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Reeds Reeds broken while playing

Janosax

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Hello,

I've played Plasticover and synthetic reeds the whole year since june 2016. Since a few weeks, I'm back to cane and mix them with synthetics for practicing. I'm using ZZ 2 on my Lebayle LRII 8*.

I'm facing an issue I encountered in the past too during my first 15 years of playing exclusively cane, but it's now worst than ever: I broke reeds while playing. Sometimes they broke in first 15 mn, sometimes after two/three days of playing (two hours/day). I played in my sax mute this winter, and I'm back to outsides since a few weeks, so temps can have something to do with that. But last days they were 20°c with nice sunshine, so it should be ok. In the past, I was playing ZZ 3 strenght with those kind of issues too, playing in isolated booth, but it was only while playing with high energy/crawling altissimos and was a less permanent issue as a reed lasted often two weeks. I had this with RJS 3 too. This last year I had no issues at all with Plasticover which are made from cane but more solid, nor synthetics Ponzol/Legere of course. I moist ZZ 2 reeds a lot using fingers to helps saliva to be absorbed by the cane, I'm very careful with them. It seems that they broke after playing altissimo and growling a bit too. I like to "fracture" altissimo notes with my voice to make clusters a lot in a Trane/Pharoah way.

Should I break in them a few days by playing gently, and then have more freedom with my sounds and effects?
Has anybody encountered same issues? Any fixes?

I will retry Superial DC reeds, I had good luck with them in the past. Synthetics are nice and sounds pretty good, but to me cane seems to give something more, which is related to expressivity. This is why I wish to fix this issue which is frustrative and cost me money (5 €/day is expensive for reeds budget!!).

IMG_0576.JPG
 
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jbtsax

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Do you wet your reeds before playing and store them in a Reedguard or other device to flatten the tip as they dry?
 

Janosax

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Yes I do. I wet them with saliva using my fingers to helps absorption, and stock them in Rico/Vandoren reedguard.
 

altissimo

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I used to know a tenor player who split reeds quite often, he blew really hard with veins standing out on his forehead... so maybe it's just too much pressure causing the reed to vibrate too much and split.
I've only had a few reeds split on me and I do a lot of unconventional things like bite the reed to make it buzz and chirp as well as growling, altissimo and multiphonics in my quest for avant garde timbres. I gave up cane reeds and use Fibracells and modified Bari reeds now because they're consistent and last longer. I'm too old to care about the effect on my tone and I don't get any complaints
 

jbtsax

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I once had a metal mouthpiece cap that would break the ends of reeds when I set the ligature back too far. Sometimes when I'm in a hurry putting the mouthpiece cap back on, I will cause a split in the reed. I have never seen or heard of a reed splitting because of playing.
 

Janosax

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@jbtsax: No it's not the cap, it's 100% the playing.

@altissimo: I'm certainly in the same case the guy you mention, as I overblow a lot with growling abuse, it's part of my sound and music style I'm affraid of.

Perhaps it's my saliva or bones I don't know...lol. I use a pretty standard tenor jazz embouchure technique. I use teeth pressure on lower lip very moderately and reinforce it only for effects, brightening tone or altissimo. My embouchure is pretty relaxed. I admit I blow sometimes pretty hard, but not always as I have a good dynamic palette in my playing style. I know it's not a player issue, perhaps more related the way I play.

Again, it's more problematic since I play outsides, so cane seems to be more sensitive to that. I will try to wet them even more and play them gently during first days break in, and will retry Alexander DC, in my memory they were stronger. Or I will keep ZZ or even cane for smooth jazz and synthetics for all the rest ( I hope not...).
 
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altissimo

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@jbtsax: No it's not the cap, it's 100% the playing.

@altissimo: I'm certainly in the same case the guy you mention, as I overblow a lot with growling abuse, it's part of my sound and music style I'm affraid of.

Perhaps it's my saliva or bones I don't know...lol. I use a pretty standard tenor jazz embouchure technique. I use teeth pressure on lower lip very moderately and reinforce it only for effects, brightening tone or altissimo. My embouchure is pretty relaxed. I admit I blow sometimes pretty hard, but not always as I have a good dynamic palette in my playing style. I know it's not a player issue, perhaps more related the way I play.

Again, it's more problematic since I play outsides, so cane seems to be more sensitive to that. I will try to wet them even more and play them gently during first days break in, and will retry Alexander DC, in my memory they were stronger. Or I will keep ZZ or even cane for smooth jazz and synthetics for all the rest ( I hope not...).

