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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello friends.

I had started a thread on another subject and, as I gradually got off subject on that thread I thought it would be better to continue that detour on a new thread and that is why I have begun it here as a new subject slightly unrelated to the other one. In fact I have transferred my most recent post there to this new thread in order to avoid any unintentional duplication.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I had been having information problems on my alto saxophone and it seems that they were attributable to the fact that I was using fiberglass reeds (fibracell 2.5) on a metalite M7 mouthpiece, based on the comments that I was given but I am guessing that the problem was mainly the reed.

anyway, before investing in more expensive equipment I have temporarily switched to a Graftonite C7 and B7, and I've been trying a variety of cane Reeds for the first time in many years.

it was recommended that I try the Java 2.5 red so I bought some of those and started using them immediately with the new mouthpieces.

I started to feel that my Graftonite C7 was, indeed, too edgy for some cases, so I switched to the Graftonite B7. It did, indeed sound better, although my goal had been to sound sort of like Sanborn by having everything as bright as possible, you know. I'm only an intermediate level player , so keep that in mind.

However, the Java 2.5 red reed still seemed hard and stuffy to play, even when nice and wet. Of course I was comparing it to the fiberglass read that I had used for many years which was much more responsive and louder and easier to play in general but also presented intonation problems and harmonic squeaking as I had mentioned.

this week, Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if I could avoid some of the stuffiness from my new JAVA 2.5 reds, by switching to something softer.

I flipped through a few pages online where the set-up for different famous saxophonists was given, but I did not see much consistency from one to the next. Some had used LaVoz medium reeds on different mouthpieces, and I discovered that I had a LaVoz "soft" lying around, so I put that one on the Graftonite B7.

Wow. Much easier to handle, and now I am almost back to the comfortable volume and control that I had on the fiberglas reed, more or less, but now with a more consistent intonation than I had on the fiberglas, albeit possibly not quite as stable as the Java 2.5. I am now squeaking about 75% less, and the evenness of pitch is about 50% better, but the point is that it is much easier to play than the Java 2.5 reeds.

Which brings up the question of reeds. Do you foresee any problem if I continue with this soft-reed set-up for a long while? Or are soft Reeds strictly for beginners?

In fact, off-hand I do not remember how a LaVoz "soft" compares to a Java 2.5 or a Rico 2.5, but I know that, when I used to try different strengths of fiberglass reeds, the Fibracell 2.0 (or current equivalent) was, in the long run, too soft for loud playing. It would choke-up on me at certain volume levels (on the Metallite M7, at least). I also remember that, many years ago, whenever I tried a cane Rico 2.0, it tended to be too soft for my needs. while I understand that the only way to know if it will meet my needs is to continue to play it, I would like to I have some feedback from more professional players regarding regarding long-term possible disadvantages of using this soft Reed or other soft reeds so that I will know whether or not I should order a box of 10 or whether I should just hold off and wait for example. Also perhaps you know of another brand of read that would work even better on a soft strength, in which case I would be very interested to know about that as well so that I could try one of those before investing in a box full

Theoretically, if it takes me another six months to get a better set-up for whatever the reason, do you think that this LaVoz soft/Graftonite B7 combination is a viable set-up for professional applications in the meantime? Do you foresee it choking up on me at loud volume or bending the pitch too much or what?
 

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Reed strength has nothing to do with player ability / experience.

Much more to do with matching reed flexibility to mouthpiece facing curve. The greats of yesteryear typically played much more closed pieces than most people play today, so stronger reeds were more common as they matched those smaller tip openings better

If a softer reed is working for you and you have control over it and the tone, then dont worry about it, it works for you.

The bottom line is use what works FOR YOU
Dont worry what other people use
Go Practice!

If someone pays you for your time to play, you are a professional. If you make a living playing, you are truly professional. Very few people are good enough to make a living just by playing. Thankfully I also have a day job!


Also, ALWAYS get a box of reeds . Cane Reeds are so variable that you really wont know anything about a particular reed brand from just a couple of examples. Worst case you waste $20 or 30 bucks...
 

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Also, ALWAYS get a box of reeds . Cane Reeds are so variable that you really wont know anything about a particular reed brand from just a couple of examples.
+100!

This should be emblazoned in lights somewhere. Even the most consistent cane reeds (such as Rigotti, in my experience) will vary considerably and can't be judged based on playing only one or two reeds.

Also different brands will vary in strength in terms of what the number says. For ex, I find Vandoren V16 2.5 to be roughly equivalent to #3 in most other brands.
 

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Which brings up the question of reeds. Do you foresee any problem if I continue with this soft-reed set-up for a long while? Or are soft Reeds strictly for beginners?
There is no such rule, and anyone who tells you that such a rule exists is wrong. This type of thinking can be found among some saxophonists/clarinetists, but usually among kids for whom playing on progressively harder reeds is misinterpreted as a form of improvement, and/or as a way of growing up in general.

