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Beginner When is a good time to try new reeds?

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Hello everyone.

I've had my tenor for a couple of weeks and although I'm obviously very much at the bottom of the learning curve, I'm really enjoying the experience of playing. I was supplied with a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece and Rico 1.5 reeds (I believe they are the standard, rather than royal version). How long do people play before trying out new reeds? My understanding is that Rico Royals will give a more mellow sound than the standards; I would really like a smoky rather than brash sound from the horn - is it true that Royals might help me attain this? Is it advisable to build up technique on the 1.5 reeds before trying something a little stiffer?

Cheers,

Pete
 

johnboy

Senior Member
Messages
1,179
Hello everyone.

I've had my tenor for a couple of weeks and although I'm obviously very much at the bottom of the learning curve, I'm really enjoying the experience of playing. I was supplied with a Yamaha 5C mouthpiece and Rico 1.5 reeds (I believe they are the standard, rather than royal version). How long do people play before trying out new reeds? My understanding is that Rico Royals will give a more mellow than the standards; I would really like a smoky rather than brash sound from the horn - is it true that Royals might help me attain this? Is it advisable to build up technique on the 1.5 reeds before trying something a little stiffer?

Cheers,

Pete
Hi Pete,
IMO, yes stick to the reeds you have, you should have more control over the pitch of the note, which will develope your embouchure quicker than if you move to a stiffer reed.

John :):):):):):)>:)
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Move up when you find the current reeds limit you. Not until. You'll meet this when you try higher notes.
 

baritonesax

Member
Messages
256
Pete, you're starting with a slightly more open mouthpiece than is usual for a beginner. Not a problem or anything, but it may mean that you stick with these softer reeds for longer than might otherwise be the case.

That said, you'll know when to move up to harder reeds as your tone becomes more stable and richer sounding, because it will feel like your reed is working against you. It will feel unresponsive and will even "stall" completely when playing loudly.

Ordinary Ricos are OK to get going with, but they are bright and brash. Royals are better, more refined. Incidentally, orange box Ricos are brilliant for baritone sax, but pretty coarse for almost any other purpose

By the way, don't just play one reed until it gives up, then move on to another reed. Have four good reeds on the go, and play them in rotation. If you play just one reed, it will get softer and softer each time you play it and your embouchure will slacken imperceptibly to accommodate your increasingly flabby reed. Then, when the time comes to bin it, you'll find all your other reeds seem to be unplayably hard.
 

Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,011
You can try Rico Royals anytime and compare them. Follow the advice not to play a "pet" reed forever. I have been playing Rico Royal #2 reeds for years and have no intention of moving up.

Jim.
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
I was sure I'd commented further on this thread - perhaps it got lost in the ether. Thanks for all the comments.

Anyway, to update; I had to buy a new sling because my other was unsafe (open hook) and hideously uncomfortable. Whilst I was in the shop I mentioned the reed issue to the sax shop man and he sold me a Rico Royal and a Vandoren Java Red to try, both number 2.
I've only had a chance to try the Rico Royal, but what a difference it makes - I can play relatively much quieter and I feel I have more control. The Vandoren has yet to be tried.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
The Rico reed you started with (I assume an Orange box) is an American Cut reed - a thicker reed which will have a more percussive/stronger sound. The Rico Royal and Java Red are both French Cut - generally cut twice so a thinner reed which should be more flexible and possibly a little brighter sound. It is useful to try each type as they do have different playing characteristics and produce a different sound. I do find that The French Cut is more capable of producing a smoky sound than an American Cut which is better for funk, rock and louder stuff.

Regarding reeds I do think that it is worth trying a few different ones from the start, so that you find what works/sounds best for you. I find that I like Marca Jazz. Rico Jazz Select filed and Alexander DC's on Tenor If I am after a smoky sound, but it does depend on mouthpiece, embouchure and other things too. The more flexible a reed is the more likely you are to be able to produce a smoky sound and play quietly whilst also producing a good sound.

One of Snake Davis's exercises is to try and gradually breathe onto the reed until a sound emerges, by increasing the airflow gradually. It will certainly help your quiet playing.

Your sax shop man sounds spot on with his recommendations and will be interested to hear how the Java Red sounds.
 
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davidk

Paints With Notes
Messages
354
Hi

There is a useful book on mouthpieces available from Dawkes, by their mouthpiece specialist Anton Weinberg. In it, he describes the difference between French and American cuts. This description doesn't quite match Tom's (this doesn't mean that Tom is wrong, just that his description isn't the same as Anton's :))

He talks in terms of matching the reed to the mouthpiece facing. American style mouthpieces generally have a smooth, almost flat curve towards the table, then a more abrupt change in angle to the tip. These tend to work best with thicker tipped reeds (American cut). French style mouthpieces have a more uniform curve with no abrupt changes in angle. These tend to work best with thinner tipped reeds (French cut). In other words, the reed profile works best when it is kind of mirror image of the facing curve. The book explains it better.

In addition, there can be filing on the reed, where the bark is removed from the reed's cut. This is sometimes called French Filing.

Taking the example of Vandoren reeds, there is the blue box, which is French cut, and is filed (French filed). Then the Java, V16 and ZZ reeds are American cut. These are non-filed, except the Java Red, which is American cut (thicker tip), French filed (bark removed). (The Java Green is American cut, non-filed.)

A French cut reed such as the Vandoren blue box would probably work better on a Selmer mouthpiece, while a Java, V16 or ZZ reed would probably work better on an Otto Link.

Please experiment though. When you know what strength of a particular cut works best for you, try different cuts of reed with an equivalent strength (these won't necessarily have the same number).

