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Discussion Starter #1
We've all wondered about the inconsistency of reeds in a single box. This inconsistency I'm told is intentional. The reeds are individually designed to accommodate the myriads of embouchers that may play them. Therefore, they have very minute differences that match indivdual player configurations. Adjusting will yield greater amounts of reeds per box.

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My understanding is that reeds are cut using a machine, the inconsistency comes from the very nature of cane itself. i.e. no one piece of cane is ever going to be the same as the next piece. Of course manufacturers will try and use similar cane and cut from the same area of the cane to achieve some consistency. By and large they do and I suppose the more you pay the greater the chance of getting more consistent reeds because they are 'selected'.

I am not sure if reeds are strength tested after cutting or not, that could be very time consuming.

If you want consistency then synthetic is the way to go.

Look at it like this, every time you put a new reed on its like playing a new mouthpiece -arrgh!!
 

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Wailin' said:
We've all wondered about the inconsistency of reeds in a single box. This inconsistency I'm told is intentional. The reeds are individually designed to accommodate the myriads of embouchers that may play them. Therefore, they have very minute differences that match indivdual player configurations. Adjusting will yield greater amounts of reeds per box.

Comments?

I've heard this before too but I'm skeptical. Sure, people have different preferences/tastes when it comes to how their reeds play but....

They could accomodate this more efficiently by grouping/branding the similar types in one box, as opposed to haphazardly throwing them all together. Wldn't you being willing to pay more for this arrangement? I know I and many others would. If any realy consistency were attainable (at least w/ current technology), we would of seen it by now.
 

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Wailin' said:
We've all wondered about the inconsistency of reeds in a single box. This inconsistency I'm told is intentional.
Quite sure it isn't. There is a reason why one branch has a lot more consistency (and is often more expensive) than another. Compare Vandoren with Rico with Rigotti with Alexander ... The companies with the more expensive reeds pay more attention to the choice of reed they use for manufacturing. Inconsistency is thus merely a fact of artefacts in the natural reed used to make the reeds.

I also noticed that in different years, quality may differ. I was told that had to do with the differences in quality of the reed yield. Sounds logic to me.

my 2 cents
 

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I heard a surprising story from someone who fairly recently toured the Vandoren factory on how the strengths are decided:

The reeds are tested with a machine that tells the reed's exact strength. They are then separated and marked accordingly. If a reed is in between strengths, it is simply set aside for a day or two in hopes that changes in weather will bring it closer to a particular strength.

So, it's no surprise that a particular box may have a variety of strengths. As far as actual reed cuts, I would think those are due simply to machine & cane tolerances.
 

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yeah, I imagine that story is true to an extend.

I know Vandoren does reed strength tests. And they intentionally do load up boxes with silghtly thicker and slightly thinner reeds then the specified box to accomodate all people. But I figure somewhere from paris to wherever it's being sold there has to be some kind of warpage. Reed is very sensitive to moisture and humidity changes, much like wood veneers.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
The saying goes, "a sax player is only as good as his reed is" holds some weight. I discovered that one has to handpick the reeds. Reed woes are quite excruciating considering only 1-2 in a box of 10 may really work!

I'm not professional enough to scrape, balance, or as I see on the board, drill reeds.

Many players claim they end up going back to the cane from synthetic so synthetics may not be the answer. In checking out professional setups most rely on the wet cane. One very professional sax player told me it's trial and error for him. The moment he places the reed in his mouth and plays it, he knows if it's for him or not. That's the premise from which I currently work.
How about you?
 

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"only as good as his reed"
Well, I don't know about that... A great player doesn't crumble because of a clunker reed. An important developmental step for every player is learning how to get the most from your reeds - and to make them do your bidding. Sometimes that means changing what you "know" is right. Try changing your reed storage habits, try leaving it on the mouthpiece until it dies, try a different break-in period/method, get a reed knife and use all those bad reeds as experiments, try a different brand or cut or strength. When I hear someone say that they can only use 10-20% of the reeds out of the box, I think they really need to try some of the above suggestions! Also, make sure your mouthpiece is faced evenly. For example: if the right rail is slightly higher, you might always be looking for a reed that has a harder right side than left. That's tough because you'll always be searching for a specific imperfection - you might only find that 10-20% of the time!

The fact is, cane reeds are each individual and no method for dealing with them works for every person. It's an important part of the personality of the instrument, so just slapping a reed on and hoping for the best is probably not going work in the long run.

The comment on the Vandoren reed-making process is accurate, and that is probably a similar process as other manufacturers. First, the cane is cut to a manageable size, dried in the sun, stored inside for a matter of months or years. Then when it's ready, it's cut into cylindrical pieces the size of soda cans and sorted by thickness - wide pieces for bari/bass cl, small ones for soprano/cl, etc. Then it goes through a series of maybe 10 machines that each cut a certain aspect of the reed very precisely. Under-appreciated fact: all reeds of a given instrument and cut (like for example V16 alto) are cut EXACTLY the same. Differences in the cane account for various strengths. So a 2 is not any thinner than a 5, the cane is simply softer in the 2. After the reeds go through the process, one of the last machines presses on the tip and measures a precise strength index number. The ranges of index numbers are grouped into categories of strengths (2, 2.5, 3, etc.) which are then stamped onto the back of the reed.

There are a lot of variables that go into how a reed plays. Since the only way a reed is tested for strength is how the tip responds, that doesn't account for things like an uneven cut b/c of an out-of-round cane or cane that varies in hardness from the right side to the left. High quality manufacturers try to get rid of the bad cane right away (scanning machines do this quite effectively), but as we all know, the most perfect-looking reed doesn't always play that way.

Another surprisingly common misunderstanding: reeds are not made from bamboo. They are made from cane. Bamboo is a tree, cane is a grass.
 

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Wailin',

I've been using Legere (synthetic) reeds for the past two years and I'm quite happy with the quality of sound I get with them on each of my horns.

On occassion I dust off my favorite cane reeds and do a reality check in comparing them with Legere. I always find that I prefer my sound and playing with Legere.

Roger
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Roger Aldridge said:
Wailin',

I've been using Legere (synthetic) reeds for the past two years and I'm quite happy with the quality of sound I get with them on each of my horns.

On occassion I dust off my favorite cane reeds and do a reality check in comparing them with Legere. I always find that I prefer my sound and playing with Legere.

Roger
I'd like to hear some professional recordings with Legere reeds. Sometimes our ears will fool us into thinking we're hearing a certain tone or sound when in reality we're not.
 

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