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This is a long post. I've tried to cut out as many details as possible. Sorry in advance.

I am primarily a bass clarinet and saxophone player. This summer I am playing 6 shows a week for a repertory theater company in Montana playing mostly soprano clarinet.

I'm having reed issues. I have always played a Gonzalez RC 3.25 on a Grabner K13 on a Normandy 4. This is the most I've ever played clarinet (about 4 hours of shows/rehearsals per day, and an hour of warmup). I am finding that my 3.25 reeds die after two weeks, and I have already gone through 3 boxes this summer. On top of this, I have severe endurance issues, and usually can only keep my embouchure steady for about an hour and a half of playing time on a good day.

Gonzalez recommends finding the strength that feels good out of the box and going up by 0.25. The reeds will be too hard at first, then once they break in, play like the softer ones did new.

With my last reed order, I got a box of 3.5s. Out of the box, I found them much too hard to play on. I could not get a focused sound, and couldn't keep my embouchure steady for more than a minute. I could play on them (rotating for break-in purposes) for about 10 minutes before my chops completely gave out. I tried sanding them down (10 strokes with 400 grit sandpaper) and still could not play them. I sanded them down until they felt just a bit harder then my new 3.25s. That was two weeks ago. Now, all of my reeds (a box each of 3.25 and 3.5) are too soft to play on.

I'm stuck. My reeds are too soft, but I still don't have the endurance to play as much as I need to, and they die quickly. But when I try harder reeds, I can't play at all.

What would you do?
 

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You'll doubtless get all sorts of advice but here is my two cents worth. I would experiment with reeds other than cane. I get so much more use from Fibracell reeds than from any cane I've ever used. They are more consistent and won't "soften" nearly as quickly as a cane reed will. Some may believe they don't produce as good a tone as cane. They may be right, but I can't tell much difference and I've been playing sax for about 25 years and making music since I was six (I'm 61 now). For the kind of heavy load you're carrying now I really believe you'll get much more for your money in the long run with a man-made reed than with cane. They'll last longer, play more consistently, don't have to be warmed up, and I've never had to "work" one to make it playable. Best of luck! And maybe let us know what you try and how it works out.
 

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When playing shows I forget about the 'break in period'. I get reeds that play out of the box.
You don't have time to mess around with getting something played in.

I use primarily Mitchel Lurie Silver box for clarinet. My Show set up of choice is a Portnoy BP03 with a Lurie 3.5.
You might get a box and give them a try if you prefer cane over synthetics. They are a bit lighter in the heart and don't seem to poop out your face as quickly.
With the amount of hours you are playing per day they should last about as long as the Gonzalez.
 

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FWIW I get about ~30 hours' worth of service life before my reeds die. You're doing 30 hours per week, so getting 60 hours from a reed is actually not bad at all.
If you want more quality time on a reed, you may have to switch to a plastic reed.
 

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I get so much more use from Fibracell reeds than from any cane I've ever used. They are more consistent and won't "soften" nearly as quickly as a cane reed will.
I second that. I played a couple of years fibracell, until I found Legere synthetic reeds. They suit me just a little better.

http://www.legere.com/

I play them on tenor. I get lots of positive comments on my sound, and collegue saxophone players are suprised if the see that I play synthetic. Consistency is great and endurance as well. In the long run the reed gets softer and looses resistance, so thats time to change. I play randomly on 2 or 3, for not getting to dependend on one.
 

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Try a different brand of reed. I used Gonzalez FOF for a while. The cane was first rate, and the first few boxes I bought, most of the reeds were playable with little adjustment. Then something changed. The last batches I bought, most of the reeds were WAY harder than the marked strength, and when I sanded them down to playability, they turned to mush. I'm back to Vandoren. I'm sold on Legere for bass clarinet right now, but few more boxes of Vandoren soprano reeds with one or two playable reeds each, I might pull the trigger and switch to Legere there, too. If they're good enough for Larry Combs, they're certainly good enough for me.
 

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+++1 on the synthetic reeds. I use Legere as well.

With cane reeds, I'd get a month out of a really really good reed, and there were only a couple in a box.

I get three months out of my Legere, and each one is exactly like the last one.
 

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I'm currently using Gonzalez FoF and RC 4's. I've noticed that they're a little hard out of the box, but they do break in over time (within a week). I have a couple of FoF's in my case right now, and really noticed this from the first day, to putting them down for a while, and using the RC reeds, and then switching back to the FoF's. It was a complete change, and it made it better. I think that if you let them break in slowly, you'll get a good long life out of them. I've been rotating between these 4 reeds now for a good while (over a month, and 2 weeks of that was intense practice for an audition).
 

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This is a long post. I've tried to cut out as many details as possible. Sorry in advance.

I am primarily a bass clarinet and saxophone player. This summer I am playing 6 shows a week for a repertory theater company in Montana playing mostly soprano clarinet.

