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Discussion Starter #1
I Have Been Playing For 5 Years .(alto).
How Do I Know When It's Time To Progress To The Next Size Reed And What Will I Gain From A Higher Reed (i Use A Ricco 2).
Also Can Any One Give Me An Idea On How Good (or Bad ) The Plastic Coated Reeds Are.
 

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I don't buy into the theory that you need to 'progress' to a higher reed number to sound better. You have been playing for 5 years and if you like the way you sound on a Rico 2 then there is no reason to change. I think if you find a reed / mouthpiece / player combo that works then there is no reason to change. I have been playing a while, and I use 2 1/2s with a fairly closed mouthpiece.
As far as plastic coated reeds, I havent tried them in a long time, but I remember them being about as picky as cane. I use synthetic reeds (Legere) and found them to be pretty decent and consistant.
One more thought... the only time I try different reeds is when I start playing around with different mouthpieces. Once I settle into something I try and stick with it.
 

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The more you play, the more your embouchure gets developed to a certain extend of course. If you add some embouchure exercises to strengthen your muscles around your mouth you may well be able to "move up". This is something you have to experiment with. If you feel comfortable and you like your sound there is no need to change the reed strength. I started out many years ago on a 2 1/2 and I'm now at a 3 using an Otto Link 8*. Nothing drastic. I feel very comfortable for years now. Why change?

Personally I really prefer plasticover reeds. Not many players like them (or now them) but I find they combine the best of both worlds. It's still cane, hence the feel and sound of real cane. As an extra advantage they are ready to "slap on and play" without wetting them first (like plastic reeds) and they have a little more brightness to them than regular cane. But it all boils down to personal likings.

Experiment!!! And not only with reeds... It's a long journey but a pleasant one.
 

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The first thing I'd be concerned with is finding the right reed that works for you and your mouthpiece.

If you are up to a medium or 3ish strength of reed then that is good enough. If the medium 3ish reed seem soft then start thinking about a bigger tip opening on your mouthpiece. If you're playing tenor, you'll probably end up where most of us end up size 7* or 8 mpc and a medium reed. Sure a bunch of us (myself included) can play bigger mpcs, but when maximum expression is desired over maximum volume or edginess then the 7* with medium reed is hard to beat.
 

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Moving up in reed strength does not necessarily mean "progress." If it is too difficult to play or the tone is deadened, then you are are looking at regress, not progress. Having said that, if you find the reeds you use now are too soft, then move up a half-step and see what happens. This is assuming you stay on the same mpc. A mpc with a different tip size may necessitate moving up or down in reed strength. In general, larger tips call for softer reeds and vice versa.
 

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You may find, after playing for 30+ years, that you have been using a reed that is too hard and that your tone sounds "forced". Using a softer reed may be the ticket for a player that learns some control and uses a relaxed embouchure.

Bottom line: Size doesn't matter. It's how you use it.
 

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I don't think anyone addressed jimfreebody's first question. Oh, I agree that reed strength is not a test of macho, and one should play what works best for the chosen mouthpiece and the player's embouchure. No need to increase just because BOB plays a three.

But who do it know?!?!

I'd say that if your sound is coming WAY too easily, which may cause you to need to exercise more pitch control than you need . . . and/or if the sound pinches off when you push at extreme volumes, especially in the upper register . . . and/or if you have extreme difficulty with the high end of your saxophone while the low notes speak SO easily . . . it may be time to increase reed strength.

I'm sure there may be other indicators, but those are some of the ways I know when I've under-matched a reed strength to a new mouthpiece. I'm WAY beyond deciding which strength works best for my embouchure because I've been playing so long and pretty much have it figured out. But when trying new mouthpieces, it is not an embouchure thing for me, it is a mouthpiece design thing.

As far as plasticover reeds - I don 't like them. Contrary to what others have written, I find them dull and lifeless. We are all different when it comes to politics, religion, and mouthpiece/reed set-ups.

PLUS, the black plastic covering comes off after a short time and I end up with bits of the covering in my mouth (or else, where did all those little pieces go, the pieces from where the cane is showing through?). DAVE
 

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Dave Dolson said:
I don't think anyone addressed jimfreebody's first question.

I'd say that if your sound is coming WAY too easily, which may cause you to need to exercise more pitch control than you need . . . and/or if the sound pinches off when you push at extreme volumes, especially in the upper register . . . and/or if you have extreme difficulty with the high end of your saxophone while the low notes speak SO easily . . . it may be time to increase reed strength.
Thank you for that answer, Dave! I've often had the same question but in spite of the many discussions about reed strength I had not seen a clear answer that did not sound like the major goal was to play on the hardest reed possible without developing anoxia.
Regards, Ruth
 

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I always thought you had to have a wide tip opening to get the tone I was after (Ben Webster / Paul Gonsalves)... then I heard my sax teacher play on his .095 Yanagisaw mouthpiece and my jaw hit the floor :shock:

I felt very foolish whistling and popping away on my .108 and sounding nowhere near as good as what he effortlessly produced casually asking if that was "the sort of thing I wanted to sound like".

That was a lesson I am unlikely to forget in a hurry :| :)
 

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Dave Dolson said:
I'd say that if your sound is coming WAY too easily, which may cause you to need to exercise more pitch control than you need . . . and/or if the sound pinches off when you push at extreme volumes, especially in the upper register . . . and/or if you have extreme difficulty with the high end of your saxophone while the low notes speak SO easily . . . it may be time to increase reed strength. DAVE
Excellent description of the indicators for low reed strength, Dave. I'm sure this will be useful to many newer players. Sometimes we take these things for granted, like the "fact" that everyone will know when a reed is too soft. I'd like to add that these same indicators apply when a reed is used up and gone too soft. I gets oh-so-easy to play, but the sound loses body and all the other indicators Dave mentions start happening.
 

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I've recently switched to plasicovers and I like them a lot.

On the reed strength issue I agree with lots of people here that "working up" to harder reeds is not ncessarily prgress. I used to use Rico 4s, it took a lot of practice working on my embouchure and breath support to be able to use softer reeds (I now use 2.5) to get volume and altissimo range. The good thing about softer reeds is that if you can develop the necessary embouchure and support, not only do you get the volume and range, but you can also get a lot more versatility than you can with harder reeds, ie not bending, vibrato and bigger dynamic range. IMO you "progress" to being able to get the most out of softer reeds, rather than the easy short cut of "working up" to harder reeds.
 

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I agree with what Pete has to say, up to a point.

There is a point below which, IMHO there is not enough 'heart' material in the reed to get a good sound, at least for me.
 
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