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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As per some advice I got a short while back, I started breaking in my reeds. I would play them Messo Piano for 10 minutes, no articulation, no real low or high notes and put them away. The following day I'd wail on them as usual but for 15-20 minutes, then put them away. Day 3 it's normal playing.

This is a pain whenever I have a new box, the first 50-60 minutes of my practice consists of quiet long tones & middle key scale work. I have new reeds coming in tomorrow and I'm thinking about just wailing on them right away.
I do use printer paper to flatten the back and top, then soak them for a few minutes before I play them.

A reed is made of Cane. It's strongest when you first purchase it, they're designed for longevity. I don't see how playing them right out of the box could "Kill the reed" which is why most recommend MP playing in short bursts for the first few days.
Why would a reed all of a sudden have a longer life span when playing full blast after fussing with it? If a reed can hold up to wailing on it for hours upon hours after a break in period, why can't it hold up to wailing on it for hours upon hours right out of the box?

Does the break in magically change the formula of the reed, the composition of the reed, the fibre structure of the reed?

I could cut time back to wailing on them as normal for 10-15 minutes a day for the first few days before playing them longer if that would truly make a difference. Again, why would doing this for a few days increase the life of the reed vs just playing it for 4 hours straight right out of the box. I don't see how the science actually works behind it.

What do you guys do? For those who just pop in and play, did you ever notice a difference if you cut your sessions down to 10-15 minutes for the first few days before you spend an hour plus on that reed?

I have Jazz selects coming in tomorrow, I'm very excited to try them! I don't want to wait a few days before I can see what there all about, I just want to play them straight away! I also don't want to pre-maturely kill my reeds if wailing on them right away can actually damage there longevity.

Where is Bill Nye the Science guy when you need him?
 

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I play the reed until it's wet then bend it over a small pot both sides and try it.
I do repeat until it plays well.
A very fast break in.
Like any manipulation of a reed do it in stages so as not to make it too soft.
As long as the reed is cut symmetrically no material is removed like sanding or scraping.
I always lightly sand the cut part with 600 wet & dry to smooth it out against my mouth.
 

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I just put them in my mouth while assembling the sax, slap them on, and start playing.

I rotate four reeds so they have a bit of time to dry out. Sooner or later one will get too soft, so I ditch it and place a new one in the reed holder.

I've been gigging for a living since the 1960s and the longer I do this, the simpler every routine gets.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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I don't buy it. I take the reed out, wet it, see how it plays. If it plays out of the box, great. If it doesn't, I will work on it just a little bit and if it's still bad I throw it away. Life is too short.
 

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I'm no plant biologist, so maybe there's something going on with those reed fibers that I don't understand, but I pretty much just pull the reed out of the box and play it. If I like it, I keep playing it, and it goes in my "good" pile. (Always try to keep 3-4 good ones at hand.) If not, I replace after about 15 minutes and set it aside to try again the next day. I''l play it another 10-15 minutes, and if it still doesn't sound/feel good, I might try to adjust it using my Reedgeek--still learning how to do that, but I've already "saved" a few reeds that I previously didn't like. If that doesn't work, I might give it one more try the next day, and if it still doesn't play well, I toss it, and try another one. Life is short.
 

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I break my reeds in, I tend to only have to be breaking one reed in at a time. I have an eight reed case with other reeds ready to play.

I stick the new reed in the side of a glass of water and let the stub show the water has been taken up. I'll then gently play that reed for 5-10 minutes, avoiding low and high notes. I swap to an old reed and finish my practice.

Next couple of days I repeat the process with the new reed. I will gradually expand the note and power range.

After that the reed is part of the normal rota. I take any "broken in" reed out of the case, stick it in my mouth to wet it while getting ready, slap it on the mouthpiece and play.

The reeds I have that go through this process seem to last a lot longer for me. I don't find the occasional reed break-in too taxing. I only get to play for 40 minutes to an hour a day and I don't gig...just play at home for my own amusement. So yeah, reeds last a looong time for me.
 

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I don't buy it. I take the reed out, wet it, see how it plays. If it plays out of the box, great. If it doesn't, I will work on it just a little bit and if it's still bad I throw it away. Life is too short.
I very much agree on this.

“ Breaking in” a reed and all manners of other rituals ( as in keeping the reeds permanently soaked in water or spirits) give the player the illusion to control a process that is by and large out of control.

The plant grows unevenly and produces reeds that are different on all sides due to many factors one of which is the sun shining on one side more than the others. All they can ever measure is the resistance at the ti but there are so many other factors which determine the reed response.

In my opinion , once you have accepted that using reeds is not a contest which is won by using the hardest reed that you can manage playing and you have chosen a brand, type and size that you are more or less comfortable with, the rest is soaking playing , minor adjusting and possible clipping to extend useful life once the reed starts going soft . This last process is mostly unpopular (it does change the reed’s profile of course) now while it use to be part of most people’s routine (see the amount of reed’s clippers found among the kit delivered with old horns, our forebears were a thrifty lot with all manner of things).


As for science and studies

this is one

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.506.9210&rep=rep1&type=pdf

It’s really just a long expressed opinion on the matter of reeds and it too talks of breaking in. The idea is (in this study) that the breaking in serves the purpose to reveal the nature of the reed.

Frankly speaking this is what I do with putting it into water and playing it, then you work on it. It is not breaking in, it is just a process of evaluation.
 

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I just put them in my mouth while assembling the sax, slap them on, and start playing.

I rotate four reeds so they have a bit of time to dry out. Sooner or later one will get too soft, so I ditch it and place a new one in the reed holder.

I've been gigging for a living since the 1960s and the longer I do this, the simpler every routine gets.

