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Discussion Starter #1
Could anyone please describe what changes in a reed's performance as it gets broken in? And how much playing does it take?

All of which leads to: How do you tell the difference between a reed that's not yet broken in, and one that's simply no good?

Thanks for your help.
 

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Metaphorce - I'm sure the physicists will be along to discuss in detail later, here's my quick 'sound-byte'...

It's a source of gentle frustration that - if a new reed instantly plays like nirvana - within a few hours of playing it will have dropped to almost the equivalent of the next strength down. However the flexibility (soundwise) will have increased by that time. I don't think you can tell an awful lot about a reed on 'first play', except for the odd squeaker, or completely dead one, because initially a perfect reed will be just a little too hard.

I often speed up this breaking in process by (very) gentle bending of the wet reed on a flat surface, and firmly rubbing towards the tip with the thumb when on the mouthpiece. I've seen sax players holding reeds 'up to the light', checking for grain and colour, but I just think that their OCD is worse than mine - but then again I reject way less than 10% of all reeds I try (except obviously for the very 'cheap and cheerful' brands, which I avoid) which seems to put me in a minority...

Once you get the reed playable tho', cherish and protect it. Don't leave it on the mouthpiece overnight, take it off, dry it, and use a reed clamp for storage somewhere away from excessive heat/humidity/dryness. Otherwise you'll end up with a wrinkly and unresponsive reed next time.

Ooops, that was more than a sound-byte.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, C-Mel. It sounds like the breaking-in process involves either the reed fibers stretching or the bonds between the long fibers tearing slightly. Makes sense. Thanks for the tips.
 

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Thanks, C-Mel. It sounds like the breaking-in process involves either the reed fibers stretching or the bonds between the long fibers tearing slightly. Makes sense. Thanks for the tips.
Or, of course, you could by-pass the organic route altogether & dive straight into Space Age technology with synthetic Kevlar based reeds....all consistent with remarkable longevity & no witchcraft required in terms of "breaking-in".
On reflection however, everyone should suffer the duff reed, the stuffy reed, the too hard & too soft from the same box & the 101 problems associated with expensive bits of stick....it's character building. :bluewink:
 

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Metaphorce - I'm sure the physicists will be along to discuss in detail later, here's my quick 'sound-byte'...

It's a source of gentle frustration that - if a new reed instantly plays like nirvana - within a few hours of playing it will have dropped to almost the equivalent of the next strength down. However the flexibility (soundwise) will have increased by that time. I don't think you can tell an awful lot about a reed on 'first play', except for the odd squeaker, or completely dead one, because initially a perfect reed will be just a little too hard.



I often speed up this breaking in process by (very) gentle bending of the wet reed on a flat surface, and firmly rubbing towards the tip with the thumb when on the mouthpiece. I've seen sax players holding reeds 'up to the light', checking for grain and colour, but I just think that their OCD is worse than mine - but then again I reject way less than 10% of all reeds I try (except obviously for the very 'cheap and cheerful' brands, which I avoid) which seems to put me in a minority...

Once you get the reed playable tho', cherish and protect it. Don't leave it on the mouthpiece overnight, take it off, dry it, and use a reed clamp for storage somewhere away from excessive heat/humidity/dryness. Otherwise you'll end up with a wrinkly and unresponsive reed next time.

Ooops, that was more than a sound-byte.
Im disagree with some of cmelodysax here. I like his implication that a perfect player out of the box will most likely be too lame in very short time. This is why a break in period is necessary, BUT, I can tell if a reed is a player in less than 2 seconds (even though it is not where I need it to be at that moment) from experience. Here's what you do: buy twenty reeds (2 boxes for alto, 4 for tenor), soak 'em, play test them all in quick succession. Here you will notice a distinct difference bewteen the reeds, with several of them (for me, out of 20 reeds, 4-6) will typically be really vibrant. They may not be easy to play the way you like 'em, but you can tell they're better than the rest. So even at this stage, you can tell the difference between a crappy reed and one thats going to be special.
 

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Im disagree with some of cmelodysax here. I like his implication that a perfect player out of the box will most likely be too lame in very short time. This is why a break in period is necessary, BUT, I can tell if a reed is a player in less than 2 seconds (even though it is not where I need it to be at that moment) from experience. Here's what you do: buy twenty reeds (2 boxes for alto, 4 for tenor), soak 'em, play test them all in quick succession. Here you will notice a distinct difference bewteen the reeds, with several of them (for me, out of 20 reeds, 4-6) will typically be really vibrant. They may not be easy to play the way you like 'em, but you can tell they're better than the rest. So even at this stage, you can tell the difference between a crappy reed and one thats going to be special.
metaphorce...Without doubt, both John and cmelodysax are correct, but all this witchcraft gives added credence to the use of synthetics.
One buys a horn, maybe costing thousands....then rely upon a temperamental, inconsistent, unreliable piece of overpriced twig to make it work.
If synthetics did not exist, I would be a trombone player. :bluewink:
 

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Actually it debunks use of synthetics by clueing in the beginner that not all reeds are the same, that the ones that are actually meant to be played must be "selected" from the drech.
 

