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Reeds Reed Voodoo

coachz

New Member
Messages
15
I've been reading and watching videos on reed care and frankly it strikes me as a bunch of snake oil voodoo similar to the high end monster cable wires. The reason I say that is the number of conflicting procedures is astounding. Wet the reed for 5 to 10 mins, submerge it completely, don't submerge it completely, rub the reed with oil, chapstick, cork grease, ear wax, you name it, before soaking, no wait, do it after. Trim the reed with this special process that can even be done blindfolded under a terrorist hood. I mean it's just way too subjective.

So, Is there any science behind all this? Has anyone looked at the reed under a microscope during these processes? And first let me ask, what is the goal for the reed? To be flexible? For the reed to have water inside the little tubes all the way through? Why seal it if we want water in the reed.

Then we start on reed rotations. Are we just trying to let the reed totally dry out?

I'm totally confused as to what the goal is. Thanks for any information about real science and reeds.


So first off can you guys please tell me what the goals of the reed are ? What are the properites of a good reed while it's being played?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
The reed's going to get wet as you play it. Net result is that dry reeds either don't play well - or if they do, they stop working when they're wet. So when you have a reed that plays well wet (which is shat you want) you need to wet it first. Doesn't really matter how you do it, many of us just wet it in our mouths first. But others say saliva damages the reed. Well it's going to get saliva on it when it's in your mouth being played so.... Others keep theirs in mouthwash or whisky or vodka...

Reeds do need to be broken in, and can get a little tired if you play them too long in one session. So you need a few good ones on the go at the same time - hence the rotation. and when one packs up, you're still left with the other broken in ones. Reeds can dry out between playing without bad effects. But some people think they shouldn't so spend money on cases that keep the reeds moist. My view on this is that it only speeds up the process of putting the reed on the mouthpiece.

Don't worry about trimming for now. Just learn to play and learn what you want from a reed, then think about the trimming/adjusting. Something like Rico Royal, Vandoren blue should mostly play out of the box once moist.
 

coachz

New Member
Messages
15
That's great info. Thanks. Now what about "sealing" the pores with grease, oils etc, sanding them down to seal the pores or using your thumbnail. What's that all about. Do we not want the pores open ?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
That's great info. Thanks. Now what about "sealing" the pores with grease, oils etc, sanding them down to seal the pores or using your thumbnail. What's that all about. Do we not want the pores open ?
Some do, many/most don't. Especially the grease. I tried, not with grease, didn't seem to make any difference, so I stopped. I'm sure some people think it helps, so it probably does help them. I've no wish to wreck a reed messing around with grease.

If you really want to know a lot about reed preparation, try Ray Reed's book on reed preparation:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Saxophone...3057/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332875185&sr=8-1
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,661
Ok, here's my take on the whole reed preparation bit. Now, this can get a little complicated, so I'll take it slow. ;}
Open a box of reeds and remove one.
Remove the reed from the protective plastic guard.
Place the tip of said reed in the mouth and moisten thoroughly with the tongue.
Place the now moist reed on the mouthpiece and hold in place with a ligature.
Play the sax.
Leave the reed attached to the mouthpiece.
When you next play the sax simply lick the reed a few times to moisten.
Change reed when you can no longer play the sax, or you can no longer get your usual tone. I find this is normally every two to three months.

Now stop worrying or over complicating things and enjoy your sax. :thumb:
 

coachz

New Member
Messages
15
You're my kind of guy. I like that. Now because I'm a man of science, let me ask...is there any physical property that someone is trying to achieve by "sealing" the pores? While I love to keep things simple, I also don't mind asking a few critical questions to be clear on my reasons for doing things. Tradition can be a terrible thing.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,663
I am a little more fussy on my reeds but perhaps that is in part due to playing with a loose embouchure ( see Dave Leibman's Developing a Personal Sax Sound) and I really notice when reeds aren't quite right.

I wet em in water for 10 minutes and play it for 5 - 10 min first day. Put away to dry after dipping in h2o. Over next few days repeat but longer playing periods. At some point in that process I end up with a clear understanding of what I want to adjust on the reed and a few minutes work and I am done.

I will stick a reed in my mouth to moisten it if water not convenient. Only reason I prefer water is digestive enzymes in saliva break down a reed a little quicker. Wipe it at end of session or day and stick it in a holder that allows it to dry flat.

I don't worry about the odd overnight on a mpce. Often t,hey seem to dry with a bit of curve on mpce but a good wetting and dry in holder seems to work fine.

