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Reeds Reed strength query

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
This is a question I'd normally ask my teacher, but due to hols our paths won't cross until sometime in September. I can't wait that long.

I've recently switched to Rico Royal 3.0s from the 2.5s as there was a very marked improvement in my tone on the slightly harder reed. However, the No 3 reeds do feel like quite hard work and my mouth tires much more rapidly than when I was on the 2.5s. So my question is do I:

  • Go back to the 2.5s because other people can clearly play well on them and work at my technique so I can too or,
  • Stick with the 3.0 reeds, enjoy the tone and wait for my facial muscles to develop sufficiently that it's no longer a problem?

Any comments or advice would be much appreciated. I'm using a Yamaha 6C if that is of any importance.

Cheers, Paul
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Stick with the threes, play more shorter periods (e.g. 3x10 mins with breaks, instead of 30 mins) for a while to build your embouchure.

And relax as you play - you may be too tight.
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
- you may be too tight.
Have you been talking to my wife?

Seriously though, thanks for the advice. Being an early retiree I have loads of time to play, so my practice sessions tend to be on the long side. I'm sure my mouth will get used to them soon enough. It's nice hitting a note and not whincing too often at the abysmal tone.
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
Playing has to be easy on the body. It isn't a session at the gym. If the threes are too hard for you now, put them aside for the time being. Use the ones that are easiest to play. It is quite possible that players choose slightly harder reeds as they get more proficient (i.e. the sometimes start with a 1.5 and then gradually go up to 2.5 or whatever). But reed hardness per se has nothing to do with proficiency, nor with your standing as a saxophonist..
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Thanks for the comment Beckmesser. Rest assured I'm on no macho kick to play on the hardest reeds possible. In fact I'd love to get a good sound on 1.5s as they are effortless on the mouth, but sadly I can't at my current stage of development.

Tell me, is there a technique to getting a good tone on a softer reed? It clearly is possible, but not by me at the moment. I've a selection of Rico Royals here of every strength from 1.5 to 3.0 and there is a direct relationship between reed strength and my sound quality (stronger sounding nicer). The 2.5 and 3.0 reeds seem to be in the middle of the range of reed strengths generally, so I'm not trying anything extreme. If you have any tips on how I can sound as good on a 2.5 as I do on a 3.0, I'd really appreciate them.

Cheers, Paul
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Paul!

1. Reeds do differ in actual hardness, and given what you say you might be better off with a reed which is somewhere between the two. If we look at the following chart: http://www.saxophon-service.de/shop/z_57.htm you will see that a Rico Jazz Select 2H is very slightly softer than the Rico Royal 3, as is a Vandoren Java 2.5. If you like the Rico Royal I would certainly try the RJS 2H reed.

2. The Rico Royal reed is a French Cut reed - the centre of the reed is quite think but tapers to a very fine edge. A 3 is going to be much harder to play, but an American Cut reed which is less thick in the middle and less fine at the edge, may be an easier blow - ther Rico Jazz Select 2H is American Cut.

3. What sax do you play - alto or tenor? It is perfectly easy to get a good tone on softer reeds so it may depend a little on your embouchure, and how far you take the mouthpiece in. Given what you write I think that you possibly need to take more mouthpiece in and have as wide an oral cavity as you can manage in order to improve your tone.

4. Depending on whether or not you break in your reeds it should be possible to create a softer reed from your Rico Royal 3, but a change of embouchure may mean that the 2.5 should play well.

5. Don't expect miracles from you Yamaha mouthpiece - they can be rather neutral sounding and when both Saxnik and myself recently did an alto mouthpiece comparison the Yamaha did seem to suffer tonewise.

Hope these thoughts help.
Kind regards
Tom

I would try a slightly different reed so you have something to compare with, and an American Cut reed would be good to try, by contrast
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
3. What sax do you play - alto or tenor? It is perfectly easy to get a good tone on softer reeds so it may depend a little on your embouchure, and how far you take the mouthpiece in. Given what you write I think that you possibly need to take more mouthpiece in and have as wide an oral cavity as you can manage in order to improve your tone.

4. Depending on whether or not you break in your reeds it should be possible to create a softer reed from your Rico Royal 3, but a change of embouchure may mean that the 2.5 should play well.

5. Don't expect miracles from you Yamaha mouthpiece - they can be rather neutral sounding and when both Saxnik and myself recently did an alto mouthpiece comparison the Yamaha did seem to suffer tonewise.
Thanks Tom, I have a Yamaha alto sax. I'll try taking in more mouthpiece and adjusting my muscles with the 2.5s to see if I can make my tone sound as good as when I'm playing the 3.0s.

Maybe I'm just uninformed, but I don't see being neutral as a drawback in a mouthpiece at my stage of development. I can go on the search for my personal holy grail in mouthpieces when I've more competence. This is a purely personal perspective and apologies to any David Sanborn fans reading this. I'd love to be able to play as well as he can, but I'd hate to sound like him. He must have gone to his supplier and said "hey, you got any pieces with the edgyness control turned up to 11? Similarly Gato Barbieri on the tenor. I love his music, but his tone could cut through concrete.

Thanks again, Paul
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Hi Paul!

Both Nik and I were comparing the Yamaha to the Clark Fobes mouthpiece (£36 from Howarth) and we both preferred the overall sound we produced with the Fobes, which must include the reed, ligature, sax and personal sound. "Neutral" may not be an accurate term, but the tone with the Yamaha did not sound as good. Agree about searching for mouthpieces when you have more competence, and have a clear enough sense of what sound you are looking for.
If I was starting again on Alto sax I would begin with a Bari Esprit II mouthpiece (only £14) which is superb.

