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Reeds Corect reed strength?

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
As you may have seen in another topic by me, I recently bought an Otto Link 7* mouthpiece with Vandoren Java Red reeds strength 2. This setup works for me, and was recommended by Anton Weinburg of Dawkes. This setup allows me to blow freely, although compared to my previous setup of Selmer S80 D and Vandoren traditional reeds strength 2 I feel a bit of extra work is needed on my intonation (slightly harder to control).

My question is based on various stuff I've read that the reed strength I am using should be higher than 2? Can anyone provide any info or links to the basics of reed strength relating to mouthpiece/tip opening. I've been playing for 1 year now, and 2 years previous to that many moons ago. I tried a 2.5 earlier and it was harder for a while, and perhaps never quite as easy to control as the 2 but certainly after a few minutes felt good although everything was aching.

What happens for example if the reed is too soft or too hard in relation to the mouthpiece being used?
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
Yes, there is an inverse relationship, up to a point, between reed strength and tip opening. Stronger reed = smaller opening and vice-versa. So far so good. But mouthpieces differ in all sorts of ways other than tip opening. Reed strengths are only broadly comparable between brands, and sometimes even within them. Then there is the skills level of the player. So, altogether there are lots of variables. Even the instrument has an effect. For example, using the same mouthpiece, my YTS-82z seems to require a stronger reed than the Phil Barone tenor.

Beginners usually are steered towards smaller tip openings and relatively softer reeds because that is what they can expect to manage. This is likely to change as the skills level goes up, but in what way is anyone's guess. Personal preferences play a big part. The long and the short of it is that some experimentation is necessary. The cheapest way to do so is to change reeds. Changing mouthpieces is more expensive. If you really want to spend money, change saxophones.

The reed strength number has the main function of letting you buy the right reed next time. If you are comfortable with Rico #2s, buy them next time. Unless you are a risk taker, in which case you try #4s.

Ideally, you should discuss face to face with an expert. Doing so would tell you whether your current set-up is reasonable, but perhaps not ideal, or whether you should consider a more drastic change. Ultimately, the idea is to play beautifully with the least amount of effort. Only you can be the judge of that.
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
If the reed's too har, you'll struggle with the low notes, if it's too soft, the high notes sound poor - or won't come out.

Different people play different strengths on the same mouthpiece.

If you're having problems controlling it as is, you could try going softer, but if you're getting the notes and sound you want, better to persevere, loosen up a little and develop your embouchure. A phone call to the Doc in Dawkes may give you a little more insight.
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
Thanks for such great replies and I think it's helped greatly answering my question. I'm happy with the strength 2 reeds, just wondered if it was unusual. I'm not struggling to get high notes on the 2, but struggle with soft lower notes on the 2.5. The control I have I think is good just not quite as good as with my old setup (but wonderfully easy to blow), but I put this down to just getting used to something new and am happy to put a bit of effort in to perfect it. I also was thinking that using the 2.5 reed was a good way of developing the embouchure, a bit like going to the gym and picking up a heavier than usual weight? or is that a terrible analogy LOL?
 

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Supporter
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13,947
Thanks for such great replies and I think it's helped greatly answering my question. I'm happy with the strength 2 reeds, just wondered if it was unusual. I'm not struggling to get high notes on the 2, but struggle with soft lower notes on the 2.5.
I would much rather work on high notes for the softer reed (breath support, embouchure) than have to work on getting low notes quiet with a harder reed.



. I also was thinking that using the 2.5 reed was a good way of developing the embouchure, a bit like going to the gym and picking up a heavier than usual weight? or is that a terrible analogy LOL?
No, I believe this is a common misconception that encourages people to bite too hard rather than work on breath and embouchure (as above). It's not a competition or macho thing to see how hard a reed you can use.

As I believe you understand after the useful replies, the word "correct" in regard to reed strength is not really appropriate. It's whatever you are comfortable with and get results from.
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
I would much rather work on high notes for the softer reed (breath support, embouchure) than have to work on getting low notes quiet with a harder reed.

No, I believe this is a common misconception that encourages people to bite too hard rather than work on breath and embouchure (as above). It's not a competition or macho thing to see how hard a reed you can use.

As I believe you understand after the useful replies, the word "correct" in regard to reed strength is not really appropriate. It's whatever you are comfortable with and get results from.
Thank you so much for the advice. I'll be staying with the strength 2 reed and concentrate on embouchure and breathing. I was biting more with the 2.5 reed.

I really do understand it is using what works best for me and not get too hung up over the figures.

The answers have been very helpful, I hope to be able to contribute to the forum in helping others in the future.
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
I've been using a strength 2 Legere Signature reed on tenor with my PPT 8*. A completely effortless (and enjoyable) blow, because the reed is softer than it should be (maybe 1½?). This wouldn't be a huge problem, but the condition of the reed is such that it softens even more when played and acquires a bend towards the rails after 20-30 minutes (halving the tip opening). Either it's defective or I've played it out.

I got a new strength 2 at the weekend which is harder to play, but probably the right strength for me once my chops adjust to it. I've also tried a 2¼, but that is way too hard for me with the PPT; I'll be exchanging it for a 2.