Itsmy opinion that the looser the embouchure the more critical reed tuning becomes but that may just be me. I don't think it is necessary to obsess over reeds but I suspect it's rather fun to do so.

Sealing the pores slows down moisture absorption which is not too much of an issue for beginners as the embouchure tends to tire before the reed gets saturated.
 
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muzza

Member
Messages
109
I have found rotating 4 reeds works for me and I go one step further grading reed as an A or B.

Do not know if the drying out and letting reeds rest help in anyway, but found having a couple of reed on the go helps solve another couple of problems;
- When I started, it took a little while to learn how to look after my reeds and I damaged a few before they wore out. If this happened and I needed a nice playing reed, I had one available.
- In a box, there are great sounding reed and other not so good, again when you need to sound nice, you can pick a trusted reed, leaving the cursing of the bad ones when practising alone.
- Reeds wear out and it can take a couple of plays to get your sound back, when you jump to a new reed. I think rotation, having different age reeds on the go, helps here a little.

Hope that is of some use.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
The problem with reeds, is the variation of fiber density within the reed, which is uncontrollable at manufacture. When we sand or scrape the reed we are compensating for this variation. A simple test to prove if the reed we are using is OK, is the corner to corner test, where you play a note from one corner of the m'piece and then from the other, noting any difference in ease of play/volume. The side relating to the stuffiest sound, is the side to work on, until the sound from both corners is the same. Any further work is then carried out on the sides equally, until the reed plays easily to your satisfaction.

John :);}
 

coachz

New Member
Messages
15
This all makes a lot of sense. I'm guessing that the reed rotation provides reeds that have properties that are closer to one another than going from a worn out reed to a brand new one, thereby making it easier to keep a good reed in the sax.

I'm thinking the letting the reed rest is not scientifically based but more to allow for multiple reeds to be ready and have similar properties, not new and not old. Unless letting the reed rest actually changes the properties which I would not expect.

So the "sealing" thing I'm guessing allows a better balance of moisture into the reed, delaying the waterlogging effect. If a reed is waterlogged, can you just blow on the heel and blow out the tubes in it or would it still be too wet.

Thanks again for having this discussion. It's a very personal subject it seems.
 

Jazzaferri

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,663
When the cells are saturated they are saturated and it takes a while to dry out completely. In order to maximize longevity I think that reeds should dry complexly. The exception may be in really dry climes. Some guys like to keep their reeds soaked. Certainly instantly ready to play but I would think would not last as long.
 

dubrosa22

Senior Member
Messages
413
I don't anything about sealing pores or pouring ear wax on reeds but I do break reeds in and rotate them.
But there's no science involved.

For both sax and clarinet I have 8 reeds going at one time, not all the same strength or type or brand.
I open a new reed dip it in water for about 2 minutes and play it for around 10 minutes, unless it's a real corker I usually pop in the reed holder for another day, and then I'll grab another I may have played with for only 10 minutes or 10 hours before and use that generally for the rest of the session.

Like I said no science involved! But this way I don't just try a new reed, deem it unusable and because I have no interest in trimming or scraping it, throw it away.

I would say 8 out of 10 of my reeds become playable for at least a few hours each and 3 out of 10 are real winners that I can get 10-15 hours play. Depends how hard you play 'em too I guess. ;)
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
My Fibracell doesn't need wetting or drying, after ATGing it sounds fantastic :mrcool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! >:)

John :);}
 

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
because I'm a man of science, let me ask...is there any physical property that someone is trying to achieve by "sealing" the pores?
We are talking about art here, not science. >:)

So do you think the "sealing" is to get a balance between too dry and too wet ?
Do seals like to swim among reeds?
 
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aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,125
Wet the reed for 5 to 10 mins, submerge it completely, don't submerge it completely, rub the reed with oil, chapstick, cork grease, ear wax, you name it, before soaking, no wait, do it after. Trim the reed with this special process that can even be done blindfolded under a terrorist hood.
But congratulations for the comprehensive description. I totally agree with it.
I am a bit sceptic about science. Only synthetic reeds can be approached scientifically. Wood is a mysterious matter (think of clarinets) and I quite enjoy the fact that different reeds have different individualities.

I always suspected that reeds are made according with a general shape and selected in a second time according with their flexibility or thickness or whatever a reed maker thinks is measurable.

I would like to add that only reeds harvested by virgins, in a full moon night, while the N11 bus is passing by, are worth trying.
 
