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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread should be interesting, but let me start off with some background info:

I've played bassoon for about a month and bassoonists generally make their own reeds because for a bassoon, the reed quality makes up 90% of the sound, therefore, you need to customize reeds to yourself and store bought reeds won't cut it.

On saxes, the mouthpiece is also a big part of the sound so you get a fair store reed and a good mouthpiece and you should be all good.
Bassoon reeds are very hard to make and I thought to myself, why not make sax reeds if you can make bassoon reeds? They are much easier to make and I wondered how to results would be. Rigotti sells sax reed blanks but I'm not willing to spend money on all the necessary tools yet. I took a very hard Rico La Voz reed (I find that these reeds have the potential to be the very best because of the quality cane and the cane density) and I noticed that the reed was uneven (bring the reed up to the light to see the evenness)

I filed the reed, trimmed it (reed clipper), and I changed the arch of the edges so that the reed was almost 100% even, I'd say 90% because I didn't want to invest TOO much time into reeds if it wouldn't do much.
Now when you work on a reed, you shouldn't play on it for a week because adjustments cause tension and you need the reed to adjust, but it was my first reed so I was impatient.
I slapped it on and AMAZING. I couldn't believe it. To thing some teenage kid (myself) could make a reed like this. Just unbelievable. I've been doing reed studies (internet, books, teachers) to understand how the reed works for around 3 years just out of personal interest. I'm just dumbfounded. It actually made me sound like a different player overall.

In comparison to store bought reeds, this was the perfect reed. And the best part is that this works on EVERY reed so none of them need to be thrown out (bad reeds are just out of proportion so they really aren't bad).

Really, just amazing. Sax reeds are very easy to alter and you can customize them very far. You can transform one sound into its complete opposite in 10 minutes.

Since then, I've made reeds after players and I've done experiments like drying out the cane, boiling the cane, lighting it on fire, etc.

I have my original reed (just a general reed I love) and I have made a Dave Koz, Coleman Hawkins, and Dexter Gordon reed. (Gordon was the easiest, then Hawkins, and Koz was pretty hard)
But to the point, I recommend people try this out and see where you end up. I'm so inspired I really want to write a book. Really this is just fantastic.

Hand-made reeds are just roasters. If you want to learn more about the process feel free to email me at [email protected]. I'm not planning on selling reeds or anything, though I could if you are interested; but I just am focusing on sharing this discovery, it's just amazing. As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to buy a Hahn synthetic reed to see if they really are as amazing as everyone says (and I'll work on it) and from then on, I'm not spending $28 a box on the JAVA's I used to love so much. I'm sticking with my Coleman Hawkins and making reeds for my friends and people in my neighborhood. Really, just astounding.
 

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I do this too... but on cheaper cane (Orange Box stuff). It really improves response and, in effect, tone. Instead of sacrificing tone by going down a size, you can just cut the reed a bit, keeping the heart of the reed, though, and get a better response without changing much tone. Just evening it out improves it by much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I do this too... but on cheaper cane (Orange Box stuff). It really improves response and, in effect, tone. Instead of sacrificing tone by going down a size, you can just cut the reed a bit, keeping the heart of the reed, though, and get a better response without changing much tone. Just evening it out improves it by much.
What you are saying is very true, and the best part is that you can adjust to the smallest amount so it fits you just perfectly. For example, I buy Vandoren 3.5 JAVA's as one of my favorite reeds and I like them. But what I didn't know was that I go perfect with a 3.3948903580 JAVA. You get my point. Not to mention most reeds are very inconsistent in hardness. But altering strength is not but one of the few things I do. Again, I've done things like lighting reeds on fire (not so good) but I tried taking a lighter and lighting it NEXT to a reed and it approved immediate response for example. There are a ton of things you can do and so many people want a certain sound but can't get it and this really does the trick. If you want more info I prefer you email me. I'm busy today but I might get back to you tonight. I'm off the computer after this message. But really, this isn't a hmm maybe I might be interested thing. I'm talking about spending 15 minutes on a reed and going from 4th to 1st place in a competition (not that these reeds were meant for that) but really it's amazing what the smallest things can do. I'm considering making a short article on it with pictures and sending it to all SOTW people for free and possibly making reed videos on youtube. I really think I've hit the hold grail on this one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And just to add, I will make a digital diagram of the 12 or so parts of a reed. There are many parts, not just the heart. Quality channels (reed part) for example, will make it easier to hit a low Bb and go to and altissimo instantly. I'm ridiculously excited. I feel like I've discovered the greatest secret of the world. I should really get the ShamWow guy to start advertising these...
 

