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Variability of soft (1.5) reeds

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
I was wondering if the thinner tips of soft reeds leads to more variability in a box than harder reeds?

I think I lucked out with my first reed from a box of 1.5 Superials - it has nice playability from top to bottom and allows me to achieve a really nice sub-tone. However, I think it may be on it's way out as I'm finding the bell notes more difficult now than when I first started using the reed.

I've tried six other reeds from the box and can't achieve the same results with any. A few are "ok"; one is really free blowing from top to bottom, but sounds very "reedy" (buzzy rather than soft); and one is almost unplayable.

I know finding good reeds is the bane of all sax players, but I was under the impression that Alexander reeds were more consistent than other brands.

I'm already tempted by a Legere, once my embouchure strengthens a bit, simply to remove one variable from my playing, but maybe that's a cop out!
 
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Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,024
Rico Royal reeds do it for me and I find them to be very consistent. Reeds are certainly not the bane of my life. It could be that Rico reeds suit my Selmer mouthpieces, I don't know. However, your experience seems to be quite typical of many brands, from what I hear. Searching through boxes of reeds looking for a good one wouldn't suit me. Rico reeds are among the least expensive out there so why not try them.

Jim.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
I would be surprised if the tips themselves vary in thickness whatever strength of reed. Unfortunately my micrometer is back in England, so I can't check.
Perhaps someone would like to check?

John.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
This is all conjecture,
For economic reasons, I doubt very much if a reed manufacturer has a range of machines for making different strength reeds. So this is my hypothesis:-

1. The cane is graded for density, and batched accordingly - soft, medium, hard.

2. Runs of one type of density are undertaken at a time (all strengths of reed going through the same machines!).

3. The finished reeds then undergo a visual, and deflection test (so much force required to bend the reed a certain distance). It is here I believe that the discrepancies occur. Some reeds will not meet the exact requirements for one particular strength of reed, but are not so far out of tolerance as to require rejection. These are the ones at the lower price range.
It may be that there are further tests for the reeds that are in tollerance, and of course the more test, the higher the price.

John.
 
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old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
As reed is a natural product, it would be surprising if there was not differences. Even indoor crops grown under strict control vary. Possibly the answer is to use man made reeds like Fibracell, Legere and the others if this really bothers you, as they should be repeatable.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
As reed is a natural product, it would be surprising if there was not differences. Even indoor crops grown under strict control vary. Possibly the answer is to use man made reeds like Fibracell, Legere and the others if this really bothers you, as they should be repeatable.
Watcher O.G.
You are of course quite right about synthetics. It is a simple process to get the mix right. I'm using a Fibracell now with my PPT 8*, but have still scraped it to suit.
It certainly doesn't bother me that reeds vary, I've scraped them to suit me for years. It was one of the first things I was taught!
My tutor didn't believe in his pupils struggling (as so many appear to be on the Forum). Often blaming embouchure.
I have yet to find a reed that plays to my satisfaction, straight out of the box!!
Some people though, find the process of adjusting the reed, too much trouble.
 
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TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
It may also help, if you don't do this already, to prepare your reeds as it suggests on the Alexander website. I am sure that this would play its part in making reeds more consistent. As you say Superials should be very consistent, but I have read a number of SOTW reports that are currently raising doubts about this. I stick to Marca Jazz Reeds & Francois Louis Excellence reeds now.

Kind regards
Tom
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
It may also help, if you don't do this already, to prepare your reeds as it suggests on the Alexander website. I am sure that this would play its part in making reeds more consistent.
Hi Tom, yes I am doing this. I'm gently breaking in the reeds as well; will try them all again this afternoon...

As you say Superials should be very consistent, but I have read a number of SOTW reports that are currently raising doubts about this.
That's interesting. Will check out SOTW.
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Don't forget to let us know how you got on.
I tried the seven reeds this afternoon. A couple of the reeds did appear to have "loosened" up to the point that they are viable options, but the variability is huge; which is not very encouraging when you're starting to play again and need consistency in the instrument. I have my first lesson tomorrow and will discuss this with my teacher.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Hi there,
As well as looking at Pete's SOTW reply to "Practice with a harder reed", reply No #2, have a look at Tom Rideour's "ATG System" and the SOTW comments about it.
In fact, I think everyone should look at them.

