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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #1
We all know reeds aren't as good at they used to be, right?

But were they ever??

I think I recall that back in the 70s old-timers spoke longingly of the good old days of higher quality reeds.

Reading Coltrane on Coltrane: The John Coltrane Interviews, I stumbled on this quote from the master: A good reed lasts me three weeks - but it doesn't seem too easy to get a good one these days. This is from an interview in July, 1965.

Has anyone encountered an earlier reference to declining saxophone reed quality?

Has anyone encountered a reference to reeds being better in the past? Do any of you hold this view now?
 

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They were better at various times in the past and much worse in other periods, but they seem to be better now, more-so than the last 10 years. They seem to have stabilized a bit.

"They always sucked" is a generalization which in my 30 yr observation just is not true.
 

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As long as I have played, I have heard stories about the declining quality and how they were better in the old days. The funny part is that when I had some vintage reeds from the early 80's a few years ago, other players would speak about how they were from when the reeds were good.


I recall when those reeds were new, everyone complained about how bad they were.

It seems I have heard the same about horns, mouthpieces, etc.
 

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I think there's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride when it comes to reeds. I haven't been playing as long as some, but I've been playing for about 20 years now and I've seen times where they have been better than others. I do also think some of it is a bit of fond memory syndrome as well, everything used to be better than it is now. Now to what clarnut said some of the deal with aged reeds being good now might partly be due to time aging the cane a bit... they might have been bad back in the day.
 

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I'm just glad I didn't live in the day when you had to cut your own reeds. Ungraded ready-mades I could have dealt with if I had to, but making my own, yikes!
 

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I have often said that the problem with reeds is that I think they get released too early. What I have done for years is to stock up on a given strength and put the date on the boxes as I purchase them. I always play the oldest stuff first.

The one thing that reeds have going for them today is that I think the grading is much more consistent which means a bit less work in adjusting reeds.
 

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There's a similar thread up (called "For the "Old Timers" out there") that posits a similar question. I mentioned that perhaps stylistic changes and demands over the years, essentially louder and brighter (although now it seems to be curving back a bit) have something to do with how we perceive the job our reeds are doing. I've fleshed out my theory in more detail there...
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Discussion Starter #9
I have often said that the problem with reeds is that I think they get released too early. What I have done for years is to stock up on a given strength and put the date on the boxes as I purchase them. I always play the oldest stuff first.

The one thing that reeds have going for them today is that I think the grading is much more consistent which means a bit less work in adjusting reeds.
I don't buy that solution, because with the limited air circulation inside the packaging I doubt that the cane changes much - especially now with Vandoren products sealed inside individual wrappers.

Do the aged reeds still look/taste green when you first use them?
 

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Have any of you noticed huge differences in the playability of a specific reed based on your weather & humidity? This last winter the humidity was lower in my house and my reeds were warping at the base (reed cases couldn't keep it from happening either).... It may be the indoor situation has changed the variables and added another thing a reed can be fussy about.
 

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In the "Good ole days" mouthpieces had a higher percentage of hits rather than misses. Tables were typically close to flat and the rest was not so wonky. Sure they are inconsistent, they are a natural product. However, I think we blame reeds for a lot of mouthpiece maladies.
 

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I've played a lot of rico v cut and a cut reeds and i thought they were all comparable to some reeds that are on the market today but they were still better than most of the reeds today
 

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Along time ago I was talking to a sax player who worked for Rico. He said that the quality of cane was better in the old days, but the cutting of the reeds was much less high tech and therefore more inconsistent back then. This seems pretty plausible. It is also nice that there is so much variety in reed cut available these days.
It would be nice to do a price comparison (adjusted for inflation) of reeds throughout the last 100 years. They seem to be pretty expensive these days.
 
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