeds for many other people and there are only so many permutations on the design.

I have used both Gold and Queen. Queen are slightly cheaper and I buy those now. I don’t really find too many differences other than one being French “ filed” and the other being American “ unfiled”

As for reeds being uneven or whatever. I have found that symmetry means nothing, to me, when it comes to the response of the reed.

I have had reeds being perfect sounding, and lasting very long although they looked less than perfect.

When it comes to reeds being symmetric, there is a video on you tube of two guys who, for fun, start measuring reeds thickness and, lo and behold, they find that there are no reeds that are the same or symmetrical :) ! Does this mean that reeds that aren’t symmetrical aren’t good reeds?

Measure, for fun, you good reeds. Are they symmetrical? Chances are that they are not!



Making reeds is NOT rocket science and making reeds in France is even less technological than it is in the US.


 
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johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Locality
ISLE OF WIGHT, UK
Tom Ridenour's ATG System is the one sure fire way to adjust reeds. The doubters will say that you can make something that will work just as well, but unless you have one to copy (it isn't just a sanding block), you won't do so without a lot of trouble. If you do have one to copy and try it, you'll be buying one, not messing about.
I adjusted a 2.5 Fabracell reed (looks like cane and feels like cane) at the end of 2011 and I'm still using that same reed, with no sign of it failing.
Have a look at The ATG System on Youtube, it really is as quick and easy as demonstrated!
Using this system you will be playing with a nice relaxed embouchure, and able to concentrate on other aspects of your playing!

Johnboy.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
Messages
1,736
Locality
cocks hill perranporth KERNOW
400 grit wet and dry used wet, two fingers and a flat surface works just fine and is no trouble. It just needs a little OMCS and DAFFTJ - old mother common sense and developing a feeling for the job.

I remember a pal who bought a patent aluminium mitre jig to help him do joinery on his yacht.

It was a marvel of the inventors art and looked like a piece of modern sculpture, which is what it should have been used for. Either that or to produce laughs for joiners in their lunch breaks.

He managed to produce terrible joints with it. It would have been far better to learn how to mark and cut accurately, but he had a touching faith in gadgets.

Milandro, thanks for the clips! You keep coming up with amazingly interesting and informative stuff.

If anyone invents an Order of the Golden Saxophone I'll vote for you! :)
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Locality
ISLE OF WIGHT, UK
I've been sanding/adjusting sax reeds for nearly 60 years, and can assure you that the ATG system is a far quicker and simpler way of doing the job. It really is as quick and easy to achieve the perfect reed, as shown in the video!
Check it out in earlier posts. Those of us who have one wouldn't be without it.
"If you ain't tried it you can't knock it".

Johnboy.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,490
Locality
the Netherlands
[QUOTE="kernewegor, post: 169787, member: 2947”]
Milandro, thanks for the clips! You keep coming up with amazingly interesting and informative stuff.

If anyone invents an Order of the Golden Saxophone I'll vote for you! :)[/QUOTE]


Much Obliged! :) :thanks1:
 

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