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Is this a pissing contest? Yea, I've been playing for 65 years and still counting. So what! I started trying synthetics when they were awful, some still are awful, yet there are some that work for me. Do we all play the same horns or mouthpieces, or even the same style of music? Yet somehow whatever your reeds are (and horn and mouthpiece?) are the pinnacle of the saxophonist's experience. I have a lot of tracks available, with somewhere over 1.5 million listens. No complaints about about my tone, and in fact lots of compliments. I like playing synthetics, others obviously do as well. Have you been somehow voted the "Grand Wizard" of saxophone knowledge...the one opinion that must be obeyed? PLEASE desist you are an embarrassment!
So I don’t have the right to proclaim synthetic is inferior. But you have the right to proclaim it’s superior? Which one of us if the grand wizard again?

As I said earlier in the thread, no listener would be able to tell if I’m playing synthetic or not, so, like you, they sound ok. I simply disagree with recommending them to beginners. It’s ok that we disagree. People are free to ignore my advice/opinion as they usually do. You are the one who keeps escalating this. I’m simply defending my position. And I definitely can’t in good conscience recommend Hartmann to anyone.
 

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So I don’t have the right to proclaim synthetic is inferior. But you have the right to proclaim it’s superior? Which one of us if the grand wizard again?

As I said earlier in the thread, no listener would be able to tell if I’m playing synthetic or not, so, like you, they sound ok. I simply disagree with recommending them to beginners. It’s ok that we disagree. People are free to ignore my advice/opinion as they usually do. You are the one who keeps escalating this. I’m simply defending my position. And I definitely can’t in good conscience recommend Hartmann to anyone.
I've never stated anything as an absolute or said synthetics are superior. That's a matter for each to decide for themselves. You are the only one who has made those sorts of statements. The issue is giving a beginner something which is consistent. There can't be any argument about cane being consistent...it's not. A beginner can get used to anything if it's consistent. Unlike you they have no prejudices. How does a beginner know if a reed is good or can play well? They don't! How do they know when it's crapped out? They don't. So you have a beginner fighting with an unknown and trying to get used to it. That borders on cruelty. Consistency is the key to fast progression. Cane, by its nature, isn't consistent. if it were there would be no market whatsoever for synthetics. Those (like you) who have experience can judge, select, work and carry on whatever rituals you wish with cane. That's not an easy or good game for the beginner. They have every other aspect of the horn to come to grips with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Here is now a hornet's nest :D At the moment I'm getting along better with natural reed. I feel freer to vibrate, sound better and round, especially in the bass. Maybe I like synthetic reed in the highs. Obviously at the technical level I am inexperienced, but as far as sound, emission and intonation are concerned, after 20 years playing the trumpet, I will have learned something. pax et bonum
 

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The issue is giving a beginner something which is consistent. There can't be any argument about cane being consistent...it's not. A beginner can get used to anything if it's consistent. Unlike you they have no prejudices. How does a beginner know if a reed is good or can play well? They don't! How do they know when it's crapped out? They don't.
These are good points and a fair argument for starting off a beginner on synthetic reeds. However, aside from the important observation that prior to the existence of any decent synthetic reeds, cane reeds did not seem to hold back anyone who wanted to learn to play the sax, including many who went on to be great players, how is a beginner to learn all those things that you say they don't know regarding cane reeds? It's also true that most (all?) beginners start on fairly soft reeds which play fairly easily and won't hold them back initially.

I guess what I'm saying is that learning to play a cane reed is part of the process of learning to play a reed instrument, like the saxophone. Once that's accomplished, some players may choose to move on to a synthetic reed for a variety of reasons. But many will not, also for valid reasons.
 

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If by “consistent” one means that every reed in the box is exactly the same, and plays the same, then no, cane reeds aren’t. i have purchased and played 3 Legere reeds, 2 on soprano and one on tenor. The two soprano reeds were both 2.5. They did not play the same either, in fact one was significantly harder than the other. So neither cane nor synthetics are consistent reed to reed.

If “consistent” means it plays the same day after day …. well, I don’t. Some days I’m good, and some days I’m not. My practice is to play a different reed each day; I have done the opposite, and played the same (cane) reed day after day, and reed rotattion works better, for me. This helps me keep my chops flexible and adaptable. I try to make my sound consistent, regardless of reed and regardless of me.