I always used to think that he was trying to play louder than me, but I was just happy if I could hear myself over the wall of Elvin Jones style polyrhythms coming from the drummer.. Tenor players can be a bit insecure at times.. I realised a long time ago that trying to tread in Coltrane's footsteps would be madness, the amount of work it takes to get that kind of intensity out of an Otto Link is too much for me, so I've gone for easier more efficient mouthpieces and softer reeds. That way I can make a lot of noise and still stand up after a 4 hour rehearsal...
I never got on with ZZ's - the cut of them never agreed with my mouthpiece facings - thin at the tip and thick at the back doesn't work for me and my Lawton, I preferred Java's until I discovered Fibracells were even more flexible and easy to blow...
Maybe if you can find a reed that's thicker at the tip but with the same response it might help, but I think if you're going to blow with a lot of pressure you might have to put up with reeds splitting. I'm told some players get through 2-3 reeds in one gig..
 

Colin the Bear

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To play louder you need a harder reed.

I don't get on with the later reeds Javas and ZZ and V16. They don't seem to last very long and go soggy in no time.

I play outside quite often and find a good old Vandoren Blue works well. Durable, consistent and cheaper too.

I'm assuming the Lebayle has a French facing curve so french cut reeds should work best although the one in the pic is american cut

Rico Reserve are french cut and are quite durable. Gonzales RC (Regular Cut ie American) work great on a french lay and are very durable.

Bear in mind the strength numbers don't match up for Vandoren and Rico, so going up a number may in fact be a softer reed.
 

Jazzaferri

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I suggest you try Leger signature. They sound very close to cane.

I spend a fair bit of time each day on altissimo long tones (my long term goal is to be able to not bring my soprano along) and have yet to have a reed split. I split several cane reeds before I switched.
 

altissimo

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"I'm assuming the Lebayle has a French facing curve" - I don't think there are any national similarities between saxophone mouthpieces - a Lebayle has a different facing curve to a Selmer or Vandoren....
Saxophone mouthpieces are too diverse to make generalisations, it's not like classical clarinets where there were different schools of thought about tonal preferences, reeds and instrument bores etc between the French, British and Germans - I think there's some mention of this in Baines' book 'Woodwind Instruments And Their History'.

You've presumably got your information about french cut reeds from that bit on Dawkes' website about clarinet reeds, and that seems to make a lot of generalisations and doesn't really apply to saxophones. Nor does it explain what cit of reed would suit a Japanese mouthpiece.
These days there are just too many different mouthpiece manufacturers to draw any wide ranging conclusions about any type of facing curve being specific to a particular country and even in the old days different makers may have had different ideas about facings. There is information out there comparing different facing curves if you look for it.

I googled 'French curve' and it's also used to refer to the slight concavity found on the table of some old mouthpieces, but that's a different thing altogether.
I also wondered whether the term 'french curve' was a reference to the draughtsman's drawing instrument that has a varying radius curve to it and whether thay had any influence on early mouthpiece design - some mouthpieces seem to have a more parabolic curve to them, although some people now believe that an arc of a circle may be better.
The way the curve joins onto the flatness of the table also seems to be a factor and it that regard a Lebayle also differs from other french makers
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

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I suggest you try Leger signature. They sound very close to cane.

I spend a fair bit of time each day on altissimo long tones (my long term goal is to be able to not bring my soprano along) and have yet to have a reed split. I split several cane reeds before I switched.

A few weeks back I ordered a Leger Signature reed from a well known company in Cambridge. It arrived split! I thought it would mean automatic replacement after phoning they wanted a photograph sent and the reed returned for examination, I would point out this was at my own expense. It was replaced after a delay no compensation or credit for the postage cost, I'll think I'll stick to Fibracell and an alternative company in future.
 

Janosax

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I have a Legere Signature 2 since one mounth. I admit it's very close to cane, in tone and response. They don't split even while blowing hard, even if I can't push them as much as say Plasticover which give louder tone even in 2 strenght. But to me this Legere sig lacks something tonally, is a bit dark and less rich than cane in tonal texture. This is what I feel today, but I can change my mind, as always with sax gear. Today, I played all my synths and cane reeds, and ZZ gives me a truly full and bright sound, pretty expressive and complex. A bit too bright, but I like this fullness. I bought and wait for Superial DC's, I remember they were between ZZ fulness and Lavoz darkness. In my memory, I never split those DC's, so I will see. I feel that cane tend to reveals sonically all my breath details, while synthetics are more clean and "monotonal". Today, no splitting on a new ZZ reed, but no overblow nor altissimos. I will test them with more energy in a few days after break in, and will report results here. I tried 2.5 reeds too, but really my embouchure is much more relaxed with 2 on my 8* (115) tip opening MPC, I can achieve a much more warm and full tone, with great response on all registers, even if altissimo are a bit challenging. Some years ago before I made a big break on sax playing, I played 3 or even 3.5 reeds on that MPC. I realize now it was for ease of altissimo and high sound level, but my lows were bright and loud and lacked that warmness I have today with much softer reeds. Add to this that quieter sax means less ear damage, so 2 is perfect for me now.
BTW, all the 5 ZZ reeds were pretty good, even excellent. No rejects from that box.
 
