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Catastrophic reed failure

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
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305
Location
Paisley, Scotland
Just had an odd experience while practising. I was tootling away quite happily, occasionally struggling with the lowest notes, but that's not unusual for me. Then suddenly couldn't get a note out of the instrument. If I pushed it, I could make it squeak but that was all. I was playing one of my more challenging mouthpieces, so I switched to an easier one, but that was no better. I began to think one of my springs had come off, causing a huge leak, but couldn't find one. Then I tried a different reed - bingo!

The reed I'd been playing had suddenly turned to a useless piece of wood. No obvious splits or chips. I'm used to reeds either going soft very gradually with overuse or getting a knock and being split. I've never known one to fail suddenly for reasons that aren't visually obvious.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,572
Location
The Malverns, Worcs
I've had this on my bari. It seems that the reed becomes totally waterlogged and just flattened itself totally against the mpc. Although you could leave the reed to dry out an try it again, I found that I couldn't get much playing time out of it once the reed had gone like this.
 

Dave McLaughlin

Sesquipedalian
Café Supporter
Messages
305
Location
Paisley, Scotland
I've had this on my bari. It seems that the reed becomes totally waterlogged and just flattened itself totally against the mpc. Although you could leave the reed to dry out an try it again, I found that I couldn't get much playing time out of it once the reed had gone like this.

In my case it wasn't quite like that, in that the reed had failed open rather than closed. On inspection this morning, after the reed had dried out, the sharp edge had obviously developed a serious warp, and was anything but flat.
.
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Location
Leeds
The table of the reed is no longer flat and it has pushed itself away from the mouthpiece. Take a reed knife and scrape the back of the reed flat and it might work again. The warping at the tip will relax when the reed is wet again, and the bending toward the tip is normal. Its the lateral bulge in the middle of the reed that is the problem here almost every time.

FWIW there isn't always a solution to this, this is just sometimes how they die.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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8,390
Location
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
In addition to Morgan's excellent answer, one can sometimes diagnose what is going on with a reed by inserting a business card between the reed and mouthpiece as far as it will go and leaving it there for a minute or so. If the reed plays much better afterward it means the player is biting too hard and bending the reed up toward the mouthpiece thereby reducing the tip opening. Some reeds will recover from this once the biting stops, some won't.
 

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