If “consistent” just means that you don’t have to work on a synthetic reed (other than the occsional dip into boiling water), then yes, they are. But to me that implies that correcting reed imbalance and strength is too difficult for a beginning player, which I reject. I have taught 11 and 12 year old 1st year students to use reed rush effectively, and they weren’t bothered by it. Or by the idea that most reeds require a little touch up to play their best. (Evidently many adult players find this situation too much to deal with though…)

The one use for synthetic reeds I can see is for pit musicians with many doubles, where an instrument may sit on a stand for most of a show, and then be used for 5 bars in an exposed solo. Synthetics don’t require wetting before playing. But even so, there are ways to deal with that situation with cane reeds, that are quite effective.

This is all just my opinion of course. To me, a synthetic reed looks like a solution hunting for a problem. A sub-optimal solution at that. I have no issue with the idea of a synthetic reed, I just haven’t ever played one that can come close the tonal qualities of a cane reed.
 

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i have purchased and played 3 Legere reeds, 2 on soprano and one on tenor. The two soprano reeds were both 2.5. They did not play the same either, in fact one was significantly harder than the other. So neither cane nor synthetics are consistent reed to reed.
This exactly. Funny that I have a Legere Signature 2.5 and a 2.25 for tenor, and my 2.5 plays even softer than the 2.25. I don't know what happen to this 2.5 since I don't play it very often and also I didn't dip it in hot water; it just became soft one day (probably soft at the first beginning) and it gave me a wrong impression that I can play 2.5 reed until I found that I could not even play the American Cut 2.25 since it is too hard for my setup. I also have two Signature 2.5 for alto (one bought by mistake so cannot return), and one does feel slightly harder than the other. But I like Legere and prefer both Signature and AC to cane reeds on Alto and Tenor.
 

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These are good points and a fair argument for starting off a beginner on synthetic reeds. However, aside from the important observation that prior to the existence of any decent synthetic reeds, cane reeds did not seem to hold back anyone who wanted to learn to play the sax, including many who went on to be great players, how is a beginner to learn all those things that you say they don't know regarding cane reeds? It's also true that most (all?) beginners start on fairly soft reeds which play fairly easily and won't hold them back initially.

I guess what I'm saying is that learning to play a cane reed is part of the process of learning to play a reed instrument, like the saxophone. Once that's accomplished, some players may choose to move on to a synthetic reed for a variety of reasons. But many will not, also for valid reasons.
I'd like to see a dedicated teacher who has a lot of beginner pupils do a trial and see which group attains good tone and moves ahead more quickly. Once one has moved beyond beginner stage they can certainly experiment and learn all about any number of reeds. It's the initial beginning stage that IMHO requires as much consistency as possible. You or I can get a box of reeds and pick the ones that are good. A beginner has no clue so can waste a lot of time trying to adapt to a dog of a reed and get nowhere. Similarly they have no idea when the reed is shot, which happens more quickly with softer reeds. It seems sensible to me and isn't prescribing the end of cane or that everyone from now on MUST play a synthetic. it's just training wheels to get the beginner going in tone production. Without a trial, it's all a lot of hot air. From my limited experience it works, but that wasn't a group where you could have numbers of students to compare. When it's one by one it isn't a good basis of comparison.

There is always a problem when dealing with people who value "tradition" over experimentation and seeing how it may be possible to move ahead. My background is science. Propose a theory, based on some observations and knowledge then test it to see how it works. There is obviously a large contingent who seem to rile against this without a basis other than possibly fear for their traditions or defense of their choices. That's a shame and doesn't bode well for moving ahead.
 

