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Mouthpieces Eugene Rousseau and popping reeds


Deluded Senior Member...
Spalding Lincs
Following a thread which mentioned E Rousseau yesterday I viewed a few of his videos on sax fundamentals.

One which I found most interesting was on testing reeds. He suggests that the reed should be wetted, applied to the mpc and then tested by sucking on the mpc. This should result in the reed closing so that NO air can be sucked through the mpc. You then stop sucking and the reed should audibly pop when you take the mpc out of your mouth. If it doesn't then it is not fitting correctly.

I have just tried this with the 6 reeds I am currently using and in all but one case - NO POP...

Clearly I do not have an airtight fit which may just contribute to not getting good intonation. Any thoughts on this from anyone? Dodgy reeds and if so can I recover them? or would a change of mpc help? Yamaha 4c being used
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I would recommend inspecting the tip and rails of the mouthpiece under magnification. Any small scratch or nick can be enough to let air leak through. Also make sure the reed is wet enough to be perfectly flat at the tip and perfectly straight on the mouthpiece. If the reeds have been played a lot, the fibers of the cane may have swelled causing the back of the reed to no longer be perfectly flat. Take a single edge razor blade and using long strokes carefully scrape the back of the reed from back to tip a few times and try the reed again.
Sounds like a lot of faffing to me.

I wet it, mount it, play it, clip it when it goes mushy, bin it if it's too hard after several clippings.

I can't see why an air tight fit between reed and mouthpiece is important. Its flapping in the breeze when you play.

When I started out I used to get lots of duff reeds. Strange I hardly get any these days.

He places his ligature a bit high for my taste and I've never come across blowing one sided?
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I think I was meaning that as your playing progresses and your chops develop you can adapt more to get the best out of each slice of grass, without even knowing you're doing it. When starting out the embouchure isn't flexible, clever or strong and this leaves you at the mercy of any little fluctuations in reed condition.

They all play a little differently, so need to be pushed or coaxed a little through weak areas.

If you're getting poor reeds regularly it might indicate a change. We all have our preferences. Try a different brand. Try several different brands. Try different brands in different strengths. The right reed is a joy to play. The wrong reed is like a duck with a tendency to falsetto. Honk squeak honk.

I'm use a reed trimmer and wouldn't be without one. A little trim when the reed goes soft can revitalise and rejuvenate a soggy plank.
I gave the alto mouthpiece a scrub out tonight. It was looking a little grotty. After faffing about and replacing the patch I couldn't resist trying the pop test. A resounding pop was the result. I'm still no wiser what this means though lol.
I used to use the "pop" test with my beginning sax and clarinet students. They thought making that popping sound was great fun. Those unfortunate kids who had neglected to replace their cracked or broken reeds were sorely disappointed and highly motivated to buy some new ones when they were the only ones who couldn't pop.

This simple and silly exercise taught them to put their reeds on perfectly straight and to always have a good reed. To get them to replace reeds that had gone soft we would have contests where the one whose reed was the last one to pop was eliminated.

In the acoustics of tone production on the saxophone at levels louder than mp the reed begins to "beat". This means that during the reed's up and down cycle of vibration it actually closes off the opening momentarily until the pressure of the returning soundwave forces it open again. This of course happens hundreds of times per second. My understanding is that having a good closure at that part of the reed's cycle helps to maintain the energy of the system.

What blew my mind was that on the clarinet the duration that the reed is closed and open are identical, but on the saxophone the reed is closed longer than it is open on each cycle of vibration. What's more, the added time the reed is closed is the time it would take the sound wave to go to the tip of the imaginary missing cone and back.
Bear in mind that this only works with relatively close lays and softish reeds. It ain't ever gonna work with a 130 Berg and 3s.

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