John (I know how to make myself popular).
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
Messages
3,662
On alto and tenor I use Vandoren 2 blues. I don't think I've ever had one that didn't play, or was even bad straight out of the box. I used to use Rico's, but for some reason they used to make my lip sore. They felt a little rough to me so I swapped to the Vandoren.
I'm using La Voz medium soft on the Bari and since I started playing it eight weeks ago, I've just put on my second reed this evening. I'm too new to these to pass any sort of comment yet, but I'll keep you posted.
I think that too much emphasis is placed on "getting a good reed" and not on "sorting out a good embouchure" I'm not saying that a bad workman blames his tools, but you are still a fairly new player and not too experienced at comparing reeds. This isn't a personal slur, (I always shpeek like thish ;}) but perhaps you should work on technique. Hopefully your teacher will help. HD has always rated Karen very highly, so have fun tomorrow.
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
On alto and tenor I use Vandoren 2 blues. I don't think I've ever had one that didn't play, or was even bad straight out of the box. I used to use Rico's, but for some reason they used to make my lip sore. They felt a little rough to me so I swapped to the Vandoren.
I'm using La Voz medium soft on the Bari and since I started playing it eight weeks ago, I've just put on my second reed this evening. I'm too new to these to pass any sort of comment yet, but I'll keep you posted.
I think that too much emphasis is placed on "getting a good reed" and not on "sorting out a good embouchure" I'm not saying that a bad workman blames his tools, but you are still a fairly new player and not too experienced at comparing reeds. This isn't a personal slur, (I always shpeek like thish ;}) but perhaps you should work on technique. Hopefully your teacher will help. HD has always rated Karen very highly, so have fun tomorrow.
Hmmmmm. I'm afraid it's a chicken & egg situation. Before you can start on embouchure, you have to be able to have some controll over the sound coming from the instrument. Reeds play a major part in this, and the thought of someone struggling to get enough air through the m'piece to produce a tone, fills me with dismay. I wouldn't mind betting that this is happening in a lot of cases!
I wonder how many tutors actually play their students instruments, to see if the reed/m'piece combination is O.K.
It could well be in this situation that the 1.5 reed is too soft and is closing up and jamming.


John.
 
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VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
I'm not saying that a bad workman blames his tools, but you are still a fairly new player and not too experienced at comparing reeds. This isn't a personal slur, (I always shpeek like thish ;}) but perhaps you should work on technique. Hopefully your teacher will help. HD has always rated Karen very highly, so have fun tomorrow.
I'd be the first to admit that I need to improve my technique, particularly for the bell notes. Having said that, the differences between the good reed that I'm playing with and the others are stark. Some are visibly thicker than others, some are asymmetric in their translucency at the tips, and one just feels very rough (to the touch and in the mouth).

It might be that the one that works for me is particularly soft and my embouchure need strengthening before I can play the others. At the very least, I think, as John mentioned in a PM, a bit of sanding/scraping might be required. I'll see what Karen says first!
 

VirusKiller

Member
Messages
449
Well, the short answer was that Karen felt the "good" reed I was using was too soft and that, in all likelihood (and as I suspected) as I'd been playing it for two weeks, I'd worn it out. This was on the basis that I wasn't getting a huge amount of volume from it with my #9 mpc.

My sax was fine with no leaks. Clearly, I need to strengthen my embouchure and diaphragm to get the harder reeds to work. Although she clearly leans on the side of natural reeds vs. synthetic, she had no problem with my trying a Legere and conceded that removing one variable from the equation could be a good thing at this point. We didn't talk that much about the variability of the reeds in the box as we had so much else to talk about - I think the simple truth is that the reeds in that box are quite different. Having said that, we did try the hard reed that I described previously as "unplayable" and got a reasonable sound from it, so maybe it is breaking in too. It did require a lot tighter embouchure and more umpf though.

As an aside, I'm going to switch to tenor right away and will probably get myself a Legere Signature for the time being.
 

Saxade

Senior Member
Messages
287
Hi there,
As well as looking at Pete's SOTW reply to "Practice with a harder reed", reply No #2, have a look at Tom Rideour's "ATG System" and the SOTW comments about it.
In fact, I think everyone should look at them.

John (I know how to make myself popular).
Has Anyone here had any success getting one delivered. I ordered mine in Nov still waiting and no replies to my Emails. I know I am in Aussie but still :rolleyes:
 

les3716

Member
Messages
181
I've had so much fun with reeds over the years lol. Its trail and error, until you find the right combo that suit you.
Love listening to how players experament! Costly these days too.
Hope you find a solution soon.
Les.
 

gladsaxisme

Try Hard Die Hard
Subscriber
Messages
3,409
Hi John

That's a very interesting and plausible hypothesis of your's I wonder how near to the truth it is,you would think that some of our experts out there would know the actual way the manufacturers grade their reeds and enlighten us all.But as far as I'm concerned what ever method they use it certainly isn't working and they should be ashamed of themselves,or should we all accept that 2 out of 10 ain't bad,I don't think so...john
 
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