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This exactly. Funny that I have a Legere Signature 2.5 and a 2.25 for tenor, and my 2.5 plays even softer than the 2.25. I don't know what happen to this 2.5 since I don't play it very often and also I didn't dip it in hot water; it just became soft one day (probably soft at the first beginning) and it gave me a wrong impression that I can play 2.5 reed until I found that I could not even play the American Cut 2.25 since it is too hard for my setup. I also have two Signature 2.5 for alto (one bought by mistake so cannot return), and one does feel slightly harder than the other.
I'm not a big fan of Legere and they are somewhat unusual for synthetics in requiring a break in phase. I'm much more familiar with other synthetics which don't have as many inconsistency or break in issues. Legere has made a reputation based on offering half sizes (whether they are accurate or not) and trading back if not satisfied with the strength. By contrast Fiberreed are selling a lot of very crappy reeds (they used to be OK) and telling players who complain that they don't know how to play a sax. We hear the same issues with cane reeds with inconsistency being the main issue, but players will swear by their brand and stick with it the same way smokers tend to have "brand loyalty". I'm not interested in promoting anyone's brand and will try everything and continue to try everything. Caveat: Without giving a new brand of reed something more than a 15 second toot, you're not giving it the time necessary to see if you can adapt to what it's good points may be, whether it's cane or a synthetic. The same...even more so is true for mouthpieces. Liking what your embouchure has adjusted to isn't giving any new gear the time required to make a good judgement.
 

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My background is science. Propose a theory, based on some observations and knowledge then test it to see how it works. There is obviously a large contingent who seem to rile against this without a basis other than possibly fear for their traditions or defense of their choices. That's a shame and doesn't bode well for moving ahead.
My background is also science (I worked as a research geologist for many years). And in no way do I 'rile against' using the scientific method. It's by far and away the best tool the human race has come up with to get to some fundamental truths and to separate fact from fiction. I don't see how it applies to this discussion simply because no one (that I know of) has subjected the benefits or drawbacks of starting a beginner on a synthetic reed to any serious scientific analysis. So, until that is ever done, we are stuck with our opinions based on our own limited experience.

If you want to compare this to a scientific analysis, I'd say there are a number or working hypotheses (nothing approaching a theory) being tossed around and we can identify both potential advantages and drawbacks to starting a beginner on a synthetic reed. I might think it advantageous for a beginner to learn to use cane reeds from the start and you might think it better to skip that or put it off until later. No way can it be proved one way or the other with the present (largely absent) data set.

What I can say, knowing what I do now about both cane and synthetic reeds, is that I'm glad I started out on cane and if I had it to do over, I'd do the same. But that's not any kind of 'proof' that it's the best way to go.
 

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Point taken. Yes beginners will sound terrible regardless. But they will miss out on learning on the real thing and experiencing the magic of a good cane reed.

I tried my first synthetic back in the 70s and pretty much every brand since. I even play synthetic on a few horns regularly where convenience trumps sound quality (clarinet double, bari and bass occasionally). But I would never recommend to a beginner. They need to learn on the real deal for best long term success. If the goal is making kazoo sounds and flapping fingers, then I guess synthetic is ok. If the goal is to become a good player with a good sound, don't touch synthetic until you can get a great sound on cane. If a synthetic equal to cane existed, I'd switch immediately and advise all my students to also. But it doesn't and probably never will. Legere is the closest by far, but still has a way to go.
I always respect your opinion and the information you share Lydian as it's always pretty solid but I have to disagree with you on this. I am a 2 year beginner on alto and tenor. I grew up on the clarinet and occasional alto (before the 70's) so I had some experience with cane reeds back then.
But taking up the sax after all these years, I found I was spending so much more time fighting the reed. I spent time chasing brands, strengths, then modifications of reeds - so much so, that I was not getting in much practice on how to play the darn instrument.
Sure, I want to sound great, but that comes after figuring out how to play the instrument in a consistent way, scales be damned, I'm talking about breath control and voicing and fingering. I also like to spend time playing any song that comes to mind or from sheet music.
But I was not able to progress very far until I finally found Legere Signature. I had to go back to the manufacturer when the 2.5 was too hard for me and they replaced it free. I use them on both my Alto and Tenor and I've progressed much more quickly in my ability.
So my basic disagreement is with beginners, and having to struggle with reeds just isn't fair to them and if a synthetic can get them more practice time like it did for me, I think they are ahead of the gsme.
 

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So neither cane nor synthetics are consistent reed to reed.
I find this statement disingenuous because it completely ignores nuance. Synthetic reeds are not 100 percent, absolutely consistent from reed to reed. Some brands are better than others in this regard, but a player may have to expect minor variations. But on average, synth reeds are far more consistent than cane reeds -- even the best cane reeds. There's no justification for lumping them all together in a "Bah, humbug!" uniform dismissal.

