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Discussion Starter #1
For the past month or so, I've noticed that my reeds sometimes just wont produce any sound. It happens totally randomly, like I'll be blowing fine one minute, then I'll take a breath of air and suddenly my reed closes up on me and I can't hit any notes. It happens on all of my reeds, old ones and brand new ones, but more on some than on others. Then a few minutes later it works fine again.

What is going on???!! I have never had this problem before and it is seriously bothering me. It really is quite disconcerting knowing that when I put the horn to my mouth, there's only an 80% chance that sound will come out. Is it the humidity? My mouthpiece? I play a medium chamber meyer 5 with Vandoren Java 3s.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Your reed is probably warping as it dries on the mouthpiece. It is very common in the cold (low humidity) months.

When you have trouble, take the reed off the mouthpiece and place the flat side against a flat surface. A kitchen counter top will do. Does it rock from side to side? Most likely the answer is "yes".

I have a lot less trouble with reed warp since I started soaking my reeds in warm water before playing. I let the reeds sit in the water for at least 10 minutes and try to keep them wet during the practice session. I usually wet about 4 or 5 of them and rotate them while I play.

One more thing: the sure way to avoid reed warpage is to play a synthetic reed. I don't, but a lot of guys do and are happy.
 

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Sounds like reed warping. Once a reed is warped it won't seal onto the mouthpiece so it won't vibrate properly and you end up just blowing air with no sound as most of the air passes through the (reed warped) gap between the reed and the mouthpieces table.

I just grab a sharp edged kitchen knife and lightly run the edge a fair few times at an angle along the back of the wet reed keeping away from the tip ie the part of the back of the reed part that is against the mouthpiece (the mouthpieces flat table).

What all this does is flatten the back of the reed so that it creates a flat seal with the mouthpieces flat table where the back of the reed is against the mouthpiece.
 

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Sounds like reed warping. Once a reed is warped it won't seal onto the mouthpiece so it won't vibrate properly and you end up just blowing air with no sound as most of the air passes through the (reed warped) gap between the reed and the mouthpieces table.

I just grab a sharp edged kitchen knife and lightly run the edge a fair few times at an angle along the back of the wet reed keeping away from the tip ie the part of the back of the reed part that is against the mouthpiece (the mouthpieces flat table).

What all this does is flatten the back of the reed so that it creates a flat seal with the mouthpieces flat table where the back of the reed is against the mouthpiece.
You could also place some 600 grit sandpaper on a piece of glass (or other flat object) and lightly sand the back of the reed. Don't press down on the reed while you sand it. To protect the tip, a piece of Scotch tape should do. Be careful when you take the tape off after sanding. Fwiw, I find that sanding/modifying reeds only serves the purpose of getting a reed playing again. My best reeds require no modification. I have never performed on a reed that I have had to modify. They just don't sound as good anymore, but are good enough to practice on.

Consider how you are storing your reeds. The little plastic cases the reeds come in do little to prevent reeds from warping. I use a Selmer case that holds ten reeds on a glass surface. It works well for me.

Good luck!
 

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Yes, fine sandpaper or a reed knife.

There are reed knives that someone can buy but I just use a kitchen knife and I've done the sandpaper as well.
As long as not a great deal of material is taken off the back of the reed it shouldn't matter that much.
The goal is to just flatten the back of the reed by taking off as less material as possible.

As someone uses the reed knife or sandpaper to flatten the back of the reed they might see the areas where the material is being taken off which in my experience is usually around the edges of the reed.

Flattening the back of the reed helps with sealing the reed to the mouthpiece and also reed squeak control.

Also, flattening the back of the reed is not often a do it once and then forget it thing, as sometimes I have to do it more than once at different times in the reeds life in my experience.

Reed wetting and drying and humidity can all affect how straight the back of the reed is.
The back of the reed might be straight as it comes out of the factory but by the time someone actually slaps the reed on their mouthpiece the back of the reed could be any shape due to humidity and or temperature changes etc.

If someone wants to be more precise then they can use a builders level/straight edge and place the reed on that to see how level and straight the back of the reed is and also the builders level/straight edge can be used to see how level and straight the mouthpiece table (where the reed contacts the back part of the mouthpiece) actually is.

Put the reed or mouthpiece on the builders level/straight edge and hold it up to the light to see any small gaps. No gaps = straight.

