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Hello,
I hope I am posting to the correct Forum.

I run into issues when playing my alto and my tenor. When I start playing or practicing, my reed seals tightly to the mouthpiece. Playing feels great, I am happy with the tone and projection. About 15-20 minutes in, the tone goes dull, and I loose projection. Intonation becomes inconsistent. When checking the MP/Reed, I notice that there is no "pop", and I can hear air. It is consistently at the back of the lay, near the curve.

The curious thing is that all of my mouthpieces do this. I play a Morgan Florida 6 on tenor, a Morgan Excalibur 5 or a NY Meyer 5 on alto. This also happens once in a while on bari - i play a Berg Larson 95/2. All Vandoren reeds (red on the alto (2.5) and tenor (3) ZZ on the Bari (3).) It happens if I seal the back of the reed with 600 grit paper, or not. It happend on new reeds, usually from the 2nd to 3rd playing.

I retired the NY Meyer thinking the table had issues, but reeds on the Morgan have the same behavior. This leads me to believe that there are reed issues.

A few other details:

I do not spend a tremendous amount of time adjusting reeds, but I do seal the back. It has never helped (actually made things worse) I am comfortable on what I play from a strength perspective. I like how my reeds respond. Harder reeds did not improve anything. I fear a softer reed will mess with intonation too much. My practice room is to the warm side. I have heat coils in the floor (from a boiler) with no thermostat in the room. It does get warm, sometimes I open the window a little to get air circulating. This is the best I can do in my home.

This has been going on for years and would do my nerves well to solve. I play well, but it is not good to loose projection and harmonic depth of tone on a gig, especially on a solo chair.

Thoughts?

Lynn Lewandowski
 

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Vandoren reeds are among the most consistent. Mouthpiece also unlikely the problem, as it would fail the pop test right away.

After 20 minutes of playing, a very dry reed may imbibe enough moisture to warp and fail the pop test. Do you keep the reeds in a sealed moist box in between practicing? Your heating arrangements might be conducive to extremely dry air in winter.
 

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Here is an experiment to try. Play for only 10 minutes, and then rewet the reed, and go for another 10, and repeat a few times. This will help determine if your room issues are drying the reed out even when you are playing. Sealing the back sides of your reeds might also be reducing how much moisture is absorbed while playing.

Another thought is try out a synthetic reed to test the room conditions situation, because ambient room conditions really won't matter with a synthetic reed.
 

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It sounds like you need to flatten your reeds.

I like to polish the flat of my reeds on a piece of copy paper sitting on a flat surface. Paper is the approximate equivalent of 1000 grit.

Some people prefer to use a reed knife or Reed Geek tool to flatten a reed, but this will only ensure side-to-side flatness, rather than the full length.
 

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Hello,
I hope I am posting to the correct Forum.

I run into issues when playing my alto and my tenor. When I start playing or practicing, my reed seals tightly to the mouthpiece. Playing feels great, I am happy with the tone and projection. About 15-20 minutes in, the tone goes dull, and I loose projection. Intonation becomes inconsistent. When checking the MP/Reed, I notice that there is no "pop", and I can hear air. It is consistently at the back of the lay, near the curve.

The curious thing is that all of my mouthpieces do this. I play a Morgan Florida 6 on tenor, a Morgan Excalibur 5 or a NY Meyer 5 on alto. This also happens once in a while on bari - i play a Berg Larson 95/2. All Vandoren reeds (red on the alto (2.5) and tenor (3) ZZ on the Bari (3).) It happens if I seal the back of the reed with 600 grit paper, or not. It happend on new reeds, usually from the 2nd to 3rd playing.

I retired the NY Meyer thinking the table had issues, but reeds on the Morgan have the same behavior. This leads me to believe that there are reed issues.

A few other details:

I do not spend a tremendous amount of time adjusting reeds, but I do seal the back. It has never helped (actually made things worse) I am comfortable on what I play from a strength perspective. I like how my reeds respond. Harder reeds did not improve anything. I fear a softer reed will mess with intonation too much. My practice room is to the warm side. I have heat coils in the floor (from a boiler) with no thermostat in the room. It does get warm, sometimes I open the window a little to get air circulating. This is the best I can do in my home.

This has been going on for years and would do my nerves well to solve. I play well, but it is not good to loose projection and harmonic depth of tone on a gig, especially on a solo chair.

Thoughts?

Lynn Lewandowski
How are you sealing the back of the reeds? My first thought is that you are not doing this right and causing your reeds not to seal since this is happening with all reeds and all mouthpieces which is not very likely to happen.
 