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When you discover what a "vibrant" piece of cane feels like to play, with minimal effort your cane will surpass any sound you cane get on a piece of plastic.
 

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I don't buy boxes of reeds to throw any of 'em away if I can possibly help it - often a little discrete shaving, or playing in, will resurrect a duffer, even if only to use them for practise.... Either I must be undemanding (and I know I'm not, as I have rampant OCD...) - or Rico Royal/Plasticover and LaVoz must be quite consistent.

You 'picky' guys obvously have far too much disposable income, I suggest you send all your unsuitable reeds to me for a second opinion. PM me for address details. I'll gladly cover your postage.
 

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You pay for postage and they're yours! (of course I have put them in my mouth)
As for disposable income ... why would I scimp on that which I make a living? I probably only spend $200/year more than you because the good ones last, and I take care of them.
 

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When you discover what a "vibrant" piece of cane feels like to play, with minimal effort your cane will surpass any sound you cane get on a piece of plastic.

So you say....but please remember that I have played both, & therefore in a position to decide what is best for me....and others not wishing to become involved in the expensive cane reed lottery. By the way...all reeds, cane or synthetic, vibrate....otherwise we could not generate a sound.
 

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So you say....but please remember that I have played both, & therefore in a position to decide what is best for me....and others not wishing to become involved in the expensive cane reed lottery. By the way...all reeds, cane or synthetic, vibrate....otherwise we could not generate a sound.
I hear ya, but I hardly call it a reed "lottery", and again, it's really not expensive.
" all reeds, cane or synthetic, vibrate....otherwise we could not generate a sound"
I didnt say "vibrate", I said vibrant. Clearly you dont know the difference between a vibrant cane reed and simply "the next one in the box".
 

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I hear ya, but I hardly call it a reed "lottery", and again, it's really not expensive.
" all reeds, cane or synthetic, vibrate....otherwise we could not generate a sound"
I didnt say "vibrate", I said vibrant. Clearly you dont know the difference between a vibrant cane reed and simply "the next one in the box".
As you are determined to be rude may I point out that to be vibrant embraces vibrate. Surely you are not so insular as to suggest that the views of others, who have the temerity to differ from your, must, by definition, be wrong.
Despite your denial, I maintain that it is a lottery with cane reeds....or perhaps all your reeds are identical & need no work....anything else is a lottery....ipso facto.
By the way...there is an apostrophe in don't....don't y know?
 

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Saying it's a "lottery" suggests luck, reed manufacturers will tell you they dont expect you to play every reed, its the nature of the beast.
Vibrant: As you correctly state- 1) quivering or vibrating, especially as in a wayto produce sound 2) produced by vibration; resonant.
But, as anyone engaged in a conversation would know to imply 3) throbbing with life and activity; lively, and my favorite 4)VIGOROUS, ENERGETIC, RADIANT, VIVACIOUS.[Websters]
So, how was I rude exactly? Just from offering a more logical and scientific viewpoint to yours?
 

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...So, how was I rude exactly? Just from offering a more logical and scientific viewpoint to yours?
Light blue touch paper and stand well back....[rolleyes]


.....reed manufacturers will tell you they dont expect you to play every reed, its the nature of the beast....
Please expand - in fifty years of buying reeds I've never been told, or seen printed on boxes "You may well have to throw some of these reeds away..." :tsk:

btw - Are you related to Grumps ? :bluewink:
 

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Ignoring your vacuous & unqualified suggestion that your choice of wooden reeds is (sic) " more logical & scientific" than my preference for synthetics, may I return to topic rather than engage in nit picking.
The OP is a beginner in terms of sax playing. At his stage, I would suggest, he probably has more trouble with low notes & a decent chromatic scale than the niceties of tone & vibrant reeds.
My suggestion that he tries synthetics was an attempt to reduce the number of variables for him....consistency at his level, is prime. He is an intelligent man, & can decide later which type of reeds suits him best.
I honestly do not mind if you use & promote cane reeds....perhaps you would allow others the same courtesy.
 

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Captain,
A great point! There are many true experts on this forum & a few of us “sponges” are just trying to find the path of least resistance....All of these posts make sense to the experienced regardless of preference.... but you hit the nail on the head! The "newbie’s" (of which I am proudly one) would benefit at the on-set to limit as many variables as possible...there will be plenty of time to feel ones way through the nuances of the accoutrements!
Fester
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Actually it debunks use of synthetics by clueing in the beginner that not all reeds are the same, that the ones that are actually meant to be played must be "selected" from the drech.
I don;'t know if your point about reeds is correct or not, but I have to disagree with your spelling of "dreck." It is pronounced with a hard C, not a soft CH, and I have always seen it transliterated as "dreck" not 'drech.'
 

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Discussion Starter #20
You pay for postage and they're yours! (of course I have put them in my mouth)
As for disposable income ... why would I scimp on that which I make a living? I probably only spend $200/year more than you because the good ones last, and I take care of them.
If you have any tenor 2 or 2.5 you want to dump, tell me where to send the postage.
 
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