Someone can go further if they want to with reed balancing.

Robert Kahn On His Lessons With Joe Allard
Reed adjusting? Never saw a book on it worth beans, but that’s mostly what I did with Joe Allard the 2nd year I studied with him.

Joe was really into working on reeds.

Joe recommended hard reeds because there was more wood to work with.

He recommended the Bhosys reed knife, which I got at Manny’s. It’s great. You just sort of roll it away from you to shave a leetle bit of wood at a time.

Joe said not to mess with the heart of the reed – just the sides, from the rails in, maybe a quarter of the way in, so when you were done, you’d still have the middle half untouched.

Joe would put the reed on and blow it – any note – open C# - then twist the mouthpiece a bit, so that one side of the reed would be sealed, and only the other side would vibrate. Then he’d do that to the other side and blow it. One or both sides would sound muffled. That’s the side you start taking some wood off of. The extra wood kept the reed from vibrating. He’d start down near the base of the reed and work up, at a bit of an angle, like this on the right side: / , sort of – staying away from the heart. Stay away from the tip too, he said. It’s already thin there.

He’d take a little wood off one side, maybe both, and then repeat the blowing thing – blow it normal, blow it with one side sealed, then the other one. Once one side sounds as bright as the normal way, leave it alone. Work on the muffled side until it brightens up. Then you’re done.

But as you know, reeds change. You might have to do it again later.

He’d also use the flat side of the reed knife to clean off the flat part of the reed – wet the reed and scrape it on the flat side of the knife to get the accumulated gunk off it.

And if you have to clip a reed, Joe always used the next biggest reed clipper to do it – a tenor reed clipper to clip an alto, a bari reed clipper to clip a tenor reed. I think he used an alto clipper on a clarinet, but I ain’t sure about that.

He’d also unscrew the moving parts of the reed clipper and throw them away – the part you snap on to hold the reed, and the screw thing that moves it up and down. He’d just put the reed where he wanted it, hold it there and clip it, and then repeat the thing with the reed knife.

I can’t tell you how much I dig my Bhosys reed knife. Ask around if you don’t have one. It’s great because it doesn’t dig into the reed, just scrapes off the surface.

Holding the reed up to the light, you can see where it’s thick and where it’s thin.

Generally, when you find the side with too much wood on it, you’ll see it’s dark, irregular. That’s the part you work on. If there’s a light spot on the muffled side, I’d stay away from it until you work on the dark parts.

No breaking in - but keep it clean. Joe didn’t seal his reeds in any way.

Note: You can read more about Joe Allard’s views on reeds at www.joeallard.org.
 

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Hi,there. I had similar problems ,in my case the reason was the mouthpiece,the table was not straight. So if possible, try other similar piece with same reeds and if it
works ,you know the reason is in your mouthpiece.
Best regards . RHP57.
 

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Yanagisawa17, you say "this has never happened before". Did something change? Did you change reed brand, mouthpiece, location - or did you buy a new box of reeds?

It could be any one of a number of factors, from humidity to a bad batch of reeds. Assuming nothing about you or your setup changed, then I would suspect the reeds themselves, if they are behaving differently.

One factor that has been mentioned is worth mentioning again - if in fact your reeds are warping, and it sounds like they are, then one of the best things you can do is to store them in a flat surfaced reed case. The cheap Vito plastic ones are very good for this; however what I really like best is the reed wallet available from Muncy Winds - it is a fake leather wrapper around a plastic holder, and a piece elastic fabric that holds the reeds against the plastic. Each reed has its own channel, and the leather wrap protects the entire case. http://www.muncywinds.com/index.php...d-cases/reed-wallet-8-alto-sax-reed-case.html - there are versions for tenor and clarinet as well.

Finally, I don't know your level of experience, but I recommend (and use) the ATG reed finishing system, produced by Ridenour Clarinet Products. It's a bit pricey, but I am able to play virtually every reed in a box with this system (the exception being cheaper reeds like Rico orange box reeds, which are often made poorly). The best part about it is that all my reeds play very similar and all are great.

Using the ATG system and a reed wallet from Muncy Winds, I have 0 problems with reeds.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I tried sanding the back of some reeds and that seemed to help a lot.

However, today I discovered an even bigger problem, although this one i already know how to fix: my Eb palm key is leaking... Great.

But thanks everyone! Definitely still good knowledge to have.
 
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