I'm having reed issues. I have always played a Gonzalez RC 3.25 on a Grabner K13 on a Normandy 4. This is the most I've ever played clarinet (about 4 hours of shows/rehearsals per day, and an hour of warmup). I am finding that my 3.25 reeds die after two weeks, and I have already gone through 3 boxes this summer. On top of this, I have severe endurance issues, and usually can only keep my embouchure steady for about an hour and a half of playing time on a good day.

Gonzalez recommends finding the strength that feels good out of the box and going up by 0.25. The reeds will be too hard at first, then once they break in, play like the softer ones did new.

With my last reed order, I got a box of 3.5s. Out of the box, I found them much too hard to play on. I could not get a focused sound, and couldn't keep my embouchure steady for more than a minute. I could play on them (rotating for break-in purposes) for about 10 minutes before my chops completely gave out. I tried sanding them down (10 strokes with 400 grit sandpaper) and still could not play them. I sanded them down until they felt just a bit harder then my new 3.25s. That was two weeks ago. Now, all of my reeds (a box each of 3.25 and 3.5) are too soft to play on.

I'm stuck. My reeds are too soft, but I still don't have the endurance to play as much as I need to, and they die quickly. But when I try harder reeds, I can't play at all.

What would you do?
If it was sax you were talking about, I would say it sounds like you're just not breaking them in. Go with the 3.5's, but break them in slowly on the side while actively playing your "rotation" of primo reeds. If the 3.25 last about 2 weeks then they are too soft, what would happen if you slowly broke in some 3.5's over the course of two weeks? Get 'em close to where you want them, a light (1000 grit) sand (stay away from tip) and voila ... reeds just the way you like them, and they will get you a bigger sound and last way longer than two weeks.
Now, since it's clarinet ...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
tictactux: Is that 30 hours per reed, or per box? I'm going through 20 reeds in two weeks (three, if you count the time when they feel too soft but can still be played with good tone/tuning for a few minutes before they crap out)

Soul Patch Paul , Hinzaldi, lomaserena, robko626: I have met many people who claim to sound as good with Legere as they do with cane. The recordings on their website (by top professional players) sound awesome, but everyone who I've ever head playing them in person has the same dull, splatty character to their tone and very limited projection. So far, I have never been fooled in person by a Legere user. I have a regular Legere and a Signature which I use for practicing but I just can't get them to sound good enough to play in public. Thanks for the suggestion though.

JohnGalt: My break-in procedure: Before playing, dip the tip and butt of each reed in water and allow it to dry completely. Repeat 10x. An early clarinet teacher suggested this. This seems to make the reeds dry faster and become less prone to becoming waterlogged. I've never done any experiments to verify this but I've been doing it so long it feels wrong not to.

I then rub the reeds (both sides) on notebook paper, roughly 10 strokes on each side, which makes them smooth and also less prone to becoming waterlogged.

I play the reeds at most 2 or 3 minutes the first day, and gradually increase the playing time to 15 minutes after a week or so. I always change reeds after 15 minutes of playing time or after it begins to become waterlogged, whichever happens first. Once they are a week old, I might sand down the ones that are too hard/too bad to play on. My first teacher suggested 500 grit paper, but I've noticed most people seem to use much lighter paper then that. I'll ask the scene shop if they have any 1000 grit I can "borrow".

The problem with slowly breaking in 3.5s is that if I play on them just a couple minutes a day, I've pretty much used up all my chops for the day, and will proceed to play that night's show with puffed cheeks and a spread, core-less, out of tune sound. My endurance has always been awful (on all my instruments) and doesn't improve much when I'm playing a lot.

I think the best suggestion so far is to try different brands, unfortunately (for my wallet). I'm going to try some Mitchell Luries. I use Ricos of some sort on my primary instruments and have stuck with Gonzo's on clarinet for so long because I am between strengths with most other brands, but if I remember correctly Luries run a bit soft so they should work. I might also try some FOF 3.25s, just to see if they last any longer. If anyone can suggest some other brands that are roughly between a Gonzalez 3.25 and a V12 3.5 I'll give them a shot.

Thanks to everyone who replied.
 

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tictactux: Is that 30 hours per reed, or per box? I'm going through 20 reeds in two weeks (three, if you count the time when they feel too soft but can still be played with good tone/tuning for a few minutes before they crap out)

Soul Patch Paul , Hinzaldi, lomaserena, robko626: I have met many people who claim to sound as good with Legere as they do with cane. The recordings on their website (by top professional players) sound awesome, but everyone who I've ever head playing them in person has the same dull, splatty character to their tone and very limited projection. So far, I have never been fooled in person by a Legere user. I have a regular Legere and a Signature which I use for practicing but I just can't get them to sound good enough to play in public. Thanks for the suggestion though.

JohnGalt: My break-in procedure: Before playing, dip the tip and butt of each reed in water and allow it to dry completely. Repeat 10x. An early clarinet teacher suggested this. This seems to make the reeds dry faster and become less prone to becoming waterlogged. I've never done any experiments to verify this but I've been doing it so long it feels wrong not to.

I then rub the reeds (both sides) on notebook paper, roughly 10 strokes on each side, which makes them smooth and also less prone to becoming waterlogged.