You, as the player, have to balance tone quality, ease of response in all registers, intonation, and reed longevity. You'll probably find that softer reeds serve you better in some ways, while harder reeds work better in others. As with all the rest of us, your final preference is likely to be a compromise. But if it works for you in achieving the best overall results with your favorite mouthpiece, then it's fine. There's no other test. And you can keep experimenting with reed strength down the road if you want to, just to see whether your needs are changing as your chops develop.

Theoretically, if it takes me another six months to get a better set-up for whatever the reason, do you think that this LaVoz soft/Graftonite B7 combination is a viable set-up for professional applications in the meantime? Do you foresee it choking up on me at loud volume or bending the pitch too much or what?
I don't think it's productive to ask people about what they "foresee" for a setup that you are already using. Just keep playing and see how it goes, and how your requirements evolve. It would be a different story if you were asking for opinions about something you were thinking about buying, but hadn't tested directly.
 

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Use whatever reed you want.

I’d prefer that your sound doesn’t suck, but some professionals get by with that as well.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks, guys.

Yes, I see that there is certainly a lot of hype and hearsay about different makes and models of saxophone and different types of mouthpieces and different reeds, and it has taken me years to understand that but once in a while the rumors are based on science and so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't getting into deeply just something that had some solid foundation to it.

One of the rumors out there is that the Selmer Mark 6 is the best you can get. Another is that metal mouthpieces are inherently better than hard rubber. And, as you say, Perhaps it is just a myth that, the more mature we get, the harder the Reed and The Wider the tip opening we need on the mouthpiece. That was the part that scared me, because I have never been able to adapt to a 3.0 read on any make or to a metal mouthpiece for that matter. I thought the problem was me, but you seem to suggest that it's all basically unfounded hearsay.

I also appreciate the comment about the relationship between the facing and the Reed regardless of the Reed strength

So then, may I ask an additional question related to this issue? I am curious to know which aspects of the mouthpiece for the read alone might actually contribute to inconsistent intonation. In other words, theoretically assuming that the player has perfect embouchure and a professional instrument and assuming that his mouthpiece is at the perfect position on the cork for any given moment based on the temperature environment and other typical factors that might otherwise effect internation, in other words, all other factors equal, what aspects of the read especially might affect intonation? In other words, he is a soft read more likely to bend notes unintentionally? Are certain brands more prone then others tube in the notes unintentionally? Somebody said on the other thread that the tip opening itself had a lot to do with dependability of the notes and the likelihood of having slightly inconsistent intonation, all other factors equal. Because I have had an undeniable problem with intonation on my alto by using fibrocell 2.5 reeds on a metal light M7 mouthpiece and I cannot help but believe that the read itself was the culprit. It was so bad that I had to record myself and keep my embouchure tighter than I ever had before and I was constantly adjusting the mouthpiece on the cork to compensate any deviation. Switching to cane Reeds seem to help greatly and so now the question was essentially which read and which strength to settle down with
 

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As others have said, reed strength depends entirely upon the facing curve and the tip opening of the mouthpiece---and to a lesser degree the "chops" of the player. Years ago I played on a wide open metal Berg Larsen tenor mouthpiece, and the hardest reed I could play on was a Rico 1 1/2. Pete Christlieb is said to play on a 130-0 berg and uses a #2 Rico Plasticover reed. There is some mention in acoustic literature that harder reeds on clarinet tend to play sharper in the upper register. Part of that may be that they require a tighter embouchure, I don't know for sure.
 

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Regarding intonation the first thing to understand is the saxophone is a hot mess of acoustic compromises. No sax has perfect intonation, the acoustic design doesn't allow it. Some however are much better than others in terms of tone hole placements, and others are fine but badly set up with incorrect key heights that screw with the tuning (for example open bell key heights will affect that 4th line D which can be quite pitchy) but its up to the player to develop the skills to listen and compensate as necessary to get those notes in tune. Having said that I like to tease my community band director after tuning up that the concert Bb is in tune, but everything else is still a crap shoot.

My experience is that a wider tip opening allows you more flexibility to lip and bend notes, so more flexibility to be both in and out of tune! Thats where practice is really the only solution to intonation issues, become familiar with your horns idiosyncrasies, and learn how to lip the notes you need to lip into shape. If you cant control your embouchure though a wide tip is going to get you in more trouble than it will get you out of, which is why student mouthpieces tend to smaller openings.

Having said that some mouthpiece designs will definitely affect intonation for better or worse on any given horn. Thats based on stuff like chamber size (internal volume if you like), and probably things like the nature of the bore shape (conical or more cylindrical?) and the length of the facing and window. Ive pieces in my "spares" draw that I love the tone of, but they just dont do me any favours with intonation on my horn. Beechler Bellite, I'm looking at you!