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Here is one perspective, from Alexander Reeds, on breaking in and sealing reeds:

http://www.superial.com/mainten_breakin.html

Breaking In A New Reed


We suggest that you break the reeds in by first soaking them for about 2-4 minutes in lukewarm to warm water, and making sure that the whole vamp, and not just the tip alone, gets wet (a reed that is too dry or only wet at the very tip might tend to squeak). Some players, especially in dry weather, prefer a little more soaking time and a some others like immersing the whole reed in the water. Then again, if you soak it for too long, it may end up becoming waterlogged, so try a balanced approach. And make sure you wet the reed each succeeding time you play thereafter, though you may find that as it gets broken in, less soaking time will be necessary.

After the soaking is operation is done, place the reed you want to prepare on glass or a similar flat surface and massage it (starting from the back of the vamp slope) with your finger or fingers several strokes forward towards the tip, in order to help close off the fiber ends and stabilize the cane.

Breaking in for Softer Reeds


Then comes the break-in secret for reeds which feel just right or run a little on the soft side.

Break in the reeds like this by playing them at no louder than mp-m and for the first day only a few minutes and maybe 5-10 minutes the second day.

By breaking them in at mezzo or softer and for not too long in the first couple of days, the reeds should last longer and be more stable for full bore playing later. And contrarily, playing reeds that feel just right or somewhat soft all out at fortissimo from the first day or so might overstress the tips which then lead to shorter service time.

A tendency of these reeds is to harden a little after a few days of playing, so you may find a slightly softer reed that will end up being perfect in a few days after break in.

Harder Reeds


For any reeds which feel considerably hard the first time you play them, you should skip the above Breaking in for Softer Reeds procedure and just play them normally from then on.

You can also easily adjust harder reeds with the steps outlined on our Reed Customizing page. Please note that it's generally easier to soften a reed that is too hard, than the other way around. There are several methods and tools which work well for softening reeds.
 

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The part of the description that interests me is the air leaking "at the back of the lay, near the curve". A common "rule of thumb" for how much mouthpiece to take in the mouth is to place the top teeth directly above where the mouthpiece and reed come together. This puts the lower lip slightly beyond that spot and the rest of the muscles around the mouth form a seal slightly past where the reed and mouthpiece separate. This, in itself, should prevent air leaking from the sides of the reed regardless of the attributes of any particular reed.

There is a way to correctly diagnose the flatness of a mouthpiece table by laying a 1200 - 1500 grit sheet of wet or dry sandpaper on a sheet of glass and then drawing the mouthpiece laid front to back toward you across the paper holding it firmly and using light pressure. Looking at the "pattern" on the table after doing one stroke will tell how flat the table is. If it is very close to perfect, this can also be a way to flatten it. Of course removing more than a very small amount of material can alter the lay of the mouthpiece and should only be done by an experienced "refacer".

I have "polished" the backs of my cane reeds for years using the paper technique Dr. G describes. I use the inside of a method book cover over a plate of glass and rub the reed lengthwise back and forth until it starts to "click". It will have a "mirror" finish when done properly. It helps the moisture to form droplets and roll off the back of the reed instead of staying there and adding a sizzling sound to the tone when playing softly. I am not sure the paper is abrasive enough to actually remove wood and flatten the back of the reed like sandpaper would. I will have to look into that.
 

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I did try moisture control, but the reeds were stuffy sounding. Thoughts on how much moisture control to use?
You cannot achieve more than 100% humidity inside the sealed box, so it's not about how much. It's about what you have in there beside of water. Some people use vodka = 60% water + alcohol. Others use Listerine: water + (eucalyptus oil + alcohol). Still others use hair bleach = 97% of water + peroxide. After trying all of the above, I settled on acid. I keep the 'fallow' reed in a vapor bath on a tiny "soap box" raised above some 1/8" of white vinegar in a sealed food container.
 

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You cannot achieve more than 100% humidity inside the sealed box, so it's not about how much. It's about what you have in there beside of water. Some people use vodka = 60% water + alcohol. Others use Listerine: water + (eucalyptus oil + alcohol). Still others use hair bleach = 97% of water + peroxide. After trying all of the above, I settled on acid. I keep the 'fallow' reed in a vapor bath on a tiny "soap box" raised above some 1/8" of white vinegar in a sealed food container.
Do you keep your reeds on a spring-loaded flat surface to restore flatness?

I almost like the idea of having a sweet pickle reed treated with rice vinegar.