I play the reeds at most 2 or 3 minutes the first day, and gradually increase the playing time to 15 minutes after a week or so. I always change reeds after 15 minutes of playing time or after it begins to become waterlogged, whichever happens first. Once they are a week old, I might sand down the ones that are too hard/too bad to play on. My first teacher suggested 500 grit paper, but I've noticed most people seem to use much lighter paper then that. I'll ask the scene shop if they have any 1000 grit I can "borrow".

The problem with slowly breaking in 3.5s is that if I play on them just a couple minutes a day, I've pretty much used up all my chops for the day, and will proceed to play that night's show with puffed cheeks and a spread, core-less, out of tune sound. My endurance has always been awful (on all my instruments) and doesn't improve much when I'm playing a lot.

I think the best suggestion so far is to try different brands, unfortunately (for my wallet). I'm going to try some Mitchell Luries. I use Ricos of some sort on my primary instruments and have stuck with Gonzo's on clarinet for so long because I am between strengths with most other brands, but if I remember correctly Luries run a bit soft so they should work. I might also try some FOF 3.25s, just to see if they last any longer. If anyone can suggest some other brands that are roughly between a Gonzalez 3.25 and a V12 3.5 I'll give them a shot.

Thanks to everyone who replied.
That was kalmen Opperman who used his own saliva several times a day to thoroughly soak new reeds for over a week bfore even play testing them. This was because the inroduction of moisture (and then drying) would cause an expansion and contraction of the fibers, helping break them in as much as the introduction of vibration.
Really? You cant play some reeds one size too stiff for even 30-60 seconds a piece? Might be kind of theraputic ...
 

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Go Fibracell man. They last much longer and do not go soft on you after two weeks! You might have to try a few sizes though. Premeirs come in traditional sizes whereas the traditionals come in soft medium soft, mediul etc.

Good luck!

www.ReedsForLess.com
 

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tictactux: Is that 30 hours per reed, or per box? I'm going through 20 reeds in two weeks (three, if you count the time when they feel too soft but can still be played with good tone/tuning for a few minutes before they crap out)
30 hours per reed. With your current schedule, this means about one week per reed, or 2 1/2 Months per box. (Mitchell Lurie 3.5 standard)
 

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try not playing the same reed all the time. Select the primo reeds from the box by play testing them (yes, not all cane was created equal) and then play a different reed each time you play in a rotation, if you play for exceptionally long session, switch up. This will extend the life of your reeds, and ensure you have a healthy rotation of reeds in different parts of their reed life so you can tell when one is getting too soft because it can be guaged against the others in the rotation.
 

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FWIW I get about ~30 hours' worth of service life before my reeds die. You're doing 30 hours per week, so getting 60 hours from a reed is actually not bad at all.
If you want more quality time on a reed, you may have to switch to a plastic reed.
I only get about 10 hrs from a cane reed. What is causing your fatigue is playing the same reed for too long a period. With each playing session, the reed gets softer and when you finally replace it your embouchure has become weaker from playing
too soft a reed which of course no longer feels soft to you. When you replace your reed the new reed feels much stronger than your old exhausted reed and your embouchure has gotten weaker worsening the problem. That is why it is a good idea to rotate 3 or 4 reeds and replace those that become too soft. I use a reed clipper when a reed starts to play too easy.
If you are not aware that your reeds get softer as they are played you will always suffer with a new reed.
 

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If it was sax you were talking about, I would say it sounds like you're just not breaking them in. Go with the 3.5's, but break them in slowly on the side while actively playing your "rotation" of primo reeds. If the 3.25 last about 2 weeks then they are too soft, what would happen if you slowly broke in some 3.5's over the course of two weeks? Get 'em close to where you want them, a light (1000 grit) sand (stay away from tip) and voila ... reeds just the way you like them, and they will get you a bigger sound and last way longer than two weeks.
Now, since it's clarinet ...
Same with clarinet.
 

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could it be that you need to pull out a little. I notice when I push in more, on my sax anyways, I can play in tune but it takes more work. A lot more work. If I pull out a little bit then I'm in tune with good tone and I'm not struggling physically to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
JohnGalt: My chops are absurdly week. Even when I'm doing 3 hours of practice and 3-4 hours of ensembles per day, I can't keep my embouchure going for more than an hour on clarinet (I get a little more then 2 on sax and bass clarinet). I do 15-20 minute of long tones a day. All of my setups use a half strength softer reed than most people would use on the same mouthpiece.

martinm5862: I change reeds after roughly 15 minutes of playing time. I keep two boxes in rotation and use all of them.

sax23: I can't play fibracells on clarinet. I can't get any core/ring to the sound, and my tone is fuzzy, and I go progressively flatter the higher I go. I'm glad they work for you but I'm not a good enough clarinet player to use them.

stormott77: I usually spend 5-10 minutes of my daily long tones playing with a tuning drone. I have the barrel at the spot where it is easiest to get most of 12ths in tune with minimal adjustment. I am quite sharp on my lowest D, B, Bb, and A, but I think those are tuning issues with my horn. If I pull out enough that they are in tune with no adjustment, the rest of the instrument is quite flat.
 
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