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Discussion Starter #1
Hello, fellow saxmasters.

I'm an intermediate-level player looking for tips on how to mark, organize and rotate my reeds. I figure, "Who best to ask, but the pros?"

I've never really had a system, other than to just keep three or four reeds in each case, and the rest at home, in a drawer somewhere, all mixed up by size and strength and use. This disorganization is finally catching up with me, as I got to a gig last week, and realized that I had organized all of my reeds except for the one instrument that I was to play! I ended up using a reed that I had not even tested!

Perhaps you would be so kind as to offer a brief explanation of your own method, so that I can pick up some good ideas about how to improve my own? If you thinkg that by uploading a photo it would make it easier for me to visualize and preclude the need for explanation, by all means, feel free.

First, allow me to explain my situation, just to show you where my weak points are:

First of all, I play only soprano, alto, and tenor, so I don't need to organize reeds for any other instrument, but I do need separation for the three.

Last month, I separated all reeds by instrument, so now I have three little "storage boxes" for the reeds for each instrument, one box for each, and coincidentally each storage box is of a different color. Each storage box stays at home in storage, at all times, while about four loose reeds go with me in my instrument case.

Inside each little storage box, I have two or three boxes of ten new reeds, fresh off the music store shelf, of different makes and strengths. I also have lots of loose reeds in the storage boxes, but each one has its own plastic or paper protective sleeve, or else is kept in Rico Reed-Guards. (I am finding that tenor-size works for all three instruments, and helps keep the tip of the reed farther back from the edge than the smaller Reed Guards).

As for these random, loose reeds in these storage boxes, I tried some of them only once or twice, years ago, while I played some of the others continuously for six months in a row, years ago, but I don't really know which is which anymore, unless I just judge by the color and other signs of deterioration, on the reed itself, but even that is not a consistent sign.

Moreover, as I was using Fibracell fiberglas reeds for many years, and, as they cost about $12 each, it was hard to throw them away, even after they went bad. I am just now switching back to cane, so I am in a process of "testing" different makes and strengths, so I feel the need to keep two or three different makes or strengths of cane reeds in my saxophone case at all times, in order to continue comparing and testing.

To my surprise I have found that a No.2 reed works best on my alto and soprano, but a 3 or 3.5 on my tenor, even when using the same make and model of mouthpiece on all three horns. This difference only adds to the confusion as I try to remember which reeds I was using last, on any given instrument, and which strength worked best at the time. The idea occurred to me of keeping a pocket-sized notebook inside each instrument case, with an updated page describing my latest set-up issues for that instrument, and preferences, but I have not tried doing that just yet.

As for being able to quickly identify any of the reeds that I keep within my instrument case at all times, when using the Reed-Guard I cannot really tell at a glance, what strength the reed is, unless I pull it out and flip it over to check, and then put it back. Moreover, some of the factory markings are so faint that I can hardly even read the strength number anyway, in a dimly-lit room. I am tempted to mark the strength on the round upper side of the reed, instead, with a bold black marker, rather than glance at the playing side, each time.

Long ago, for about three years, I used to write the date of "first use" on the top of each reed, in an attempt to start some kind of rotation system, but it did not work; when I ended up using a different reed temporarily for a few months, for example, and then maybe a different brand of another reed for a few months, I would inadvertently forget whether the date that I had written on the first reed meant that I had used it a lot since that date, or whether it meant that I had merely tested it a few times since that date. Consequently, it did not help me to determine the age, in the end.

I had thought about making one little mark on the top of the reed, with every use, in the same way that a fighter pilot marks on the side of his plane how many enemy planes he has shot down so far, but it seems that I would soon run out of space with this method, so I have never really tried it.

In short, these are my four questions:

(1) I haven't the slightest idea how you pros "rotate" reeds, but I would certainly like to know.

(2) Any suggestions regarding how to mark individual reeds will be greatly appreciated.

(3) Any ideas on how to improve the organization of my reed collection in general, will be well received, as well.

(4) Any other flaws with my system that I may not even aware of, feel free to point them out.

Sincerely grateful,

Erik
 

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I USE fibracell, that come in a nice individual plastic case for each reed: My process:

-As soon as I receive new reeds, I date them on the back with magic marker, according to date & number purchased (ex: If I buy three new reeds I mark them 2/2020:1, 2/2020:2, 2/2020:3) this way each reed has a name & helps keep them identified

-I carry five reeds to the gig & the plastic covers are labeled in order of preference #1,2,3 etc

-A day before the gig, I quickly test my top 5 reeds, & move them to the cover order I feel they are currently playing at. Ex: If last weeks #1 got a lot of use & is getting a bit weak I will move it to the # 3 or 4 case) I want my best reed that week in the #1 case etc. This way, if my reed is not performing to my satisfaction on the gig I can quickly grab #2 knowing I have already tested it ahead of time & can see at a glance which reed is up next

-As reeds gets older & move down the preference order I will discard it to the trash can so it doesn't get lost in a pile of reeds I no longer trust.

