Reeds Reed Rotation????


A couple of weeks ago I started a thread "What's your poison?" to begin my search for my perfect reed, and loads of you really helped me isolate what would be some really good reeds for the a certain kind of sound.

Yesterday an experienced sax playing friend bowled me for a googly!!!:shocked:

Until now, I have chosen a new reed that I like the look of (usually when I don't have any up coming performances), and can expect to play it for a week until it 'breaks in' and it plays the way I want it to in all registers. Then I will stay with it for months, because I am used to the way it plays and feel comfortable with it.

My friend says this is the wrong approach. He suggests that one should have between 5-10 reeds on the go at the same time rotating to a different one each day (7 would seem the obvious choice each marked with a day of the week). He suggests that each reed has pros and cons and that by staying with the same reed your embouchure and everything else gets used to the bad points of a particular reed, and creates bad habits.

He also suggests that I choose a stiffer reed than I usually play with and shave it (he will show me how next week). I think this is because the denser fibres will play better and last longer, while you make the reed more flexible by the shaving??

I never heard of this approach before, and wondered if anyone else did this? What is the received wisdom on this approach? My friend says that this is important not only for the super-pro recording artists, but for anyone wanting to develop strong versatile tone and not create bad habits.
yours flabbergasted,

PS I always write such long posts, sorry about that!!:blush:
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I do the same as Nick, i mark my reeds with a start date on the back. ( only way it works for me ) and have a hard plastic case which i keep them in, and rotate them. I do however stay with one reed if it sounds really good, bit lazy, but heh! we are supposed toenjoy our playing, i don't see the point in trying to make a bad reed sound good by playing it in. If at all possible? Maybe other members have more experience on this matter.

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
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No, I don't rotate reeds or shave them. I know some people like to rotate them, but never heard of having to shave them. I don't think this is something all or many super pro recording artists do.


Busking Oracle
Oh no....not another "You got to do it my way" approach!!!!!!
Al, I'm not going to say that your friend is wrong, it's just that his approach to the perfect set up works for him. I've read so many posts about bad reeds and how, in a box of ten reeds, nine and a half of them are no good or need some sort of intervention to make them playable. I've Never, in the four years I've been playing, had a bad reed yet. Does this mean that I've got the embouchure of an "Abyssinian lip lifting champion?" i don't think so, although the wife did say..... but that's another story!:sax: I wonder if my embouchure is just very adaptable, I don't know. Whatever it is, the answer is what works for you is what you have to do! I place a reed on my mpc and play it till it dies, two or three months later. It works for me...many will tell you differently!
The choice, as they say, is yours.


New Member
Taz - I get confused when I read where someone says (e.g.) "I only get a couple of good reeds out of a box..." :shocked: I think ( in fifty years of playing, some of it as a pro, up to six hours a night...) I've thrown away less than a handful of reeds. If anyone gets that many 'bad' reeds, change to a more consistent brand, and if they're still that bad - it's probably down to the players technique/embouchure, or the mouthpiece, or obsession, or too much disposable income, or a combination of those...

Anyone is welcome to send any 'bad' reeds to me, I'll give them a good talking to...:)

(imho) Shaving is a mixed blessing, as is reed drilling or clipping - as long as you select a grade which, when 'played' in, feels good, then there's nowt wrong with that...

When I played seriously I rotated up to four reeds in a clip, but ONLY on the basis that if a reed got ruined (for whatever reason) or got a bit non-responsive I didn't want to have to play a new one in on the spot. Often that clip would only contain one reed for each instrument as a spare, obviously paranoia sets in if I'd had a clip for each instrument... That clip would also have wrapped around it, the essential saxophone repair item, a couple of rubber bands ! That worked for decades.


Well-Known Member
Hi Alan!

I usually soak and then play 6 - 10 reeds in any box and usually rate them +1, 1 or -1, according to how good they sound/feel. Then use the former 2 in rotations of 4, using the +1's for performances etc. If a 1 category improves with age it gets a plus sign before it, but prefer to know the score before I slowly go through a box of reeds.

On trumpet/cornet/flugelhorn & trombone I just put the mouthpiece on and play to my hearts content, and take it off when I've finished!:w00t:

Have stuck with the practice of reed rotation for approx 3 years, and it seems to work for me. Certainly before I would play a reed 'til death (by which time it was very soft), and then start on a new, comparatively much harder reed, allowing my embouchure to gradually tighten up over several days - which I did not find very effective, so now start several at the same time so that I no longer have this period of adaptation.

Good luck with what ever works for you.
Kind regards


Well-Known Member
I used to rotate, file, cut, shave, scrub .... my reeds. I took four reeds out of a box and made them as even as possible. Took a lot of time, but it worked out fine for me. I also used a hard reed and "downfiled" it.

Nowadays I'm playing on Rico Plasticcover baritone reeds on tenor and bari. So far, the best reed for me. No more preperation !!!



So it seems to be 'horses for courses'. I have to admit my friend said that I 'must' rotate and shave, so I felt like I had been a philistine all this time (besides rotating while shaving is an xtreme-sport in some countries:)))). I guess the 'breaking-in' period is a combination of the reed becoming more flexible and your embouchure adapting to the stiffer new reed, as Tom (mapfumo) says. I think I might try rotating about 3 reeds though, since it annoys me waiting 1-2 weeks until the reed plays the way I like. I am like many on this thread, I like to just pick up the sax and concentrate on what i want to concentrate on rather than worrying too much over the reed and how different it is from the next one, and why I suddenly can't get B & Bb easily etc., etc. Also gigging puts quite a lot of stain on reeds, especially on a small stage, everyone bumping and jostling. It would be great to have back up and know its going to play the way I like. I'll wait and see what technique for shaving my friend uses and his justification for it. I'll report back.

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