I'm not proud: I'll stick with what I'm comfortable with. The good news is that I was getting a lovely tone with it this weekend which, although I've changed mouthpiece and reed, is most definitely down to me. I'm beginning to like my BW tenor!
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
I've been using a strength 2 Legere Signature reed on tenor with my PPT 8*. A completely effortless (and enjoyable) blow, because the reed is softer than it should be (maybe 1½?). This wouldn't be a huge problem, but the condition of the reed is such that it softens even more when played and acquires a bend towards the rails after 20-30 minutes (halving the tip opening). Either it's defective or I've played it out.

I got a new strength 2 at the weekend which is harder to play, but probably the right strength for me once my chops adjust to it. I've also tried a 2¼, but that is way too hard for me with the PPT; I'll be exchanging it for a 2.

I'm not proud: I'll stick with what I'm comfortable with. The good news is that I was getting a lovely tone with it this weekend which, although I've changed mouthpiece and reed, is most definitely down to me. I'm beginning to like my BW tenor!
It's really good to hear other people's experiences, I'm learning a lot.

I noticed after playing a while the reed gets softer and the top notes slightly more difficult to get, but I'm practising on not making my embouchure so tight, this is a habit I've got due to my old mouthpiece/reed setup. Now there's no need as it's much easier.

I was practising earlier too and am starting to really comfortable with my setup, I'm starting to really like my Yani too :)
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
I'm beginning to like my BW tenor!
I'm starting to really like my Yani too :)
I should mention that I bought my BW as a stop-gap intermediate instrument mainly on others recommendations, even though I wasn't massively convinced by its tone, and went through a period of not liking it at all! No doubt the change to PPT mouthpiece has helped a lot, but I am beginning to understand how, as my teacher puts it, "your tone comes from you".

I found myself inadvertently singing down my horn at the weekend: that was quite an eye-opener as it was the first time I really felt that I was part of the instrument. Ker-ching!
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
I should mention that I bought my BW as a stop-gap intermediate instrument mainly on others recommendations, even though I wasn't massively convinced by its tone, and went through a period of not liking it at all! No doubt the change to PPT mouthpiece has helped a lot, but I am beginning to understand how, as my teacher puts it, "your tone comes from you".

I found myself inadvertently singing down my horn at the weekend: that was quite an eye-opener as it was the first time I really felt that I was part of the instrument. Ker-ching!
I heard the BW is a very good copy of the Yani? I agree the tone comes from the player, but I do think the mouthpiece makes a big difference as I discovered recently, as does the sax itself. This chap came round and played my Selmer MK VII (which he bought) and the Mk VII sounded different to his Borgani (same mouthpiece and reed). Finding a sax that fits seems to be an ongoing thing for some sax players from what I can see.
 

Gallen

Senior Member
Messages
397
This thread is perfectly timed. I'm currently playing with a Plasticover #3, and I'm really enjoying my sessions with this reed. The problem is with Low C - it tends to jump an octave before coming low again. Would this be a reed that's too hard? Setup is a Hanson SA-5, Vandoren Optimum AL4, BG lig. Thanks!

Alvin
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
The problem is with Low C - it tends to jump an octave before coming low again.
You are not alone. I think this is a very common problem. For me, I'd just got it sorted with my "super-soft" reed, but moving to a harder reed has brought the problem back. For me, I'm sure that it's embouchure and breathing support.

The best advice I've seen was in Raphael Ravencroft's "Compete Saxophone Player" course where he says that to produce low notes cleanly, you need to lower your jaw whilst keeping the same amount of mouthpiece in your mouth.
 

andyb1970

Member
Messages
450
You are not alone. I think this is a very common problem. For me, I'd just got it sorted with my "super-soft" reed, but moving to a harder reed has brought the problem back. For me, I'm sure that it's embouchure and breathing support.
I have found low notes to be an issue in the past due to a leak on a pad and bad breathing support. However I've also found recently that a different mouthpiece/reed setup has made low notes so much easier. From what I've learned it's important to ensure the reed is compatible with your mouthpiece, and then find a tip opening and reed strength that compliments each other. My visit to Dawkes and advice by Anton solved my problems with mouthpiece/reed choice, now I blow the sax much easier than before and low notes even softly played are far easier. Now if I don't get them I know it's me!
 

Sunray

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,708
Huhhhhhhhhhh! ...

I find it crucial to "open your throat" to achieve the low notes consistently and achieve a spot on tone ...

As an example - Say Huhhhhhhhhhh! [Breathing Out] and think about the back of your throat ... :)

Good breath support from the diaphragm etc. should not be forgotten ... ;}
 

Filton

Member
Messages
243
My little trick for practising those smoky low notes is to stand in front of a wall or window and imagine you are 'huhhing' on it through the sax, as you would 'huhhhhhh' on a mirror to see your breath. Not only does it make it easier to 'visualise' what you are trying to achieve, you also get a much better apreciation of your tone from the reflected sound.

Hopefully that makes sense . . I know what I mean but it isn't so easy to describe.. lol
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
My little trick for practising those smoky low notes is to stand in front of a wall or window and imagine you are 'huhhing' on it through the sax, as you would 'huhhhhhh' on a mirror to see your breath. Not only does it make it easier to 'visualise' what you are trying to achieve, you also get a much better apreciation of your tone from the reflected sound.
It also gives you a chance to practice your posing! :D
 
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