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Reeds Soaking new reeds good or bad?

BeBopSop

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Hi all, I have some new reeds (6) arrived today to test (I am after a reed that suits me) I seem to remember reading somewhere to soak them in a dish of water for a while, is this ok to do,
thanks John
 

dooce

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You are opening a can of worms with that question buddy - a much debated topic. But to summarise, lots of people swear by giving them a good soaking before doing anything else with them. Lots of people (me among them) also swear by just ripping open the packet and and playing them. Whatever works best for you, but to answer your question, yes it is fine to soak reeds.
 

Colin the Bear

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Plasticover and synthetics don't need a soak but good old cane seems to benefit from it.

No need to do the whole box at once though. Soak a couple see how you go.


If I'm practicing or playing in the house I just lick and stick it on but I've started taking mine to a gig in their holders in a lock and lock floating in water. I've been playing sop alto tenor bari and clarinet and they dry out somewhat while on the stand. So taking them wet helps with the drying out.

If you keep them damp they will grow mildew and taste yuckky. Some recommend adding alcohol to the water and some use neat gin to combat this.
 

Bobby G

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Personally I like my reeds soaked for about 10-15 minutes before playing, but there are some people who do just fine with the lick'n'stick method. Whatever suits you, I suppose, but I suspect if you only soak a reed for a few minutes before each session it will probably wear out before it gets to tasting horrible (mine all taste fine).
 

wol916

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I've started taking mine to a gig in their holders in a lock and lock floating in water. I've been playing sop alto tenor bari and clarinet and they dry out somewhat while on the stand. So taking them wet helps with the drying out.
.

Have you though about a humidor, although several reeds kept in a ziplock bag together seems to have the same effect.

John,
I use Alexander Superials and the instructions in the tin say you must soak for 2 or 3 minutes prior to first use. I find it makes a big difference but I guess it's a personal thing, suck it and see - or blow ;}
 

jbtsax

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I realize there are as many different opinions as there are sax players. My experience is that over soaking a reed fills the fibers completely with water and causes the reed to play stuffy (my word is tubby) and unresponsive. Moistening the reed just enough to make the tip flat and even is just the right amount in my opinion.

When I test a new box of reeds, I put the cut part of the reeds in a glass of water for less than a minute and lay them all out on a flat surface. A few seconds play on each and it gets moved forward or back. Then I give the back row another play to see if any have possibilities. The back row then goes back into the box, and the front row goes into my reed guards for future playing and testing.
 

Targa

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This weather makes a difference.
A reed that I usually just suck and play for the last two days has refused to cooperate until it's had a bath.
 

jbtsax

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I have found that reeds I play at home stay wet enough to play well for a couple of days after I have played them due to the moist air from our evaporative (swamp) cooler. The reeds I play in my shop with a refrigerated air conditioner go dry in less than an hour, and need to be re-wet to play. Perhaps the humidity where one lives does make a difference.
 

kernewegor

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I have found that reeds I play at home stay wet enough to play well for a couple of days after I have played them due to the moist air from our evaporative (swamp) cooler. The reeds I play in my shop with a refrigerated air conditioner go dry in less than an hour, and need to be re-wet to play. Perhaps the humidity where one lives does make a difference.


Humidity will make a difference, with no doubt whatsoever.

I worked for much of my life as a boatbuilder and can assure everyone here that timber (and tho' cane is botanically grass, structurally you can regard it as timber) does all sorts of interesting things when its moisture content is altered - shrinking, swelling, warping, bending... it's something you really need to know in the boatbuilding trade (boats... water... obvious, really!)

A really dry atmosphere will cause timber to shrink, so much so that wooden boats may leak upon launching until they 'take up'. Some species of timber you can almost tie knots in if you steam it for a period... others - e.g. teak, jarrah - refuse to play.

If you have a dry plank of, say, oak, elm or pine, it will be much stiffer than if you steam it for half an hour or so (depending on thickness) or just soak it for a day or two. Just picking it up and flexing it in your hands and the difference is obvious. A plank is rather the same shape as a reed... just a lot bigger.

So, yes, the ambient humidity will affect your reeds, and soaking them will make increase the amount that they flex for a given pressure.

Whether or not you need to soak your reeds, and for how long, depends on a lot of variables... and a spell of very dry or very humid weather is going to vary the variables (invariably!)