There are hordes of professionals all over the world using synthetic reeds regularly, on a broad range of woodwind instruments, obviously including saxophones. That doesn't mean synth reeds should be preferred by everyone, but it does compel the conclusion that they are a viable setup option. The contrarian echoes of the past that still appear on SOTW -- always along the lines of, "I don't like synthetic reeds, so no one should like them" -- are mind-boggling.
 

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Not gonna defend my statement about consistency, it’s true that cane reeds are, on the whole, more inconsistent reed-to-reed than synthetics. But this does not mean that synthetics are just “slap on and play”, which is offten the implication when people praise them, and newcomers to saxophone can be baffled by this. To say nothing of the difficulties that Legere present with lining up and staying on the mouthpiece. (I understand that other synthetics don’t have this problem, but Legere is by far the most common synthetic reed.)

Having said this, I strongly dislike synthetic reeds. This is my opinion. I think I make it clear in my posts that it is an opinion, and not a scientific thesis or incontrovertible fact. I find it somewhat amusing that people jump on statements like “synthetics are inconsistent too” and start throwing their vocabulary around, followed by statements about professionals playing synthetics.

I’m gonna say this one more time. In my opinion, synthetics today are inferior in every way to cane reeds, both for beginners and advanced professionals, and everyone in between. I am not opposed to the idea of synthetic reeds, but rather to the implementations we have today.

I also believe that the two most common arguments many beginners and amateurs use to justify their use of synthetic reeds, namely that adjusting reeds is too difficult and time-consuming, and they like to just “pick up and play”, are ridiculous. Very few people (though there are some) say they like the way a synthetic plays more than they like the way a cane reed plays. To those few people, I say “Play on!”. To the others, I say try cane reeds for a month, really try them, and see what happens.

Bottom line, I don’t really care what anyone does, I care how they sound. I also care how I sound…. I sound better on cane reeds. Most people whose sounds I admire play cane reeds. Q E freakin’ D. Again, this is all just my opinion.
 

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Here is why I play the synthetic reeds:

To me, and perhaps to most others out there, there are 3 parts to the saxophone playing:

  1. Preparation of the equipment, mainly reeds if these are cane,
  2. Playing or practising
  3. Cleaning and sanitising after each day’s play / practise

I am not a professional musician and nor will I ever be. However, I love the saxophone and I am blessed / fortunate to have the means to be able to have the instruments and a little time in the day to devote to my very serious hobby.

For Christmas this year (not that anyone should care but I am excited to share it nonetheless), I got an early present from myself which was a Tenor saxophone. I asked my wife to buy me a box each of Vandoran Alto and Soprano reeds and the Rubank method books as my Christmas present (I already have dozens of saxophone books). This was the best Christmas of my life! Now, I am on the journey of deciding on a mic / recording setup. For now I use my phone to record and listen.

When I began my ‘soprano’ saxophone journey on 22nd April 2014 (I know I said I have been playing Alto for a year and that is true too), I was spending a lot of time trying out different reed strengths and as a direct result of it, at times, chasing different mouthpieces. After acquiring about 6-7 very nice professional soprano mouthpieces, my practise and playing didn’t improve at all. So I decided to go down the route that everyone suggests, which is to get an Alto. So, I did and the above started all over again but with Alto this time. I was buying reeds and then the chase for that perfect mouthpiece followed and that’s when I got really demotivated and stopped playing completely.

I had heard about the synthetic reeds and after watching a few YouTube videos on how awful they sounded, I decided to stay perfectly clear of these.

And then I thought to myself that I have spent a lot of money on saxophones and the accessories, why not spend another £30 and try a synthetic reed. I went down to sax.co.uk and the wonderful guys there let me try a few strengths in Legere (while I was, again, buying another Jody Jazz soprano mouthpiece). I play tested the reed and I loved it. Things started to be a bit more consistent for me from then and that is all I wanted - to be able to practise and play a couple of tunes.

Now, I still dabble with the cane reeds every now then but when I am picking up my saxophone all I want to do is play on it and practise, instead of getting lost in trying to ‘find a set up’ that will allow me to practise without any challenges, which I have found with the synthetic reeds.