The system is actually a lot simpler than the above explanation... hope this helps
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yes. Helpful, indeed. Thank you for taking the time to share the detailed explanation. Very kind of you.

So, this means that you store them in the original cases when not in use, and never separate them from that original case. Interesting.

And I need to include some kind of marking system for separating the "good" ones from the "better" ones.

Got it. Thank you.
 

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Re: Re : How to mark, organize, and rotate new and used reeds

"So, this means that you store them in the original cases when not in use, and never separate them from that original case. Interesting".


Well no, There is a case labeled #1, a case labeled #2 etc etc. The actual reeds get moved from case to case depending on how they are playing that week....

It seems so simple when I do it... but so over complicated when I try to explain it
 

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Re: Re : How to mark, organize, and rotate new and used reeds

...
And I need to include some kind of marking system for separating the "good" ones from the "better" ones.
...
Every time I play a reed I mark it (at the back, on the curved top) with a Sharpie pen. The mark resists water. The convention I use is to write a small vertical bar ( | ) if I believe the reed is performing very well, a round dot ( ° ) if it's average, and a minus sign ( - ) if I think it has issues.

So after numerous times playing I will have a row or several rows of these symbols in a chronological sequence, e.g. ° | | | ° ° ° - -

After a series of poor results, I'll retire the reed and mark it with X.
 

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I have a couple 4 reed cases . I label the slots as 1,2,3,4 and of course that is my ranking in order of performance, I don’t care what strength they are - it’s all about how they feel.

They always travel in a soft zippered camera lens case with my mouthpieces and wireless mic/transmitter. Foolproof unless I forget the case. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Re : Re: How to mark, organize, and rotate new and used reeds

Oh, I see. So, you mark the case when it is new, with the date, but after you start using it, it gets moved. Got it.

Thanks for the suggestion, Arundo and Liggy. Good point, that the way the reed plays and feels is a better point of reference than the actual reed strength--especially since the meaning of the numbers varies from brand to brand. Very good point.
 

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I’m usually the first to crack a joke about Milandro chiming in with a list of threads a person should’ve looked at before posting and a not so thinly veiled jab about using the correct search function, but seriously, these reed questions about storage and methods for keeping track of the good, bad, and ugly have been asked and answered hundreds of times. Do some reading.
 

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I don't rotate reeds. I play them into the ground. Well... almost to the ground. If I chip or split one, in the bin it goes. If I try a reed and it doesn't work for me, I put it back and hope it might work better at a different time of the year. If it doesn't, I might sand the vamp a bit and use it as a practice reed. But when I find that "right" reed, I use it until it ain't right anymore. Then I put it in a slot in a two or four reed holder as my preferred back up to carry in my pocket for a gig. When I find a new "right" reed, then the old spares get slid down in order; eventually to be trashed. It's rare that I'll change a reed during a gig, though I'm always prepared to. But that's about all the categorizing I do. It really doesn't have to be too complicated.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you, Grumps. I never thought about saving a reed as a "practice" reed, because I like to get used to how it responds before I use it in public. thanks for the good ideas.

Yes, I will go back and do some searching on SOTW to see if these questions have already been answered somewhere.
 

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Re: Re : How to mark, organize, and rotate new and used reeds

Thank you, Grumps. I never thought about saving a reed as a "practice" reed, because I like to get used to how it responds before I use it in public.
Well, it's rare that I'll sand a reed. But as reeds are numerically graded by strength of fiber and not thickness, sanding them necessarily degrades them. I find that although I can get a "bad" reed to work for me, altered reeds play a bit brighter by my experience and don't last as long. Henceforth, I don't fully trust them on a gig. So I'll use them at band practice, or practice at home. And that way I don't use up all the "good" in my preferred reed.
 

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I keep alto and tenor reeds in Selmer reed cases, they open like a book and have a flat glass inside that you simply place the reeds on, no clamps. Most of the time a problem reed will have a warp on the heel side, getting them wet and rubbing them on the glass tends to flatten them out. If it doesn't I'll sand the reed to flatten the heel-side of it, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. For soprano I keep my reeds in a Van Doren case.

I face all the reeds in the same direction, except the one that I last played, I turn that one upside-down so I can keep track. I keep at least 4 reeds going all the time, and play the first one that works well. My reeds tend to go dead all at once (at least that I notice), and when they do I throw them away. I find that a reed will work one day at an indoor club, and not the next day outside, but then after that will work well indoors again. Different HVAC wherever I happen to be seems to be impactful, though I'm not sure exactly how or why.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Fascinating. I never dreamed that a good reed would play well one day, bad the next, good the next, etc.
 