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Maybe, just maybe Halle Berry could make me that excited. I'm not sure whether I miss being a teenager, or I'm glad I'm not, anyway good work:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ehh being a teenager isn't so great.
Regardless, you guys should really try this.
 

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I do this too... but on cheaper cane (Orange Box stuff). It really improves response and, in effect, tone. Instead of sacrificing tone by going down a size, you can just cut the reed a bit, keeping the heart of the reed, though, and get a better response without changing much tone. Just evening it out improves it by much.
What you are saying is very true, and the best part is that you can adjust to the smallest amount so it fits you just perfectly. For example, I buy Vandoren 3.5 JAVA's as one of my favorite reeds and I like them. But what I didn't know was that I go perfect with a 3.3948903580 JAVA. You get my point. Not to mention most reeds are very inconsistent in hardness. But altering strength is not but one of the few things I do. Again, I've done things like lighting reeds on fire (not so good) but I tried taking a lighter and lighting it NEXT to a reed and it approved immediate response for example. There are a ton of things you can do and so many people want a certain sound but can't get it and this really does the trick. If you want more info I prefer you email me. I'm busy today but I might get back to you tonight. I'm off the computer after this message. But really, this isn't a hmm maybe I might be interested thing. I'm talking about spending 15 minutes on a reed and going from 4th to 1st place in a competition (not that these reeds were meant for that) but really it's amazing what the smallest things can do. I'm considering making a short article on it with pictures and sending it to all SOTW people for free and possibly making reed videos on youtube. I really think I've hit the hold grail on this one.
Very true. I don't think about the parts of the reed, but more visualize what cutting in certain spots should (at least in my mind) do. Usually it works. Sometimes it's like the elusive rollover baffle, that, when you make higher, actually darkens the sound (looking back, that is pretty logical).

Anyway. Though doing my own reed cutting and further, reading about all you've done, I've come to realize the reed does have a bit more effect on tone than a lot of us have thought (or, some of us). I know it really affects feel a lot to, which can be just as important.

Chris
 

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Balancing and adjusting reeds isn't really a new thing - I was taught how to do this many many years ago when I started studying clarinet. I've bought reed knives, made one from an old straight razor (it's still my favorite knife), used about 100 cases of sandpaper, killed several dozen dutch rush plants, etc. I've made oboe reeds (and yes, if you play double reeds you have to make your own), adjusted thousands of sax and clarinet reeds, thrown away thousands more, many after trying to "fix" them.

I have recently learned a new way to do it, and can't recommend it too highly. It's the Tom Ridenour ATG method. It's easier than using a knife or rush in the traditional way, and it works great. http://www.ridenourclarinetproducts.com/ATG1.html

Not affiliated with Mr. Ridenour in any way, just an extremely satisfied (and finally happy about reed adjusting!) customer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
BlueSkiesTenor:
I've never recommended buying reed study tools like that because online books and internet does plenty. Honestly, my biggest learning process was from taking reeds that were dead and used up to the point where I felt I should throw them away, and trimming them and noticing the difference in sound (trimming makes the reed seem harder but ALSO brings the heart of the reed closer to the tip which usually isn't as good) and then taking that reed and doing experiments to it. 95% of the time I ended with garbage and sometimes I just took the leftovers and burned them at bonfires (lots of fun). Other times I got great results and learned from it. The funny thing is that most people don't see the importance of the reed. The reed IS the sound. It is the vibration. These day store bought reeds do the job and the only reason I know this stuff is because when you take a bassonists reed case and look inside, you see a cold weather reed, a warm weather one, an outdoor one, an orchestra one, an indoor one, one for days you are sick, etc. This is not a joke at all. Bassoon reeds act as mouthpieces and reeds at the same time so every situation is important. Playing the cold weather reed when you're sick can make a screaming metal berg larsen 120 SMS sound like a s80 C* mouthpiece. Store reeds do the job so people focus on mouthpieces but really, I've never met anyone who does what I do to reeds. I've seen clippers and reed rush users but that's as far as most go. I've cut the tip so that the top isn't curved, it's flat :eek:
(not saying it sounded good though haha) but you get the point, the reed does more than we think and we ignore it because you can sound good either way, one's just better. I have no doubt in my mind that legends from the Golden Age of jazz had people make them reeds. They may endorse rico's but those really aren't ricos.