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Two Voices

Senior Member
Messages
1,113
A saxophonist and his / her reed is a very subjective and personal thing. What works for one, doesn’t for another. Taz advice is good for anyone starting out but as one develops their technique its inevitable to start looking more closely at the reed.

Bear in mind that the reed is only one part of the equation. Teaming a reed to a mouthpiece is also very important. However, I won’t bring that into this thread. I will say having a balanced set-up makes playing the horn throughout the it’s range easier and more enjoyable.

I prepare my reeds as follows:

The first thing I do is to soak the reed for about 4 minutes in lukewarm water. My preference is to use mineral water and nuked in the microwave and then let it cool down to lukewarm.

Then I use a clean jam jar that I’ve filled up with enough water to ensure that the tip through to the back of the vamp is submerged. A reed that is too dry or only wet at the very tip tends to squeak. Be carefully not to soak the reed for too long though as it will end up becoming waterlogged. Trial and error will soon sort that out. It does depend on the climate that you’re in at the time.

Once soaked, place the reed on a granite cheeseboard (any flat surface will do). Now place the reed so the tip is the farthest from you and the thickest closest to you. What you need to do now is massage it. To do this; start from the back of the vamp slope and with several fingers move in a smooth stroke forward towards the tip. This helps to close off the fibre ends and stabilize the reed.

Now it’s time to break-in the reed:

Play the reed no louder than mezzo or softer for 5 to 10 minutes on the first day and repeat on the second day but extend the time to 10 to 15 minutes. By doing this the reed should last longer and be more stable for full bore playing later. However, if one particular reed feels too hard then try playing all out in fortissimo instead.

You will find that the reeds will harden a little after a few days of playing, so you may find dropping a half reed strength will end up being perfect in a few days after break in.

If a reed is still too hard even after playing all out in fortissimo then make sure the reed is wet and secured on the mouthpiece with your ligature. Press firmly a few times with your thumb on the middle and rear slope area of the reed. This will help to help loosen up the fibres which will soften it up a bit.

However, take care with doing this because if you press too hard you’ll end up taking the spring and life out of the reed. If you press it too lightly you won't feel any change.

I do balance my reeds with a reed rush but I’ll save that for another day.
 

coachz

New Member
Messages
15
This is interesting information but it doesn't tell me why you do these things.

A saxophonist and his / her reed is a very subjective and personal thing. What works for one, doesn’t for another. Taz advice is good for anyone starting out but as one develops their technique its inevitable to start looking more closely at the reed.

Bear in mind that the reed is only one part of the equation. Teaming a reed to a mouthpiece is also very important. However, I won’t bring that into this thread. I will say having a balanced set-up makes playing the horn throughout the it’s range easier and more enjoyable.

I prepare my reeds as follows:

The first thing I do is to soak the reed for about 4 minutes in lukewarm water. My preference is to use mineral water and nuked in the microwave and then let it cool down to lukewarm.

Then I use a clean jam jar that I’ve filled up with enough water to ensure that the tip through to the back of the vamp is submerged. A reed that is too dry or only wet at the very tip tends to squeak. Be carefully not to soak the reed for too long though as it will end up becoming waterlogged. Trial and error will soon sort that out. It does depend on the climate that you’re in at the time.

Once soaked, place the reed on a granite cheeseboard (any flat surface will do). Now place the reed so the tip is the farthest from you and the thickest closest to you. What you need to do now is massage it. To do this; start from the back of the vamp slope and with several fingers move in a smooth stroke forward towards the tip. This helps to close off the fibre ends and stabilize the reed.

Now it’s time to break-in the reed:

Play the reed no louder than mezzo or softer for 5 to 10 minutes on the first day and repeat on the second day but extend the time to 10 to 15 minutes. By doing this the reed should last longer and be more stable for full bore playing later. However, if one particular reed feels too hard then try playing all out in fortissimo instead.

You will find that the reeds will harden a little after a few days of playing, so you may find dropping a half reed strength will end up being perfect in a few days after break in.

If a reed is still too hard even after playing all out in fortissimo then make sure the reed is wet and secured on the mouthpiece with your ligature. Press firmly a few times with your thumb on the middle and rear slope area of the reed. This will help to help loosen up the fibres which will soften it up a bit.

However, take care with doing this because if you press too hard you’ll end up taking the spring and life out of the reed. If you press it too lightly you won't feel any change.

I do balance my reeds with a reed rush but I’ll save that for another day.
 
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