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Would you expect this to improve the sound?

Chris Smith UK

Well-Known Member
Ringwood, New Forest, UK
Hi everyone - earlier today, I was going through my practice routine. I had done some long tones, and started my scales, so altogether I had been playing about 15 minutes.
Then my daughter called me, and I had to stop to help her with a problem.

So 15 minutes later when I went back to the sax, I thought the reed has probably dried out; so I will have to take it off the mouthpiece and wet it again. However I thought I would give it a quick blow just to see, and it sounded A LOT better than usual. I continued with my practice with no problems.

Is that normal? If you put the sax down after playing for a while, how long can you leave it before the reed would be too dry?
First thing that comes to my mind is if you are initially getting a good seal between the reed and the table.

Over that period it may have swollen to fill gaps.

...just a hunch, not something Ive experienced.

Also, are you wetting the reed well, including the area that sits on the table?
are you wetting the reed well, including the area that sits on the table?
Is it nescesary to get that part of the reed wet as well?
I always thought that getting the first 3 or 4 cm wet is enough. The structure of the reed wil get the moisture distributed...... no?

Wet the whole thing. Im not saying the last tiny end makes a difference but you need to go well past the vamp. A wet table establishes a positive wetting something flat and sticking it to a window. Yes the structure of the reed will distribute dampness but it will not be uniform during a practice session. Also, reed fibers get clogged.

Wetting the whole reed also helps in allowing the cane to move together as one unit as it expands and contracts.

If you are using synth reeds thats different but still, you need some moisture under the table so it seals well.

Maybe Im wrong about this being the contributing factor but it certainly isnt going to harm anything doing it this way.

(unless you swallow the reed. That wouldnt be good)
How quickly the reed becomes too dry to play properly depends entirely upon the humidity in the air and whether the mouthpiece is covered with a cap. Players sometimes put plastic tape over any holes in their mouthpiece cap to keep the reed moist longer.

After playing for over 50 years, I have recently discovered the benefits of wetting the back of the mouthpiece to form a better seal on the table of the mouthpiece. Some of us are slow learners. :doh:

The only logical reason I can see that a reed might "sound much better" after leaving it for 15 minutes and returning is that perhaps you are "biting" the reed when you play causing it to warp toward the tip, and then when left to rest it returns to its original shape.

An easy way to test this is to play for a while and then carefully insert a business card between the reed and mouthpiece as far as it will go and leave it there a few moments. If it plays "much better" when the card is removed, it means too much pressure from the top and bottom is causing the reed to bend.

The solution, of course is to open the teeth more when you play and to feel the jaw and chin pulling down as the bottom lip pushes up against the reed. Also try to push inward more with the corners of the mouth as if saying "OO" or the French "EU".
As alluded to in other responses, don't discount the fact that it could well just be you. I often pick up the horn, feel absolutely dispirited at how bad I sound, go off and do something else for 2o minutes and then come back and sound like Sonny Rollins (Ok, perhaps that last bit isn't quite true)

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