The concept of a reed is that there are many parts and each of these parts need to be in proportion. When you adjust one part, you adjust another, this leads to a good reed. The reed will always be better in this situation but the thing is that it might not give you the sound you want so you have to equally adjust some more.



Skeller047:
And as for reed adjustment not being new, I know this but I'm completely making new reeds here. I've done aging processes to produce a vintage sound, I've burned reeds for flaky sounds, hell I've stabbed holes in the heart of the reed to try new things! Most people take a reed and shave it to make it soft or clip it to make it hard. Really all you're doing it making a 2 a 2.5 and a 2.5 a 2. I'm changing the arches and the rails and the channels and who knows what. Really, the only difference between a vandoren traditional and a JAVA is cane density and the difference between a JAVA and ZZ is the thickness of the tip. Think about it. These small differences define a classical reed vs. a rock and roll reed. What happens when you splice and sides and dip the remains in alcohol? Much Much More.
Remember the reed has EVERYTHING to do with sound because the reed vibrates, not the mouthpiece. The slightest change can go so far.
 

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I'd rather practice enough to sound good on a mediocre reed than spend hours and hours working on them.

To each his own, whatever works for you, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I don't want to waste away at the practice over ____ theory, but this isn't about sounding better because of reeds, more about sounding different. I get a totally different sound. Some people might say I don't sound like myself, some say I don't have my sound and reeds have been a hidden secret for too long. Regardless, I wouldn't buy a mpc to sound better but to work on a reed, definately. Crafting reeds only takes me about 5 minutes per reed now. The ones you buy at stores are pretty good, just uneven because a machine can't cut it perfect
 

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There used to be a little blue paper book held together with staples that they sold at Rayburns in Boston that was all about reed adjustment. I forget what it was called, but it went into some depth about how every part of the reed affects sound. There's a thread on SOTW about drilling holes through the reeds, and I even read somewhere (and did this for a while in HS) about scoring the bottom of the reed with a knife just where it separates from the facing of your mpc in order to let it vibrate more freely. There's nothing new under the sun, but it's good to experiment because it can teach you so much. I went through a phase where I'd spend 30 minutes adjusting reeds before even trying them. I got so jealous of guys who could just play them out of the box, that I went cold turkey and didn't do anything to them at all. I still don't do much more than that...
 

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Here's the Bootman drilling process you mentioned. I routinely do this to every reed, before even trying it. It may all be in my head, but I do think it improves the response somewhat. It takes only seconds with the drill press and with a jig similar to what's shown in the photos.

I even used this on synthetic reeds.

http://www.geocities.com/reed_drilling/
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well my experience with the process is that unless it's done PERFECT and i mean picture perfect, because again, the reed must be in equalibrium. synthetics are worlds apart but i'll explain that some other time and plasticovers are BOUNDS apart. the reason is that when you adjust them, you remove plastic. I'll make some article if someone can sponsor it on a site or SOTW is willing to make it a special post. i dont want to go into an ultra complex process if not too many people will bother to read it. i also need to take pics, attach, etc. big hassle for a high school kid. you will understand the power of this process only when you've done it. it's too amazing i had to double check i was using a bad reed. (i started by altering the bad reeds). video actually might be a good way to present this as well hmm....
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
But yes really if you can offer me a space to post on your own personal site if you have one that would be great!
 

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I'm interested in reading more about your reed ideas. If I feel it has merit, I can host it, for a while, anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I'll have something typed up to start off. Just give me a few days to a week. I have some serious AP homework so I'll be back soon.
 
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