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Janosax

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Yes, all have splitted except the last one :D ... But I think it's my playing, so I'll really try to progressively push this reed day after day and will see what happens. BTW, I now play much less louder than how I played 10 years ago with those 3.5 DC's. I really try to keep my ears in good health, as I have a little hyperacousis on right ear. But it's still loud IMO :cool: What I meaned is that all 5 reeds were very consistent in their quality and tonal characteristics. Like everybody, I had boxes with one or two reed playable out of 10... Rico royal :mad:
 

Jazzaferri

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My friend Gene Hardy is one of Canada's top Rock sax players and blow's really hard at times. he uses plasticover 4's and I have never heard him complain about splitting them.

I find with my Hooligan 11* mouthpiece that I can get lots of volume without having to really overblow and it suits the Legere's perfectly. Gene plays a Dukoff 7 or thereabouts.

A few weeks back I ordered a Leger Signature reed from a well known company in Cambridge. It arrived split! I thought it would mean automatic replacement after phoning they wanted a photograph sent and the reed returned for examination, I would point out this was at my own expense. It was replaced after a delay no compensation or credit for the postage cost, I'll think I'll stick to Fibracell and an alternative company in future.

I have only ever dealt with Legere directly on changes and find them to be great to deal with with top notch customer service I am quite sure that Legere would like to know directly about their UK distributor's attitude. Send them a photo of the reed and invoice if you still have it along with your story. Maybe they will do something for you.
 

Veggie Dave

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I'm finding this discussion fascinating. I've never had a read split and I thought I played quite aggressively and at volume.

Is it purely the volume of air that splits the reed or the aggressive way that volume of air is delivered?
 
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Janosax

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I Think I split them the way I blow, not only volume. I do split notes with growl in altissimo register, I think this is what split the reeds.

Here is a 10 years old recording that shows how I played those altissimos especially at the end of song:

SOUNDS OF GROOVE.mp3

To have those kind of sounds, I have to use my voice of course, and move my jaw in a certain way, bite a bit more and enlarge my lower lip. I think these kind of vibrations are hard for the reed. On this recording however, no reed spliting in my memory. The setup was V16T95 metal MPC with ZZ3. Today I play Lebayle LRII 8* which has less big tip opening with ZZ2 reeds. I play differently, it's more jazzy with a warmer tone and I do less splited growling altissimos. But when I do them, ZZ2 don't like it. I believe I really need to break in them more to allow more cane fibers flexibility. But it's not sure, it can be those reeds, this is why I'll try other makers, but not other strenghts as I tried already 2.5 and don't like them. I read somewhere (Perhaps Pete's website) it's hard for a player to play softer reeds after high strenght habituation. As I quitted sax playing a few years, it's more easy to me to go softer for this warm tone and tonal flexibility I want to get from my setup. Add to this that I have a slightly different musical orientation, and it's a good thing for me to search for another kind of tone through reeds too. Again no issues with Plasticover nor synthetics, but I want to have the choice as Plasticover are too bright and not warm enough in lower register, and synthetics lacks tonal complexity. Like I said, in the past I split them but it was much more rare, now it's almost after all "energy playing".
 
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Jazzaferri

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If one watches high speed photo's of reeds working they seem to get into oscillatory modes with one corner up and one down. It may just be that there is not enough meat on many a softer reed to withstand that without damage at higher volumes.
 

Veggie Dave

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Here is a 10 years old recording that shows how I played those altissimos especially at the end of song:

SOUNDS OF GROOVE.mp3

I really liked that. In fact, I found myself jamming along to it before I remembered I was supposed to be listening. :D

I've been experimenting with a few reed things recently to see if I can improve consistency and life span without becoming a whittling genius. Up to now my best results have come from polishing the back of reeds, soaking them for quarter of an hour and then spending another 15 or more minutes playing in a relaxed manner not at performance volumes.

I need to repeat this process a good few times to see if I get consistent results but up to now my reeds play much better for much longer. I don't normally play above alt. G but I don't think there's too much difference in how aggressive we play so it might work for you. Oh, I use Java Green 3.5.
 

Veggie Dave

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Update:

My reeds normally last about 8 to 10 weeks then I have to replace them. Using the method described above my latest batch (Vandoren Java green 3.5) are coming to the end of their lives after a whopping (for me) four and a half months.
 

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