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Although my system has a level of sophistication much too elaborate for words, maybe a picture can help elucidate;-)
 

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...I find that a reed will work one day at an indoor club, and not the next day outside, but then after that will work well indoors again. Different HVAC wherever I happen to be seems to be impactful, though I'm not sure exactly how or why.

I find this to be SO TRUE!!! Reeds are a moody little animal! They definitely have their individual preferences & habits
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ha ha ha. I will have to save 59Martin's photo as an ideal case of how NOT to organize my reeds!

I guess it helps simplify when you play only one instrument with only one brand and facing of mouthpiece.

Having read over some old threads that I found on SOTW, during the past two hours, I have yet to find a perfect marking system, but it seems that the general consensus is to carry four reeds in a Reed-guard that has each slot numbered, rather than the reed itself; to play one on one day, and the next on the next, and the third on the third, etc. (Frankly I did not understand exactly what was meant by "rotation" until I saw that explanation; I thought it meant to play one for a few weeks, than to swith to another for a few weeks, etc.).

I also picked up the following tips from various posts:

Sanborn and others often play only one reed continuously until it dies, and may even leave the reed on the mouthpiece for long periods of time.

There seems to be something to be said for letting the reed rest and dry for one day before using it again, lending more credibility to the practice of daily rotation, while also keeping in mind that, in the long run, either way may work for a good musician.

Washing the reed and soaking it in Listerine or Hydrogen Peroxide seems to be a healthy practice, although it seems that Peroxide may damage it in the long run, but the germs must be killed one way or another, to prevent strep throat and other issues that I used to experience myself.

Soaking the reed indefinitely is practiced by some, but generally not recommended by most.

In the middle of a gig, some musicians will keep reeds or entire mouthpiece-reed-ligature combinations, soaking in a glass, between takes. This is a special case.

Marking the reed or Reed-Guard by current playability, seems to be more practical, in the long run, rather than marking them by reed strength or date. The mere fact that one has kept his reed in "slot no.1" implies that it is still good to go, regardless of how old it is or when it was bought, or how often it has been played.

Codifying the labeling system to reflect which reed works on which mouthpiece, also seems to be a good idea, as in my case, where one is accustomed to using different mouthpieces of different brands and facings for different situations. (e.g. EB-VG may mean "for my Ebonite mpc, this reed is currently very good" and "V16-G" may mean "for my Vandoren V16, this reed is currently playing well, but not quite the best that I have on hand.")

Reed cases are becoming increasingly popular, it seems.

Thick sharpies are best for labeling the bark of the reed, but one should take care not to soak that part, if he wants to keep his marking legible.

I didn't want to run this topic into the ground, but the information and different ideas are very useful.
 

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I always kept it simple. A black marker dot for performance reeds, and a dash for practice reeds. New reeds never left their case, others were stored in a reed container.

Was very simple and straight-forward for me. I would do a monthly "reed check" for a few hours where I would change markings as needed and test new reeds and mark them.

Now I just use Legere and they're all great and every single one is a performance reed. Has simplified my life so much.

- Saxaholic
 

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I don't make a distinction between practice and performance reeds, and I don't mark them in any way. I keep them in a 4 (or 8) slot reed holder, and just go through them one-by-one, rotating one each day. They all play just fine :) ... because I took the 5 minutes to play test and balance it when I first took the reed out of the box. Maybe one in 20 or 30 reeds doesn't make the cut and ends up in the trash. The rest of them go in rotation - and when one dies, it goes to the trash and a new one comes out to replace it at my next practice.

I used to just play one reed at a time (like Grumps) but there was always a day or two of uncomfortable playing in between until I got used to the next reed. Really unfortunate if that day happened to be rehearsal day with a big star and there was an exposed solo...

I believe daily rotation encourages you to work on your tone, breath and embouchure so that you are "insulated" from the minor differences between reeds. In other words, it promotes good musicianship.
 

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Although my system has a level of sophistication much too elaborate for words, maybe a picture can help elucidate;-)
I'll take the one with heart and exclamation point.

Right... so I have reeds I've marked as bad, but I don't throw reeds away, so I'll come back to a "bad" reed at some point and it'll be good again. If it continues to stink, it'll get the X.

Maybe I'll build a little fort with all my dead reeds.
 

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Fascinating. I never dreamed that a good reed would play well one day, bad the next, good the next, etc.
I haven't found this to be true. When I find a good to great reed, it stays that way until it dies. There are some reeds that don't start out so well, then come around and play pretty well. But overall, a good reed is a good reed, and a dud is a dud.

As to rotating reeds, I keep 4 good reeds in a reed case and play them somewhat at random. Eventually one will wear out and I replace it with another good reed. That's about it. Keep it simple. Life is too short.
 
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