I have "polished" the backs of my cane reeds for years using the paper technique Dr. G describes. I use the inside of a method book cover over a plate of glass and rub the reed lengthwise back and forth until it starts to "click". It will have a "mirror" finish when done properly. It helps the moisture to form droplets and roll off the back of the reed instead of staying there and adding a sizzling sound to the tone when playing softly. I am not sure the paper is abrasive enough to actually remove wood and flatten the back of the reed like sandpaper would. I will have to look into that.
Thanks for raising the question, John. On reflection, I recall that I use a reed plate with a rougher grit on it, perhaps 120 or so, to flatten reeds. I polish afterwards with the paper technique. It's been so long since I've had to flatten a reed to correct a leak that I forgot that as I was typing.
 

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Im guessing a fabric lig and that its expanding...or a poor fitting lig.

I wonder if a different lig...specifically one with a screw down plate would address the problem...or even a better fitting two screw lig.
Im not advocating high dollar ligs. Just one that fits.

But its just a guess.
 

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Do you keep your reeds on a spring-loaded flat surface to restore flatness?
I put the just-played reed in a Rico reed case in open air, to keep it flat and dry out at the same time. Next day, the (already dry AND flat) reed goes into the sealed box with vinegar in it, no reed case, on the theory that it won't warp anymore. The day after that it's ready to be played again. Perhaps I should use two reed cases, one for inside the box. But I only got one.
 

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I put the just-played reed in a Rico reed case in open air, to keep it flat and dry out at the same time. Next day, the (already dry AND flat) reed goes into the sealed box with vinegar in it, no reed case, on the theory that it won't warp anymore. The day after that it's ready to be played again. Perhaps I should use two reed cases, one for inside the box. But I only got one.
If the reed is dry and flat, then you humidify it, I could see the possibility of it warping. Yes, I'd go with a second reed case.
 

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Definitely need a tight metal lig, not a fabric one. Also make sure it's not all the way back at the end of the heel. Bring it forward so the reed still has a tight seal before the break but not so much that the lig ends touch before the screws are tight. Lastly, soak the whole reed for a minute before you play, not just the part that goes in your mouth. It will wick up a lot through the heel and moisten the reed uniformly. A big contributor to warping is having contracted dry parts and expanded wet parts. I've followed this procedure for 40 years and have never had to sand down a reed to get it to seal.
 

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I was going to put money on it being a Rovner.

If you have access to even a cheap 2 screw lig see if the problem goes away.

I swear off Rovners because I have had them not seal reeds when Im making mouthpieces. When it happened I was like ***...its flat as hell. I even remade the mpc and it did it again. Then I put on a different lig and it sealed like crazy. I was more than a little annoyed.

I threw them in the trash.

Over time things stretch, things change.

It may not be the lig but try a standard lig and and eliminate the lig as the variable.
 

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I use Rovner Versa. I have tried others, but the Versa is the most consistent for me.
I have a Rovner Versa here and it kind of works but it doesn't seal half as well as a bog standard two screw. Get a Selmer or Vandoren two screw ligature and I think it will help. None of the expensive, boutique ligatures I've tried seal as well as a standard metal two screw ligature.
 

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I was going to put money on it being a Rovner.

If you have access to even a cheap 2 screw lig see if the problem goes away.

I swear off Rovners because I have had them not seal reeds when Im making mouthpieces. When it happened I was like ***...its flat as hell. I even remade the mpc and it did it again. Then I put on a different lig and it sealed like crazy. I was more than a little annoyed.

I threw them in the trash.

Over time things stretch, things change.

It may not be the lig but try a standard lig and and eliminate the lig as the variable.
I have a Rovner Versa here and it kind of works but it doesn't seal half as well as a bog standard two screw. Get a Selmer or Vandoren two screw ligature and I think it will help. None of the expensive, boutique ligatures I've tried seal as well as a standard metal two screw ligature.
+1 to these thoughts. The “plays great for 15 minutes then everything goes sideways” is very typical of a reed that has warped away from the table. If your ligature is even a tiny bit loose, water gets in between the reed and the table, making the problem worse. A ligature that holds the reed flat helps this issue, but does not completely prevent it.

Just use a standard case, or a humidity controlled case without the humidity, let the reed dry flat, then soak it for a few minutes the next time you play it. Don’t make things more complicated than you need to.

If the reed warps, flatten the back then put it away to dry. If it happens again throw it out! Sealing the back of a new reed might or might not help. Letting your reeds “age” for 6 or more months before you use also might help. Or not...

I know Wisconsin has variable humidity, but the above approach has worked for me in East Coast, West Coast and mountain (very low humidity in Winter, moderate in summer) environments.
 
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