I can very well hear the differences between the cane and the synthetic reeds and the synthetic isn’t bad at all however, at this early-ish part of my journey to play on this beautiful instrument, I am more focused on developing my physical capabilities in playing the saxophone rather than going after the ‘sound’. I like the sound that comes out of my saxophone enough to carry on putting 2 hours each day. And that’s what matters for now. I am certain if I continue working on the breath support, articulation techniques, open throat and many other physical technical aspects, cane reeds will be a delight to play when I do get the time to learn how to work them.

So this is why I play synthetic reeds. I am not against cane reeds at all but that is not the point here. It is what allows me to appreciate the mouthpieces I have today and not chase for that perfect mouthpiece that will apparently solve all my problems! And more importantly allows me to practise my scales and long tones and all the other technical aspects that I do enjoy. And it is allowing me to clean my instruments, reeds and mouthpieces after each day’s play which is extremely important to me.

Almost 9-12 months ago, I started playing the alto more regularly alongside the soprano with the synthetic reeds and my technique as such my playing has vastly improved. Currently, I am enjoying my experiences with the saxophone and I won’t be exaggerating in saying that it has been largely due to deciding to go with the synthetic reeds.

For my soprano, I now (since my last post) have a set up, involving a synthetic reed for convenience, that is allowing me to practise more properly and thoroughly on it than I was able to before.

Finally, I must point out that where I am in the UK, finding a decent saxophone teacher has been really difficult for me. And I only live 15 mins north west of London! Hence I am largely self taught. I took a couple of hours worth of lesson not long ago, but had to travel 2.5hours each way from my home.
 

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I swapped from reds 3,0 to legere signatures 2,5 - i find that the signatures are a bit darker sounding (even with the ,5 difference) and initially didnt have that buzz that the reds have.
But the more i have been playing them (it) the more it sounds like a regular reed. I noticed i just have to make slight alteration in my jaw posistion to get that “buzz”.

They dont warp, mold or have to be wet to play. On top of that i find altissimos are easy to play, moreso than on reds. Been playing the same signature for 4-5 months now.
 

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Not gonna defend my statement about consistency, it’s true that cane reeds are, on the whole, more inconsistent reed-to-reed than synthetics. But this does not mean that synthetics are just “slap on and play”, which is offten the implication when people praise them, and newcomers to saxophone can be baffled by this. To say nothing of the difficulties that Legere present with lining up and staying on the mouthpiece. (I understand that other synthetics don’t have this problem, but Legere is by far the most common synthetic reed.)

Having said this, I strongly dislike synthetic reeds. This is my opinion. I think I make it clear in my posts that it is an opinion, and not a scientific thesis or incontrovertible fact. I find it somewhat amusing that people jump on statements like “synthetics are inconsistent too” and start throwing their vocabulary around, followed by statements about professionals playing synthetics.

I’m gonna say this one more time. In my opinion, synthetics today are inferior in every way to cane reeds, both for beginners and advanced professionals, and everyone in between. I am not opposed to the idea of synthetic reeds, but rather to the implementations we have today.

I also believe that the two most common arguments many beginners and amateurs use to justify their use of synthetic reeds, namely that adjusting reeds is too difficult and time-consuming, and they like to just “pick up and play”, are ridiculous. Very few people (though there are some) say they like the way a synthetic plays more than they like the way a cane reed plays. To those few people, I say “Play on!”. To the others, I say try cane reeds for a month, really try them, and see what happens.

Bottom line, I don’t really care what anyone does, I care how they sound. I also care how I sound…. I sound better on cane reeds. Most people whose sounds I admire play cane reeds. Q E freakin’ D. Again, this is all just my opinion.
Nobody is trying to convince you that your choices is somehow wrong. This is about beginners and helping them to advance. Those of us who are advanced can make decisions based on our own preferences. I played cane reeds for 40 years before switching MOSTLY to synthetics. I use them for performance and recording and haven't had any problems with tone or other aspects. Are you being told you must play synthetics? No! Once again this is about beginners. Why you or anyone else feels they must defend or be aggressive about this when it has nothing to do with advanced players is kind of strange. It's like 60 year olds who may not remember how they learned to ride a bicycle having an argument over whether toddlers should learn with or without training wheels. I'm hearing beginners saying that the synthetics suit them for the obvious reasons that were stated. What is there to disagree about? So you didn't learn using synthetics, and neither did I. does that somehow mean that nobody else should? Please! IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU OR YOUR CHOICES.
 

