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I'm after advice on how to adjust reeds to help them play darker.

I aim to play with a dark, warm sound on my tenor. (For reference, I adore Chris Cheek's sound, and aim for something close to that! Dark, full and warm, but also really free and flexible)

I often find reeds too bright or shrill for my taste. I try to adjust them to play better - flattening the back, balancing, etc, which I often find improves the response and resistance - but the tone is still rarely to my satisfaction. If a reed is too stuffy or dull sounding, I can get it too play, but more often that not, it's too bright/clean and not warm/fat enough in terms of the tone I'd like. Every now and then I find a reed I love, but I'm yet to understand what it is about it that gives me what I like, or what I need to do to adjust other ones to play similarly.

Most advice I've found on adjusting reeds seems to be around brightening them, if they start out dull/stuffy. The only regular tip I've found is to try clipping the tip. Sometimes this helps, but I find it inconsistent, and can often end up making the reed to hard to play.

I've also seen advice to start on a deliberately too-hard reed, so that you can adjust down to a playable strength, whilst retaining the tone. Sometimes I find a reed whose tone I quite like, but which plays really hard. When I adjust them, I can maybe get them to a playable strength, but the tone seems to suffer.

The brand I've settled on after years of experimenting is Alexander Classique 3 or 3.5, or occasionally Vandoren blue box. I'm not looking to change brand; as I understand it, these are already some of the darkest available. I play an Otto Link Tone Edge with an 8 opening.

Any further tips on how to achieve a darker sound through adjusting reeds?!
 

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It’s very funny that you like the Alexander classique because, after having tried every Alexander except this, I’ve tried them recently finding them not at all not-buzzy (which I suppose would translate into what you call dark) as I thought they might be and that I could rather easily adjust them to match the Rigotti Gold Jazz, which, to me, are rather buzzy (bright?) reeds.

The reason why, I suspect, one doesn’t generally talk of “ darkening” reeds (again I would call it something different) is because one should add material rather then subtract material which is not possible (although there is a friend of mine who is , apparently, working on this concept with a material that you can paint on the reeds).

So you can generally buy a reed with a thick(er) tip and work with it.

Another possibility is to use a reed cutter and not as a device to extend the reeds lifespan when it has gone soft but to change the profile and tip of the reed from new making use of the increasing thickness of the shorter reed profile when cut.

I would take any reed that you like and experiment taking 1mm each cut and continuing to do so until it becomes to your liking (if it does).

Good Luck!
 

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The reason why, I suspect, one doesn’t generally talk of “ darkening” reeds (again I would call it something different) is because one should add material rather then subtract material which is not possible
+1. I guess you could clip the tip to try and make it harder. Or just buy harder reeds, or a different brand that plays darker.

Personally I dislike 'dark' reeds; they feel kind of dead to me. I'd rather use a brighter, more responsive reed (like Rigotti Gold) on a mpc that is not overly bright.
 

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For "classical" playing on alto I like Rico Reserve Classic now marketed as D'Addario. I find that they produce a "darker" sound like reeds that are hard to blow, but they play responsively as well. They appear to have a thicker heart area that extends almost to the tip. If you are having to try to adjust the brand of reeds you are using to get them to sound the way you want, you may want to give these a try.
 

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I suggest clipping not so much to harden the reed (reeds can be bought in very hard sizes) but in order to alter the profile.

By clipping you co up on the sloping profile and the tip will be thicker. Then you can work on the reed to bing back te vanp and the rest of the reed to a softer set but you will have a tip thicker than the one you started with.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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Most advice I've found on adjusting reeds seems to be around brightening them, if they start out dull/stuffy. The only regular tip I've found is to try clipping the tip. Sometimes this helps, but I find it inconsistent, and can often end up making the reed to hard to play.
If you start off with a reed that play OK for you, and then clip it, you are doing (amongst others) two significant things:

The reed becomes harder
The heart of the reed becomes relatively closer to the tip.

So the obvious solution is to start out with reed that you deem to be too soft. that way it becomes a bit harder (more to your liking) and (more importantly) the heart is closer to the tip.

It is this second point, the change in architecture of the reed, which I believe is mostly to fulfil your purpose of darkening. If you can do that without making the reed too hard then I think this is a big part of the journey.

However (and this is a big however) my gut feeling is that it is always better to look to yourself as a player to shape your sound than to get the equipment to do it.

There are of course limits to how far you can take this and there are extremes of sound changes that maybe only extreme equipment can give you, all I'm saying is it's worth thinking about your personal sound control technique at the same time as experimenting with equipment.

OTOH, could it be that your mouthpiece is also not helping with getting the sound you want?
 

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I second the advise to learn to play in a darker way. Just find the reed closest to your sound and darken (of fatten) the way you play.

AS I wrote before a friend of mine is working (albeit in between his real job which is being a rocket scientist with ESA) at the idea of adding material to achieve a different sound. I am happy where I am now (sound wise).
 

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You can darken the sound a bit by moving the ligature. Setting the lig closer to the shoulder of the reed will give you a brighter sound while moving it closer to the heel will produce a darker sound. You said that you were not interested in changing reeds but in my experience, Hemke and La Voz reeds always seemed too dark for me.
 

