Reeds Scraping reeds


Hi I was wondering how many of you adjust your saxophone reeds. It seems such a waste, not to mention the cost, throwing them away if they don't play well. I'm very much a beginner and have found that two reeds out of the same box don't play anything like the same. I have one Rico 2 reed that plays really easily and another that is a brute. I was just going to throw it away but I thought I would try scraping it. I made bagpipe reeds for years so I have the scraping knife but they are not hard to make and sharpen. Anyway I scraped it wet away from the tip, rather towards the ligature and with just a little scraped off the difference was amazing. I generally found when making bagpipe reeds that the place to scrape them was near the binding, The tip can be left as it is.
My first instrument is the bassoon, instrument of choice for reed nerds, so I always assumed that I would scrape my saxophone reeds.
I flatten the bottom with a Reed Geek, then try to get the two sides even.
If a reed feels too hard, or a bit stuffy, then I will do more.
"The Art of Saxophone Playing" by Larry Teal has an excellent chapter on reeds. On pages 28 - 29 an illustration showing the part of a reed is accompanied by a chart describing how scraping sections of a reed affects how it plays, This alone is worth the cost of the book which is a useful reference for all aspects of playing the saxophone.
Never. Some people like to adjust them but I ruined too many OK clarinet reeds as a youngster by trying to make them perfect. If a new one is too stiff I may bend it a little to soften it up, but that's it.. The way a reed plays changes from day to day anyway so I'd rather adapt to the variations by adjusting embouchure and/or air supply. I very rarely have to throw one away without getting any use out of it.. I know some seriously good players who tinker with reeds and some who don't, so it seems to be a personal thing.
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Before you start have a look at this. You don't neeed to spend so much money. Reed trimmers are quite expensive. You need one for each saxophone if you play more one. I prefer a reed trimmer with regulator.

Check these guys out. Before I switched to Legere plastics this was the simplest and easiest IMO way to deal with reeds
The only adjustment I do regularly is to flatten the bottom with a reed knife.
I've had success by following charts and guides like the one thomsax posted before, but I guess I'm lazy.
I'm thinking about doing it regularly again now that I've been playing a lot of alto, where I struggle to find good reeds.
That chart above is very good. The area I would scrape would be the buff coloured area. If you hold the reed up to light you can see if it looks very dense in places. When I was making bagpipe reeds I would aim for an even graduation of light to dark areas. Also scraping the edges if they looked thick helped a lot. It depended on the piece of cane. You could get a dark looking piece that played very well and a lemon coloured one that was hard to blow whereas you would expect the opposite. The reason why I think they would need adjusting is that they are all made by machine exactly the same whereas each piece of cane is different.
I get a straight edge and hold it across the back of the reed ( after it has been played for a while) hold it up to the light and most times it will be swelled out in the centre. Flattering the back gets it playing again. This is the one most common problem and saves many reeds from the bin
Having played for nearly a year now I do wander whether I'm worthy of reed adjustments...
Having played for nearly a year now I do wander whether I'm worthy of reed adjustments...

No reason why not! It's really up to you and how much time you are prepared to put into it. Using the Reedgeek is quite straightforward. At least flattening the bottom of the reed. I use mine almost daily. But I started using a synthetic reed on tenor that works for me, so I'm considering moving to synthetic on all horns as it's really nice to just leave it there and just play!

I am using a Légère Signature and it's really growing on me. It's so good that I'm currently using a mouthpiece that fits it well rather than trying to find a reed that fits my preferred mouthpiece. But I'll be ordering the appropriate strength to suit my preferred pieces soon now that I'm hooked!
You certainly are worthy. If you have a bad reed you have nothingto lose. Just take small amounts off at a time. There's a lot about this in utube but a lot of it is dodgy advice and sometimes just trying to sell you some over priced gadget. I got a reed knife for about £20 and went nad on a vandoren reed surfacer which is excellent for flattening the back but rather expensive
After purchasing a nice reed clipper and a Reed Geed, I learned a valuable lesson. I wanted to squeeze every ounce of life from my old reeds, so clipped and shaved a box full of old stuff. Then one day, I realized the 17 boxes of new reeds were absolutely worthless (too soft). My eyes and nose had acclimated to the stiffer reeds that I manipulated.. After some dance lesson, I'm wearing the old size tights.
You can make them harder by clipping a bit off the end.

Indeed. When I did that, it created a large strength inconsistency. I just worked hard and re-adapted to the original strength reed.. I'm a 1-2-3 guy.
So I went for it... Being a cheapskate my first reed surgery investment was a box of safety razors...

... I'm yet to do any open heart surgery but the results from tiny bit of scrapage seem ok and flattening the bottom of some of the vandoren blues made a world of a difference in a lot of the reads that were ready for the bin...

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