I hope this is helpful for someone.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
What if you play a Japanese mouthpiece - do you have to use a reed from the Far East - like Flying Goose. I think my dilemma with what you report is that the American Cut reeds invariably come across as harder than the equivalent French Cut reeds. On mouthpieces with an abrupt angle up to the tip I find the American Cut reeds harder to play, not easier, and the reverse with, say, Selmer type mouthpieces. On the whole I prefer filed French cut reeds for their fast response and more flexible sound, though play Alexander NY reeds when I want a more percussive sound for Funk, Rock etc.

So I am probably a little skeptical of Anton's theory - especially when we take into account different facings and tip openings - and not sure that I find it particularly helpful. A mouthpiece is a mouthpiece (I sometimes play a Saxscape Xtra Dark on Tenor - made in America by an American, but a piece that is inspired by French Selmer Hard Rubber pieces - what reed to play in that particular case?

Hence Anton may have a very good theoretical understanding of the issue in question - I'm just not sure of the practical use for many people - Stan Getz used to play an (American) Otto Link with (French Cut) Vandoren Blue Box reeds - I bet Anton would give him a real bollocking if he found out...................................:shocked::w00t:;}
 

zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
My sample size is 2, so probably the opinion does not count for much, but I would say the Rico (orange) 1.5 is harder to play than the Rico Royal 2 - i.e. the Rico Royal 2 seems softer, as Tom said below.

On a tangent I often find I get a warbly bubbling sound - I think I have tracked this down to one or two possible causes - not pushing the mouthpiece onto the crook far enough and not supporting my note with adequate air pressure. Interestingly, the Rico (orange) bubbles on the low F or below, whereas the Rico Royal seems to cause bubbling from G or below.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
I said it above your post, not below - you sound more Half Cut than French Cut.........;}

When Charlie Parker started, he played Rico Orange Box reeds. He often used to produce a bubbly, warbly sound, which was why Santy Runyon (his first teacher and also producer of his Runyon 22 mouthpiece) gave him the nickname "Bird". I do wonder whether French sax players are simply less extrovert than their American counterparts, and tend to produce a less raucous sound, requiring a more subtle reed...........................:w00t:
 

davidk

Paints With Notes
Messages
354
The book goes into which mouthpieces have an American facing and which have a French. For example, the French-made Vandoren V16 mouthpiece has an American facing.

I was attempting to summarise a theory of reed cuts. But as always, play what works best for you.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
I am aware that the mouthpiece facing curves are generally Short, Medium and Long. Selmer is a good example of Short, and Otto Link an example of Medium from Yesteryear - hence the French/American classification I imagine. Apparently Short emphasises Upper register, Long emphasises Lower register, and Medium has more versatility as a result. Good reading below - from Theo Wanne's website:
http://theowanne.com/knowledge/mouthpiece-features/mouthpiece-facings
 
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zebrafoot

Member
Messages
63
Quick update time:

I tried the Vandoren Java Red tonight, albeit after playing a little while on the Rico Royal, so I was perhaps somewhat fatigued already. It comes in a nice foil wrapper a bit like a sweetie, which is obviously very appealing for a big kid like me.

First impressions of the reed were that it gave quite a bright, "brassy" sound, although not offensive this is markedly different to the softer Rico Royal. Most impressively, I found I had a lot of control down the range - I had a go at God Bless the Child which I have as a playalong for Bb Trumpet/Cornet, with a lot of fiddling about on the D/C. I had no problem hitting those notes straight off. Dynamic range was good too - I could really back off the volume and still get the notes to sound, or blat it out good and proper.

Overall it's much nicer to play than my original reed, although I think I prefer the softer tone of the Rico Royal. They are both good in their own right I guess. One small gripe for the Vandoren is that the reed holder is a side-entry style one and it looks like it would be quite easy to inadvertently damage the reed tip.

On another tangent - if I'm playing a reasonably fast passage with a G# in it, should I leave my finger on the G# key, or will it interfere with tone/intonation of other notes?

Pete
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
The Vandoren is a slightly harder and certainly a brighter reed than the Rico Royal, which sounds more like the Vandoren Traditional reed, according to some forum members. In my experience a Hard Rubber mouthpiece tends to counteract any brassiness i sound, bu there are various contributary factors - including embouchure.
Oneof the best ways of putting the Vandoren reed back into its holder is to begin with the blunt end, rather than the tip. A proper reed box may be called for at some point to take the stress away - the Rico reed holder seems much better.

Glad that it is going well in the French cut/filed experience!
 
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kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
On the latter point it does badly affect E & D and possibly others below so not a very good idea.
It shouldn't unless there's something wrong with the sax's setup. G# has a complicated mechanism to allow the player to leave the G# pressed. The linkage for the DEF keys forces G# closed and unless this linkage is poorly regulated, there's no difference in the tone.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
One small gripe for the Vandoren is that the reed holder is a side-entry style one and it looks like it would be quite easy to inadvertently damage the reed tip.
I've bust a few Vandoren because of this. Either use a rico freebie guard, or invest in an inexpensive La Voz reed guard. The one for 4 reeds is good, so you can keep a few on the go at the same time and it holds the reeds nice and flat.

I've tried the reed guard and reed case from this link:

http://store.daddario.com/category/146195

both work well.
 
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TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
It shouldn't unless there's something wrong with the sax's setup. G# has a complicated mechanism to allow the player to leave the G# pressed. The linkage for the DEF keys forces G# closed and unless this linkage is poorly regulated, there's no difference in the tone.
It is just on my Alto which is due for its service and booked in already - I've removed the advice from my post above. I'll make sure the mechanism is focussed on.
 
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