Insights and incites by Notes


Amen to that!!!!!
 

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I just put them in my mouth while assembling the sax, slap them on, and start playing.

I rotate four reeds so they have a bit of time to dry out. Sooner or later one will get too soft, so I ditch it and place a new one in the reed holder.

I've been gigging for a living since the 1960s and the longer I do this, the simpler every routine gets.

Insights and incites by Notes
Let me add, if the reed is difficult to play, it gets two or three tries before it gets replaced. Most of the reeds in a box are just fine though -- it seems not as good as they were decades ago, but that could just be my impression.

And I keep playing them until they get soft and make the high notes difficult.

I do 2 to 6 one-nighters per week, and I play sax, wind synth, flute, guitar, and vocals on the gig. I haven't the time to mess around with anything that isn't worth the time, and for me, breaking in a reed isn't worth the time. Of course YMMV. There is more than one right way to do this.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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I mean, yes. My "process" is the same: slap a reed on, play it until I dislike it.

But reed definitely have a "settling" process where they become better. The natural fibers definitely seem to change *a bit* when played. To me, shoes are a good analogy: at first, they are stiff, then you wear your feet into them and they're great! Then they slowly wear out.

I have no complicated readying process though, those seem like too much work!
 

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Indeed, and some reeds just last longer than others. Every now and then I get a reed that is a special joy to play -- I hate to see those wear out, but alas they do.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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And I draw a smiley face in Sharpie on the butt of the reed, for the good ones, so I know which ones they are. I have a pile of reeds I should probably throw away by now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I mean, yes. My "process" is the same: slap a reed on, play it until I dislike it.

But reed definitely have a "settling" process where they become better. The natural fibers definitely seem to change *a bit* when played. To me, shoes are a good analogy: at first, they are stiff, then you wear your feet into them and they're great! Then they slowly wear out.

I have no complicated readying process though, those seem like too much work!
And I absolutely agree with this. I also notice that over time a reed could get better or worse. My feelings were that if you limited playing time the first few days (As most break in procedures suggest) it shouldn't actually make ANY bit of a difference.

Thank you to everybody who has commented on this thread:) I just received my Jazz Selects! I will cycle through them today to see how each one plays, then I'll go back to #1 and go to town! I'm so excited to try these:)

Lots of love! Hope everyone enjoys Their morning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I just received my Jazz Selects:) There longer and wider than the Java Reds. They seem to fit my mouthpiece better! It's far easier to put them on ensuring there is equal coverage on either side of the vamp of the MP. My troubled notes (A) C & C sharp with the octave play more in tune! My G and G# with the octave is easier to control and doesn't want to squeak like it used to. My entire range is tighter and more in tune in fact! As far as tone, that will take me a little while to play and listen. It sounds just as good as the Reds if not better, Ill be able to determine that over the coming days. For now I immediately notice they play and fit better:)

Sweet!
 

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I was taught to break reeds in. Play them 5 minutes at a time for several days, slowly increasing the time, range and volume. After a few days start adjusting the reed with reed rush. This was the standard approach that was used by many woodwind players, and many books and dissertations have been written about this process.

Then I went through a period where I was gigging 6 or 7 days a week, playing alto, tenor, soprano and clarinet (as well as flute/piccolo), with many days a rehearsal and/or an afternoon gig in addition. I would occasionally find that I needed a reed RIGHT NOW for a gig or rehearsal, so I would take a new reed out of the box, maybe adjust it a bit to make it play right, and play it. I noticed after a while that these reeds lasted just as long and sounded just as good as reeds that I carefully broke in. So I stopped breaking them in, and never looked back.

I do adjust reeds, mainly to balance them side to side. I do it when I first take the reed out of the box. I might revisit it after a couple of practice or play sessions. I might clip a reed that's too soft. I don't treat new reeds any differently than old ones though - when they die, into the trash they go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I was taught to break reeds in. Play them 5 minutes at a time for several days, slowly increasing the time, range and volume. After a few days start adjusting the reed with reed rush. This was the standard approach that was used by many woodwind players, and many books and dissertations have been written about this process.

Then I went through a period where I was gigging 6 or 7 days a week, playing alto, tenor, soprano and clarinet (as well as flute/piccolo), with many days a rehearsal and/or an afternoon gig in addition. I would occasionally find that I needed a reed RIGHT NOW for a gig or rehearsal, so I would take a new reed out of the box, maybe adjust it a bit to make it play right, and play it. I noticed after a while that these reeds lasted just as long and sounded just as good as reeds that I carefully broke in. So I stopped breaking them in, and never looked back.

I do adjust reeds, mainly to balance them side to side. I do it when I first take the reed out of the box. I might revisit it after a couple of practice or play sessions. I might clip a reed that's too soft. I don't treat new reeds any differently than old ones though - when they die, into the trash they go.
Love it, thank you Skeller!
 

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I agree with most of the above. I'm highly skeptical that 'breaking in' a reed by playing it for a few minutes at a time will result in it lasting longer once you start playing it normally (on gigs, practice sessions, etc). However, I do find that most reeds improve somewhat after a couple of playing sessions, short or long. So that's what I call a 'breaking in' period, but it happens naturally. After that short break in period, if it's a good reed, it will 'peak' and play well for however long it lasts, until it finally degrades fairly quickly. Some reeds are better than others, some will last longer than others, no matter what you do. I save the better ones for gigs and play them until they die. The mediocre ones are used for practicing (and sometimes they end up good enough to gig on and go into the gig reed holder). I also practice on some that are a bit too worn out for gigs but still play. A small percentage are useless and go in the trash bin.
 
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