This mouthpiece compatibility issue was probably far worse in days gone by. Most modern horns now are based on Selmer VI geometry copied by everyone else so there is less variation for mouthpiece makers to have to work around maybe.. If you have a vintage horn YMMV.
 

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...in other words, all other factors equal, what aspects of the reed especially might affect intonation? In other words, he is a soft reed more likely to bend notes unintentionally? Are certain brands more prone then others tube in the notes unintentionally? Somebody said on the other thread that the tip opening itself had a lot to do with dependability of the notes and the likelihood of having slightly inconsistent intonation, all other factors equal.
Intonation is up to YOU, the player, using your ear. As to soft vs hard reeds and open vs more closed tip, the reed and tip opening are not responsible for intonation; again it's up to you to learn to play the setup you prefer. It's true that a harder reed or smaller tip will not be as 'malleable' when it comes to intonation; however it could be argued that the ability to bend the note with a softer reed and/or more open tip will allow you to more easily adjust the note and bring it into tune. It could also be argued that the hard reed & small tip will make it easier to hold a note in tune. Either way you have to do it.

So, bottom line, find a setup that responds and plays well for you, then stick with it and learn to play it in tune. Tuning to a drone is good practice because you are using your ear, which is critical. You can do a quick check with a tuner, but that's a visual cue which isn't as useful as audio.
 

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I'm going to disagree with most here and say that there is at least some correlation between reed strength and skill. I'd say a 2 (equal to LaVoz Soft) on an M7 opening is much too soft for an experienced player like yourself and likely a significant factor in your intonation issues. I play a 3.5 on the very same piece. I play 2.5 on my very open mouthpieces. At your level of experience, you shouldn't be having any intonation issues. Soft reeds are great for beginners because they can have very weak air support and a poor embouchure and still easily make a sound. But when air support and embouchure improve with time, a soft reed on a closed MP is going to close up, or you'll have to play so loose that you go flat in certain registers.

Unfortunately I think you missed a step in your development as a player and have established some bad habits or improper techniques. A teacher could straighten you out, but I'd have to at least hear you to give you any specific steps for improvement. Breaking habits that have been ingrained for 17 years isn't going to be quick or easy.

Lastly, I know Rico MPs have a lot of fans, but I'm not one of them. Metalites are paint peelers, and not in a good way. Graftonite isn't quite as bad, but still not a great MP. I do play a Metalite on C-melody with some success since the C-mel itself takes most of the edge off, resulting in a decent sound.
 

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I'm going to disagree with most here and say that there is at least some correlation between reed strength and skill...
And Ernie Watts plays a Rico Plasticover 1.5.
 

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And Ernie Watts plays a Rico Plasticover 1.5.
On an ungodly open piece 160. I play a 2.5 on a 120. OP is playing a 2 on the equivalent of a 105 on tenor. I specifically said 2 was too soft for an M7 for an experienced player. If he told me he played a 160, had no intonation issues and sounded like Ernie Watts, I'd say he was fine.

So you think it's cool for a student starting on a 1.5 on C* to still be playing a 1.5 on the same piece years later?
 

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Unfortunately I think you missed a step in your development as a player and have established some bad habits or improper techniques. A teacher could straighten you out, but I'd have to at least hear you to give you any specific steps for improvement. Breaking habits that have been ingrained for 17 years isn't going to be quick or easy.
This nails it. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

It’s not just about the reed - it’s the total package. Embouchure, support, etc., ad nauseum.
 

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I play soft reeds. Rigotti Gold 2.5 Light or Legere Sig. 2. I like the sound and I can still play to altissimo G4.
 

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Cannonball Adderley played a Rico #2 His whole career. I'm pretty sure he was never concerned what anyone's opinion of what reed he played was ...
Cannonball had no intonation issues. The OP IS concerned and is asking everyone's opinion, and I'm giving him mine. If the reed has nothing to do with it, please post your recommendations.

P.S. I also play soft reeds.
 

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I'm sensing air support may also be contributing to the OP's intonation concerns. Reed-wise please note for my examples I'm talking Tenor..and FWIW I use mostly synthetic reeds these days..

Like many others on the forum I have experienced wider tipped mpcs that require "soft" reeds. On my .113 Vigilante or my .122 Super King I like reeds around 1.5's...……..or Med Soft

On my .105 SS Berg reeds approx. 2.5's work good for me..

There's no hard and fast rules...:whistle:

My 7* STM Link is BP'd to .110 it can take from 1.5-2.5's depending on the reed brand and cut, also the horn and situation.
 

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I am a pro of 40 years and I play a Java Red Box 1.5 on tenor. This probably has a lot to do with recent cancer treatments on my throat, 7 weeks of high intensity radiation. It left everything a little saggy and weak, and the 1.5's work well, feel resistant and responsive enough. So, you never can tell.
 
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