Kind regards
Tom
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
Paul

I am happy to enlarge on my earlier comments, but you should treat them with caution. They are no more than some things I came across in my own learning. I only play the tenor. That restricts the ambit of my comments.

Suitable reed and mouthpiece combinations are a very personal matter. Many new players start with something like a Yamaha 4C and then move on. For others the 4C is all they ever need, and for all I know they play better than I ever will. The reason is simply that they found the reed that matches their requirement.

Now, I had a Yamaha 4C and later a 6C, and neither suited me. OTOH, I still have a Yamaha 5CM, and I quite like it with slightly harder reeds, though I don't use it much now. It isn't made of the same material as the 5C. I find it less slippery. Another difference is that it has a square chamber, but I don't know how much difference that makes. The external shape is different, and it costs more than the standard mouthpiece.

I have never been able to get on with Vandoren reeds. I don't know why. But I of the cane variety I took to Rico Royals (#2.5) like a fish to water. LaVoz also went well but I haven't had any of them for a long time. Orange Ricos also worked alright, but I seemed to plough through them.

I have now settled on a Vandoren V5 T35 mouthpiece with a standard Legere #2. I don't think this is the end of it, but I can do a 2-hour practice feeling that I could easily do more (BTW, I do this every morning, and I do another hour later in the day).

They way I went about mouthpieces is that I was disinclined to spend a lot of money until I knew what sort of tip opening would be reasonably suitable for me. Fortunately, there is a wide range available that allows you to experiment even if you are on a small budget.

In the end, however, there is no getting away from mastering or controlling one's set-up. Pete Thomas's use of Taming the Saxophone in my view describes the issue well. Long tones are an invaluable way towards this aim. I do lots of them: maintaining the same level, doing crescendo and decrescendo, etc. This is much cheaper than getting a new mouthpiece. Good and reliable gear is essential, but knowing how to use it is key.

So, one thing I have learnt is that getting the right combination may take time. I have no idea how suitable your current mouthpiece is for you, but it seems that a #3 reed is too hard for you. Maybe you should try another type of reed, as others have suggested. But don't expect miracles.

Now, I don't expect you to say this helped. But, if it feels uncomfortable, it probably isn't right.
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Thanks Becmesser and everyone.

I'm starting to realise that it's going to take some time to get the mouthpiece and reed combination right. Half the problem is that my embouchure hasn't yet settled into a stable state, so it's a bit like trying to aim at a moving target at present. Thinking back to seven months ago when I started on the 4C, and with soft reeds to boot, I remember it felt like really hard work. I can see how far I've come. However, I clearly need a lot more time on the instrument.

I will try some of the reed and mouthpiece suggestions after chatting with my teacher. While I'm relaxed about splurging a chunk of money on the right setup in the future, I don't think there's any point just yet. I'm more than happy to try a few low cost alternatives until my embouchure has settled down. The good news is that the most important thing about any setup seems to be the mouth it's put into. And that's under my control - allegedly.

Thanks again everyone,

Paul
 

Andante cantabile

Senior Member
Messages
695
Well, that seems a satisfactory outcome. If you get to to the point where you'll examine other mouthpiece options, I am sure that Tom will have some good ideas.
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Here's an update in case it's of interest to other new players. Tom M suggested I tried some Rico Jazz Select 2H reeds as they're very slightly softer than Rico Royal 3. Well, the postman delivered a box this morning along with a book of sax studies written by a sadist. I ordered the unfiled variant of the reeds if that makes much difference.

First impressions are very favourable. I've just played for a solid hour and the only reason I've stopped is that it's nearly lunchtime. I could easily have played for longer without fatigue. My mouth doesn't believe the reed strength table. The one and only reed from the box I've used feels like no more work than a Rico Royal 2.5, but I'll happily admit this sample is hardly comprehensive. Still, it's a good start. The only downside is that they seem a tad more susceptible to being overblown down the bottom end of the horn, but I can get that effect with the Royals too, so it's almost certainly poor technique on my part. So thanks for the suggestion Tom.

Best wishes, Paul
 

Nick Wyver

noisy
Subscriber
Messages
5,949
I ordered the unfiled variant of the reeds if that makes much difference.
The most noticeable difference is that filed reeds are brighter - possibly (depending on your taste) making them more suitable for jazz and rock.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Just back from my 3 hour dog walk! Glad that my suggestion was of some use, Paul. I personally prefer Unfiled RJS's, and don't subscribe to the "brighter = suitable for jazz and rock" urban myth.

Kind regards
Tom :thumb:
 

PaulM

Member
Messages
143
Just back from my 3 hour dog walk!
Too hot to do much in the great outdoors here today Tom. So I've had a 2-3 hour practice stint this afternoon instead. While my mouth is tired, it's not shot to pieces as I would have expected. The new reed is forcing me to play with a looser embouchure which is something I've been trying to do for a few weeks now, so that's a result on its own.

On the RJSs I have a tone closer to where I'm trying to get. I've not yet got them under control over the whole range of the instrument, but that'll probably come with time. There is definitely something to this reed malarky and I wish I'd tried other types earlier. Thanks again.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Very confused thinking there, Nick. I don't think that you have to use a filed reed to play rock or jazz music.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
So you don't think that jazz/rock players generally have a brighter tone than classical players?
I personally play the music I like, with the reeds that I like, and achieve the sound that I like, irrespective of what others do. Anyway, back to the topic in question.......................................;}
 
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