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Discussion Starter #1
No, this isn't a review of a new brand of reed.

I mostly play baritone. At the moment I have 9 reeds in my reed holders in the case, so I'm basically rotating amongst these, non-systematically. So I decided to check them all, toss any real bad ones, and get a couple new ones in so they'll be breaking in. Now as a point of reference I am notorious for playing reeds till they truly fall apart. I'll clip and scrape them until they're almost comically short, sometimes. They're all La Voz medium hard reeds, because about 20 years ago a friend of mine gave me 20 boxes of unused reeds, so I probably won't need to buy reeds again in this life.

Here's what I wrote down (basically what's less than ideal about each one)

- dull stiff small split
- bright buzzy squeaks small split
- stiff dull squeaks
- buzzy, weak altissimo
- stiff dull squeaky
- split buzzy raspy
- stiff dull nasal
- corner knocked off, wild, raspy, stiff
- stiff, altissimo hard

But in truth none of them is bad enough to trash. After I play each one for three or four minutes I'm adjusted to it and it seems to mellow out. I've been playing all of these, as far as I know, and they all have been working fine.

I don't know if there is a lesson to be learned here, but I invite comments anyway.
 

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TENOR, soprano, alto, baritone
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It would be easy to say the reeds are actually too hard for your set-up and that most players would find a different reed, but this is not always the case.
As for me, I also carry a lot of reeds (on tenor only - the others have synthetics) but the big difference is I only carry reeds that I already know I can use. I'm also as unscientific as you are in knowing which reed I played last and which one I'll try next, but I usually only have to try at the most three before getting a good one. And as you also know, the things mysteriously change personalities from time to time, so even if you did have the reeds marked and kept a log on them, the way a reed played last week is no indication of how it will play this week.
It is possible to draw another conclusion from your descriptions, and that would be a sax that needs a lot of attention. I have gone for years between taking my tenors in for checkups and in the interim the horns were going bad, making me think the reeds were bad. I never discovered this until I had my USA tenor overhauled. I took it to band practice and my reeds simply closed up as soon as I tried to play. I had, over a period of time, worked my way down in reed strength because the sax was so resistant (while I thought all along it was the reeds). So, now that it was free-blowing, I didn't get the resistance and simply closed the reed. I had to scuffle and find a harder reed in my Reed Guards. So now I'm back to what I used to play and possibly will be returning soon to the Select Jazz 3 soft, unfiled that I played for many years.
Also, it could be that the reeds are not changing after you put them on - the pads might be getting moist and sealing better after a few minutes of playing. This is a perfect example of what I'm saying because if the horn was right, it would be like that from the start, and actually even better.
Whatever, I'd say you are in 'reed trouble' or possibly 'sax trouble' so I hope you find your answer.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
No, actually, I feel like I'm not in reed trouble. If anything the opposite, I was expecting to put several of them on and say "Good God! Why am I still struggling with this thing?" but instead they all fell in a pretty narrow range of playability. I don't think it's pads getting moist because I warmed myself and the horn up pretty well before starting my sorting operation. I'm not going to deny there's probably a leak or two but the thing plays pianissimo down to low Bb so it's probably not severe. These old Conn 12Ms can play like that while leaking like a sieve, though, so honestly till I stick a leak light down the thing I don't know what I've got. It seems like I recently changed out some palm key pads.

And yes, they change their behavior day to day - and so do I. Am I more or less in practice? More or less tired? Humidity high, low, or whatever? Band playing louder or softer today? So "a little on the soft side" today might be just right tomorrow and the day after that it's too soft and I need the one that seemed too hard.

I do start new ones every so often just so I don't get accustomed to older and older reeds and then freak out when I put a fresh one on.
 

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Maybe somebody else will get something out of this thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Doesn't much look like it, does it?

Hey, I know, let's talk about my new doohickey that I've attached to my horn! It's made me taller, smarter, richer, and it got all the crabgrass out of my lawn!
 

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Reeds are just something us reed players have to adjust to. Obviously.

My 'technique' (with Rigotti Golds) is to keep at least 4 good to great ('gig-ready') reeds in a D'Addario reed case. I keep them in a certain order and rotate between them, but mostly play the one in 'first place' so it will wear out first. Then I move them up a notch and place the most recent good reed I have in the vacant last place in the reed holder. Beyond that I keep a few reasonably good reeds for practicing. These are either reeds that have gotten a bit too soft or worn from gigs (that reed I removed from the gig holder) or reeds that won't quite make the grade to gig on or reeds with really good potential that I'm still breaking in (some reeds need little to no breaking in, others need a few playing sessions).

Then there are a few reeds, maybe 2 out of 10, that I can't even stand to practice on. I give them a little time and work on them a bit, then toss them if they don't come around. No use wasting time with those duds.

This has worked out pretty well for me over the years. I feel good knowing I have at least 4 working reeds at all times. Luckily, where I live here on coast the humidity doesn't change much over the year, although I had some problems for a couple of days this past October when the humidity got unusually low. But 2 days out of a year isn't bad...

