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Played on an alto reed until the end frayed and split from sheer usage, about 3 months.

Had two gigs and a jam last week.

By the second one reed was toast.

Spent quality time breaking a new one in.

Went to jam and everybody commented how good I sounded and it was more fun.

I guess it was an instance of the frog in the pot of heating water.

I keep promising myself never again.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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Most of us have done or still do that to some extent and it is a dangerous game we play. I don't know how many times I have started a set on an old reed that I thought could at least do a set, only to have it 'die' on me, forcing a change on-the-fly. Fortunately I always have good reeds ready-to-play on any gig.
The frog in the water analogy is a good one - the thing plays so you don't think about how suddenly a reed can die on you and make you look like an idiot. And the thing is, a new, good reed plays so great and sounds so good! And to save $3 we take a chance on a tired old reed?
And guess what? The same thing can and does happen with synthetics too, so you even need to carry an extra one of those with you. That is, after you make sure it plays like you're expecting.
 

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I once played an alto reed for 6 weeks - that's 6 weeks of 12 shows / 6 nights a week. It was a great reed... but the adjustment factor in the 7th week was something else. Good thing we had that week off... Now I just rotate every day (I'm not gigging anymore so it's just an hour or two at a time) - you can put up with anything for a couple hours!

Of course, all my reeds are great (small joke there...), but I think it helps one's focus to switch reeds daily.
 

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I have a bad tendency to use reeds for too long - I lose track of how long I've been playing it and don't realize until I switch to a new one and immediately it feels so much better.

Side note, NYC tenor player Marc Mommaas guest conducted my college jazz ensemble once. He uses synthetic reeds (forget which brand) and said the reed he had was one he'd been using on and off for 12+ years! I doubt you could ever do that with a cane reed but even then I've never heard of any reed lasting so long. It was older than his daughter, lol.
 

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I have a bad tendency to use reeds for too long - I lose track of how long I've been playing it and don't realize until I switch to a new one and immediately it feels so much better.

Side note, NYC tenor player Marc Mommaas guest conducted my college jazz ensemble once. He uses synthetic reeds (forget which brand) and said the reed he had was one he'd been using on and off for 12+ years! I doubt you could ever do that with a cane reed but even then I've never heard of any reed lasting so long. It was older than his daughter, lol.
What a great player, never heard of him. But I also have to say after listening to some youtube videos, that one of the reasons I can't play synthetic reeds, is the annoying harsh click on the attack on each tone. Hard to explain. Some harshness just a split second when the tone is attacked in the articulation. Sorry English is not my language, so maybe there are better ways to describe it....

Maybe you can hear it in this clip with Mommaas?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYUgjYR6zfI
 

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reeds are by their own nature consumables and degrade with use, our playing degrades with them if we are not careful.

I think also that the softer and wider a reed is, the more it is affected by use and age.

I have a rotation of 3 to 6 reeds and could maybe reach a couple of moths or more with all of them but not if I only used one.
 

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I have a rotation of 3 to 6 reeds and could maybe reach a couple of moths or more with all of them but not if I only used one.
I did this for a while but I found that I was getting lazy on the rotation and tended to play the one I really liked . . . then the others, even if not really played that much, seemed to die of neglect or old age. Was it bacteria from a few plays that lived in there and used them up? Don't know. Anyway, now when I find a reed I really like I just play it and play it until it's done.
 

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I only rotate reeds that I like and are similar. I make them similar with a process of first identifying the best then adapting all the others to the best one.
I also try to every now and again sanitize them in a mouthwash containing a low percentage of Chlorexedrine and that works well.
 
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