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Reeds, raw and plasticised

jeremyjuicewah

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In the ongoing quest for great low notes I found an interesting piece which gave three good tips. One that I have been thinking about is this:

Make sure that the reed is properly wet. If it has dried out even a little, take it off and put it in your mouth. You cant get the low notes if the reed is not wet.

Yes all obvious and all that. But I use Rico plasticised. Almost always have done. Later I will try this out but will a wet raw reed be better than a plasticised reed for sounding a lovely low note? Why does the reed work best when wet? Is it more pliable, or is it a density thing? I do know that too wet and its useless. I have often had to change a Rico orange reed because its warped across the end with spit and slobber absorbtion.

I have gone pretty much back to using #3 Rico plasticised. I like the tone even though I find a weaker reed easier to play. Up higher, the strength really seems to matter. I also used to treat the reeds with sanding. I don't do that anymore either. I thought I was performing a bit of science on the reeds, cos they certainly were easier to play after sanding. But with 11 other saxes in the square in Hitchin, I was stunned to find I could not get a note out, not a one. What I had thought was adjusting the reed a bit had actually been scraping the poor things down so that my 3s were probably reduced to about halfs, and the one I was playing simply closed up. In practice it was dead easy to use, but when a bit of volume was needed, I was left without. I guess I am an admirer of and an easy touch for a theory or a gadget (sorry Johnboy) but I find that with a little more work than I like, most reeds are quite playable now.

I am spoiled for the these low notes by a busker I heard in Valencia a couple of years ago. He played almost exclusively in the lower octave on tenor, and the gentle waffling was so pleasing that its become my measure. I am finally seeing that use and practice is most of it, so on I go. But about these reeds . . .

Cheers
Mike
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Costa Blanca Spain
So, didnt set the world alight with this thread, but I have tried out the reed possiblilty and frankly it is cak. Rico orange 2 was no better than plasticised 2 which is a little easier than a 3 at the lowest of the low end. I also tried another tip which is to hold the Bb fingering but lift the right index finger off the F key and bring it down "at the moment of attack". I guess that is a musical thing and not when the misses launches herself round the music room door with a frying pan at the onset of yet another squawking session on the B and Bb. I can feel that that might work with practice, but I despise trickery, except when it yields instant and easy results. This I dont think does.

I am now using only my Vandoren T75 with plasticised 2 or 3 reeds. That mpc is not the easiest to play but its the one that makes the noise I like the best. I have developed a horrible little melody based on B minor blues scale which ends on a slip up from Bb to B. I wish I had brought these notes into normal play from day one. Now I practice full range and long notes too. I think the fingering on those low notes can hold you back a bit too, if you have not been diligent in practice. Not only dont you know if the note will sound properly, but you cant be 100% sure your left pinky will not let you down. Well I am getting there now. Fingering too is only practice, and its the easier part of it.

One other thing that I have gleaned is to hold the pinky keys down hard. They are big ports and you if look up the spout its very easy to see a little slip of daylight if you are not pressing hard. I do have the saxes serviced frequently but you cant be sending them away all the time, so you have to accept that there is a less than perfect norm, I think, and deal with it.

Lastly I have devised an image of airflow. Whereas I used to think of it swirling through the sax, now I think of the flow past the reed. This has really helped me with the right breathing and the right "air", but I really think that all these things are topping for a base of regular practice and use of these low notes, and for thinking of that end of the sax as just another place to find the notes. Not a danger zone. I have been really fed up with using what feels like only half of the tenor, and not the best half at that, and I will get to be a musical low life very soon.

Anyway, drums arrived today so I can at least hit something without feeling guilty. Just going home to explain to herself why it was so very neccessary to buy them. I am sure she will understand. May even find it funny.
Oh yes.
Cheers
Mike
 

Jeanette

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Have fun with the drums

re wet reeds I do find soaking my sop reeds for a minute or two before playing helps :)

I don't have a tenor tho so can't comment but imagine soaking will help

Jx
 

Colin the Bear

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Burnley bb9 9dn
I can't get on with plasticover reeds. I like the organic way a reed plays in, settles and then dies. Pushing and exploring the possibilities with a given reed is all part of the charm and frustration of the saxophone.

If you have to sqeeze anything hard on the saxophone it needs regulating. Any leaks will make low notes difficult or give poor tone. I agree you can't keep taking it to the tech and so it's necessary to learn to do a few simple tweaks yourself. Replacing worn corks and adjusting the mechanism with the screws is pretty basic stuff. Some instruments have keys that are easily bent. The good news is if they are easily bent out of alignment they're easily bent back. Gentle is the keyword. Some are brittle and will snap and some are poorly soldered on and will come off in your hand. I've never taken an instrument to a tech.