The only answer is to be aware of the problem and...play it by ear!
 
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BeBopSop

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Humidity will make a difference, with no doubt whatsoever.

I worked for much of my life as a boatbuilder and can assure everyone here that timber (and tho' cane is botanically grass, structurally you can regard it as timber) does all sorts of interesting things when its moisture content is altered - shrinking, swelling, warping, bending... it's something you really need to know in the boatbuilding trade (boats... water... obvious, really!)

A really dry atmosphere will cause timber to shrink, so much so that wooden boats may leak upon launching until they 'take up'. Some species of timber you can almost tie knots in if you steam it for a period... others - e.g. teak, jarrah - refuse to play.

If you have a dry plank of, say, oak, elm or pine, it will be much stiffer than if you steam it for half an hour or so (depending on thickness) or just soak it for a day or two. Just picking it up and flexing it in your hands and the difference is obvious. A plank is rather the same shape as a reed... just a lot bigger.

So, yes, the ambient humidity will affect your reeds, and soaking them will make increase the amount that they flex for a given pressure.

Whether or not you need to soak your reeds, and for how long, depends on a lot of variables... and a spell of very dry or very humid weather is going to vary the variables (invariably!)

The only answer is to be aware of the problem and...play it by ear!

Thanks kernewegor, I put some new reeds in a glass of water for 1 minute yesterday (hot day) and they played fine straight from the cup! I did dry them 1st. I think just licking them in this hot air, just gets them to swell and dry out at the same time, causing corrugating across the tip, whereas the 1 minute soak makes them absorb equally and evenly.
 

TomMapfumo

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Wet them, always, the whole reed, not just the tip, and play them when wet, don't dry.

http://www.superial.com/mainten_breakin.html

Saliva does rot reeds, with the enzymes therein. Rotate them, though, so that they have time to recover - I always have four or so in a Vandoren reed case or similar. Massaging them briefly beforehand helps compact the fibres.

Dry reeds are more likely to squeak, also, and last a shorter period of time.
I always prepare my reeds, and wet them everytime I play. This adds up to about 2 hours a year, and I save time on ordering new ones and opening packaging, which can take more than 2 hours per year. :thumb:
 

jbtsax

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You don't mean to soak the "whole reed" including the uncut part, do you? I've always just wet the vamp, and it works just fine.
 

kernewegor

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You don't mean to soak the "whole reed" including the uncut part, do you? I've always just wet the vamp, and it works just fine.

Working from first principles and experience as a boatbuilder and woodworker, if you soak a piece of timber by submersion it will raise the moisture content much more quickly and reliably than if you just wet one surface. This would certainly apply to reeds. The temperature of the water would make a difference, too - if you popped a reed in boiling water (or coffee!) it would soften it even quicker... but it could end up too soft...

If just wetting the vamp works the reed must be almost right when its dry.

It's all empirical stuff, really (posh word for experience!) - stick it in a mug of cold water for a minute or so and give it a go. If still a bit tough, give it another go.

The weather here (Cornwall) has been amazingly hot and dry for weeks (the ground in my garden is like gunpowder where it hasn't been watered) so I have been finding that reeds which I usually just 'lick 'n stick' need a minute or two in water.

Today is overcast with a thunderstorm possible tomorrow, so I expect I'll be back to 'lick 'n stick' with the same reeds - until we return to another heatwave...
 

Colin the Bear

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I've been having some success using soda water. I wonder if it's the bubbles or the pH?
 

TomMapfumo

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I've been having some success using soda water. I wonder if it's the bubbles or the pH?

You should get together with Nick "Vodka Boy" Wyver and concoct a new brew! :shocked::w00t:;}
If you want great Spritzers, follow the Bear!

I'm sticking to Gin and Water.
Tom :thumb:
 

jbtsax

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Yes! You don't know what you are missing!
That may be true, but I do know what I'm doing. ;}

Logic tells me that soaking the bark or "stock" as it is called causes the fibers at the bottom of the reed to swell in the area that sits on the table of the mouthpiece. It is a fact that the flatter the back of the reed is, the more airtight a seal it produces, and the better it responds.

Wetting
the back of the reed in that area is not the same as soaking it.

The vamp of the reed should be moistened to straighten out the tip and "limber up" the portion of the reed that vibrates and produces the soundwave. There is no logical reason I can think of to soak the portion of the reed that does not vibrate.
 

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