One "glass is half full" way to look at all this is looking forward to pulling out 3 or 4 new reeds and finding a couple that play great right off the bat! Doesn't always happen, but I usually get at least 1 great one and sometimes all 4 that at least play well.
 

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Now as a point of reference I am notorious for playing reeds till they truly fall apart. I'll clip and scrape them until they're almost comically short, sometimes. They're all La Voz medium hard reeds, because about 20 years ago a friend of mine gave me 20 boxes of unused reeds, so I probably won't need to buy reeds again in this life.
I'm a bit jealous that you can make them last that long. I do adjust reeds to try to make them play better or last longer, but even if I tried to make each reed last as long as possible, I'm sure I would have been out of reeds at least 15 years ago.

I tend to keep 4 reeds in rotation, and like 1saxman, I only carry reeds that I know I can use. I'm also kind of anxious about finding the next good reed. So, when I find a really good reed, I avoid practicing on it and try to save it for the next performance.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I don't know what has changed. When I was younger I'd find a reed had lost all life; or it would split; and into the trash it would go. Somehow in the last 10 or 15 years, it's like I just don't wear them out any more. I don't really think I have changed that much about what I do. I wonder if it's possible that something in my mouth chemistry has changed and it's become less deteriorating to reeds, somehow.

At any rate, I pulled two brand new (well, 25 years old but never used) reeds out of the box and honestly, (though I haven't used them in a full band setting yet) they play about like the reeds I"ve been playing on that I have no earthly idea how old they are. I needed to scrape one down just a wee bit and the other one seems the right strength right out of the box. I would have expected that I had adapted to the old reeds and the new ones would seem different and much stiffer; yet that was not the case.

As to selecting reeds and keeping the best ones, a while back I read an article about a teacher who would have the student start out the lesson on their best reed, then take it away, so the student was playing on their second-best, then take that one away, till the student was playing on their least-good reed. The lesson was to learn how to play beautifully on imperfect reeds, because all reeds are imperfect, and that one you think is great will be terrible the day of the juried recital. Well, everyone is free to draw their own conclusions from any source, but this made a lot of sense to me, and now I just play and practice on the one that's on top. I do adjust a significant fraction of my reeds, but once they're how I like them then I just play the next one that comes to hand.

That's just me, each of us has to do the right thing for him/her. But I have been working the last few years on accepting and working with imperfection (in a lot of different things) rather than always trying for perfection. Reeds are just a small piece of it.
 

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I don't know what has changed. When I was younger I'd find a reed had lost all life; or it would split; and into the trash it would go. Somehow in the last 10 or 15 years, it's like I just don't wear them out any more. I don't really think I have changed that much about what I do. I wonder if it's possible that something in my mouth chemistry has changed and it's become less deteriorating to reeds, somehow.

At any rate, I pulled two brand new (well, 25 years old but never used) reeds out of the box and honestly, (though I haven't used them in a full band setting yet) they play about like the reeds I"ve been playing on that I have no earthly idea how old they are. I needed to scrape one down just a wee bit and the other one seems the right strength right out of the box. I would have expected that I had adapted to the old reeds and the new ones would seem different and much stiffer; yet that was not the case.

As to selecting reeds and keeping the best ones, a while back I read an article about a teacher who would have the student start out the lesson on their best reed, then take it away, so the student was playing on their second-best, then take that one away, till the student was playing on their least-good reed. The lesson was to learn how to play beautifully on imperfect reeds, because all reeds are imperfect, and that one you think is great will be terrible the day of the juried recital. Well, everyone is free to draw their own conclusions from any source, but this made a lot of sense to me, and now I just play and practice on the one that's on top. I do adjust a significant fraction of my reeds, but once they're how I like them then I just play the next one that comes to hand.

That's just me, each of us has to do the right thing for him/her. But I have been working the last few years on accepting and working with imperfection (in a lot of different things) rather than always trying for perfection. Reeds are just a small piece of it.
Wow! Philosophy and practicality in one post! I really like the idea of playing each reed. As I age, I have found that all reeds play pretty much the same way - I think I threw a new one away a couple months ago, but for the last several years I have just taken reeds out of the box, adjusted them slightly to balance, and put them in the rotation.

The point about playing on imperfect reeds - yes! You have to learn to get your sound on ANY (well, almost any) reed. In other words, once you have found the right brand and strength for you and your mouthpiece, just play what's there, and make your music. Many decades ago I used to save the "best reed" for the concert or gig, but I found that too many times what is best in the practice room is not best on stage - maybe it's just the day, the humidity, the resonance of the environment, the level of adrenaline in my blood, whatever - so I just ended up choosing a reed that works, at the moment I need it.

I try to rotate through 6 or 8 reeds in my case in order, so each reed only gets played twice or 3 times a week, and it seems to work. Once a reed dies, out it goes; some reeds last way longer than others, and I have yet after 50+ years to learn why. At this point, I won't spend any more energy trying to understand, and just appreciate each reed for what it is :)

Thanks for a nice thread, turf3!
 
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