A 3 is quite a stiff reed. If you're struggling with low notes, a softer reed is indicated. If a three is too hard and a 2 is too soft it would seem a 2.5 is indicated. The right set up should be a peasure to play top to bottom.

Hearing an experienced player produce the sound you would like to produce can be inspiring and frustrating in equal measure. It all takes time and regular practice. Four hours a day for six months should sort out any problems.

Practicing the drums won't help saxophone tone.
 

kernewegor

Bon vivant, raconteur and twit
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I bough a plastic clarinet reed decades ago. It had steps in, and was a translucent brown with some sort of fibre mesh imbedded in it if I remember rightly - no idea now what make it was.

It wasn't a great success. I occasionally wonder about some sort of synthetic reed, but have not so far decided to gamble on getting the right strength.

I have considered experimenting by 'freezing' a reed at its peak of playability with varnish or some such product... carefully checked for toxicity, of course...
 

jeremyjuicewah

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Costa Blanca Spain
I have a synthetic alto reed, I thought, a few years ago that twenty quid on plakky reed would save millions. I never got the hang of it. Actually I remember now I cut my lip open with it and never used it again. The plasticised reeds are the black ones, very much as you are trying to do with the freezing, these things are dipped in plastic so no wetting, no drying out. I like them for the tone. It is a little different.

Trouble with a weaker reed and I have tried a 2.5, is the top end. High C sharp is a horrid note with a weaker reed, and as for the palm keys I would sooner listen to a ukele. (I had nearly forgotten, that was my very first instrument. The open strings played "Why Am I So Starry Eyed" by I forget who. Dear old dad, he was sorry he bought me that one). I think I may give the 2.5 another go now though.

I have just had another hour at it and changed to my new second hand Otto Link mpc which is a 7 with a 3 plasticised and it is quite a lot easier than the Jumbo Java.

I am fairly confident I am on the verge of breakthrough. Whether I will ever make the sweet sound I want is another matter. The bloke was pretty flipping impressive. Four hours a day for six months is not poss for me, but I enjoy a good set to with a problem. It is just fantastic when you begin to get better.
Have a good weekend all
Mike
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
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Sorry, should have commented before.
Assuming no leaks.

Always soak natural cane. That way the reed starts off as wet as when you've been playing for a while. Reeds soften as they get wet.

Those lush low notes are a function of mouthpiece and you. Links seem to do it easily with a soft reed. You're doing little more than breathing lightly into the sax with a loose embouchure and open throat. Start mid range, lower register and do long tones like that until it comes easily. Then gradually work your way down the scale. Use the softest reed that will still give you the high notes.
 

altissimo

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leicester
it's possible that a Jumbo Java T75 might not be the best mouthpiece for you - the Jumbo Java has a long high baffle that makes it sound brighter, but might affect your lower notes. I've found some high baffle mouthpieces more difficult to play softly in the lower regions of the horn and they can want to leap up an octave more readily than some more 'traditional' mouthpieces, like the Otto Link
The Link 7 has a slightly smaller tip opening and will sound decidedly darker than the Jumbo, so may be better for the kind of 'waffling' sound you're after. Although if your sax is leaking, gentle soft low register subtones may be difficult.
To get the best out of an Otto Link, practice long tones, plenty of air support, open your throat - all the usual virtuous activities that we're meant to do.
As far as I know, Rico Plasticovers are just the regular 'orange box' Rico's with a plastic coating, they're ok, but not wonderful
 
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Merryfisher

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Hampshire
on the reed thing, i've used fibracells for years. i guess it seems one either loves em or hates em. recently, out of curiosity i tried a few natural reeds thinking that maybe after all my years on fibracells i had been missing something special. well, nothing had changed, in fact to me the natural reeds were stuffier and more unreliable then ever i had remembered. but then it is probably just me and my averageness......
 

jazzdoh

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2,537
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West Midlands
on the reed thing, i've used fibracells for years. i guess it seems one either loves em or hates em. recently, out of curiosity i tried a few natural reeds thinking that maybe after all my years on fibracells i had been missing something special. well, nothing had changed, in fact to me the natural reeds were stuffier and more unreliable then ever i had remembered. but then it is probably just me and my averageness......

+1
I too have played fibracells for years on alto but do play cane on sopranino and sometimes on soprano.
 

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