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Nobody is trying to convince you that your choices is somehow wrong. This is about beginners and helping them to advance. Those of us who are advanced can make decisions based on our own preferences. I played cane reeds for 40 years before switching MOSTLY to synthetics. I use them for performance and recording and haven't had any problems with tone or other aspects. Are you being told you must play synthetics? No! Once again this is about beginners. Why you or anyone else feels they must defend or be aggressive about this when it has nothing to do with advanced players is kind of strange. It's like 60 year olds who may not remember how they learned to ride a bicycle having an argument over whether toddlers should learn with or without training wheels. I'm hearing beginners saying that the synthetics suit them for the obvious reasons that were stated. What is there to disagree about? So you didn't learn using synthetics, and neither did I. does that somehow mean that nobody else should? Please! IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU OR YOUR CHOICES.
Dude, context is everything. I was responding to @LostConn ’s post, in which he quoted me out of context. You are right, it’s not about me - but it is about you, and about beginning players, who I am trying to help.

HOWEVER, I am trying to convince you, and the many beginners that use synthetics, that synthetics are not a good choice for starting out. I feel that recommending people start on them, is doing them a disservice.

Again, I don’t care what you play, it’s your choice. All this is my opinion, not a fact, but it is strongly held.
 

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Hello everyone, I've been playing the tenor for less than a month. I'm a trumpet player. I have Amati 60s and a mouthpiece Vandoren Java T45. I switched almost immediately from the green vandoren java 2 reeds to 2.5. I wanted to try the Legere reed. I took a 2.25( american cut), I do not know if it corresponds to a 2.5, but so always from the site Legere. so was amazed by sound quality, roundness and volume. but the thing that amazes me I do not know if it is for suggestion or something else, I'm trying it only for two days, wich i'm less wrong. Especially the transition from C to D, which created so many problems for me now with this reeds I have no more if not in a much lesser way. Do you think it could be that this reed can help those who are beginners or mine is just a momentary honeymoon? Thaks and sorry for my english.
You'll laugh but I am more than 100 miles from home this weekend. I have decided to learn some on the clarinet. I use Legere American Cut reeds on my Tenor and alto saxes and I got one for my clarinet. I didn't like it though and just laid it by. This weeked I discovered the Rico Plasticover I have been using was damaged, FUBAR actually. The only reed I could find here was that Legere 2.0. I could hit the low notes with it but not most of the high notes. It would carry on as soon as I crossed the break. Luckily today I had an inspiration and checked the clarinet's case. I found two packs of Juno clarinet reeds. Though I don't really like cane reeds I put one on and can hit all of the notes that I know and crossed the break easily.
 

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To me, and perhaps to most others out there, there are 3 parts to the saxophone playing:

  1. Preparation of the equipment, mainly reeds if these are cane,
  2. Playing or practising
  3. Cleaning and sanitising after each day’s play / practise
This kind of jumped out at me. I've been playing sax since high school and I graduated high school in '69, so it's been a lot longer time that I care to think about. In all that time, I can't say I've ever dwelled much on parts 1 & 3 of your 3-part breakdown of saxophone playing.

Part 1 involves soaking the reed for a minute or two, then puting it on the mpc, & pushing the mpc on the neck of the horn (a total of maybe 3 minutes). And yes, on whatever day (possibly weeks ago) I pulled out 4 new reeds & played each a bit, I might have spent a few minutes adjusting a reed if it seemed to need it. Part 3 involves rinsing the reed, wiping it off on my shirt and placing it in the reed guard. Part 2 is another story: Practice sessions, band rehearsals, gigs, recording sessions, learning tunes, and so on.

So, parts 1 & 3 of your 3-part plan is somewhat less that 1% of the total time involved and part 2 is the other 99%+.

Dealing with cane reeds just isn't that big a deal, once you settle on a brand/size that suits you. What was it Dexter said? "Happiness is a wet Rico reed." I agree, except mine would be Rigotti.
 
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