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I always find it interesting that some players buy a dark sounding saxophone and then knock themselves out by trying to make it sound brighter---for example a Conn 10M tenor. They go overboard with oversize resos, a high baffle mouthpiece, etc. to make it something it wasn't designed to be. My question is, "Why not buy a bright sounding sax to begin with"? The same is true of mouthpieces. If a mouthpiece gets too bright a sound due to its design, why not just switch to a darker sounding mouthpiece? Maybe there is a lot I don't understand. Can anyone enlighten me?
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I always find it interesting that some players buy a dark sounding saxophone and then knock themselves out by trying to make it sound brighter---for example a Conn 10M tenor. They go overboard with oversize resos, a high baffle mouthpiece, etc. to make it something it wasn't designed to be. My question is, "Why not buy a bright sounding sax to begin with"? The same is true of mouthpieces. If a mouthpiece gets too bright a sound due to its design, why not just switch to a darker sounding mouthpiece? Maybe there is a lot I don't understand. Can anyone enlighten me?
Well, for a kickoff, the 10ms I have had didn't appear to be dark. They just sounded like saxophones to me. Yes I could make it sound dark if I wanted to, just like I could my MKVI or Superdynaction.

The thing is (and don't quote me on this because it could well be till crap)

The darkness you get from a dark reed may be a different kind of darkness you get from a dark mouthpiece or a dark saxophone.

So putting a dark mouthpiece on a bright saxophone would probably be different to just having dark saxophone to begin with (whatever that actually means anyway)

So mixing and matching different combinations could achieve the desired result, whether that be getting the holy grail perfect sound or just being a great excuse to actually do less long note practice.
 

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Well, for a kickoff, the 10ms I have had didn't appear to be dark. They just sounded like saxophones to me. Yes I could make it sound dark if I wanted to, just like I could my MKVI or Superdynaction.

The thing is (and don't quote me on this because it could well be till crap)

The darkness you get from a dark reed may be a different kind of darkness you get from a dark mouthpiece or a dark saxophone.

So putting a dark mouthpiece on a bright saxophone would probably be different to just having dark saxophone to begin with (whatever that actually means anyway)

So mixing and matching different combinations could achieve the desired result, whether that be getting the holy grail perfect sound or just being a great excuse to actually do less long note practice.
Thanks Pete. That clears it up quite nicely. :)
 

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You didn't write what tenor brand you play. Both your reed brands and mouthpiece are already on the dark side, so the issue must be in you or your tenor (maybe a very bright brand). Probably you should do something about your air-stream, playing more relaxed and maybe even on a softer reed instead of a harder one (but you have to learn to control it). I found Rico Royals to play on the dark side.
 

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So I started to write a response about what reeds fit with what mouthpieces (I think putting a so-called "classical" reed like a Vandoren Blue Box on a Link is not optimal), and go on about it, then decided to listen to some Chris Cheek. His sound has exactly the qualities I would expect from using a Vandoren Blue Box on a Link - kind of hard and brittle, not at all flexible (my opinion of course!). Certainly not what I would call "dark"... So if you want that sound, you are going down the right path. That's the trouble with these wishy washy terms like "dark" and "warm" - they mean different things to different people.

I don't think you can adjust a reed to sound that way exactly - it's down to how you blow. Certainly balance the reed so that it responds evenly, but then just work on your tone production to match. Maybe play reeds that are on the hard end of the spectrum. Working on reeds is way down on the list of things I would do to adjust my sound - start with stuff that will have a bigger effect, like change the mouthpiece, or change YOU. Only then will the reed come in to play, and it has a much smaller contribution to make. Of course, this is all just my opinion.

Me, I kind of like the sound I get from a nice Rico Orange Box 3 1/2 or 4 on my 7*... but that's just my taste :)
 

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Have you tried keeping your reeds submerged? You will need to go up in reed strength to keep the same level of resistance. I keep my reeds submerged in vodka always. Positive effects: They always play the same and I can get more control over the brightness of the reed (they play way darker, some would say dead, but once you get used to it, you can bring the brightness back). Negative effects: They play completely different from non-submerged reeds. When I play reeds that haven't been submerged, they play overly bright an an almost percussive attack for me now.
 

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So, I do this all the time (adjust reeds to play darker) and there are 2 main things that work (and usually have to be done in conjunction with each other).

1 - trim the reed so there is more material in the heart (as someone mentioned above it moves the heart of the reed closer, effectively making it thicker)

2 - remove material from the tip so it's thinner. The thicker the tip is the more edge it has. Also, when you do step 1, not only are you thickening the heart of the reed (darker! good!) you're simultaneously thickening the tip of the reed (brighter! bad!). So if you start with a reed that's a little on the soft side, trim it, and then thin the tip (using fine grit sandpaper) you end up with a darker reed that feels good to play.

Another thing to try is having the tip of the reed extend past the tip of the mouthpiece, just a millimeter or so is probably enough; this also makes it stiffer/more resistant but clears the buzz/edge out significantly.

Anyway, hope that helps =)
 
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