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I just returned from a visit to Southern France. In the area there is a lot of cane being grown, cut, and packed for transport to reed making companies. It is interesting to see the stuff growing wild everywhere there is a bit of moisture to be found. Of course there are cultivated fields of it which are used for our needs.

The one thing that comes to mind as I see this on this and previous trips is that everyone says that modern cane is not as good as the old cane.

This makes very little sense to me...perhaps someone can shed some light on the issue.

Cane, unlike hard wood is a rapid growing, quickly renewable resource. It does not make sense to me that the cane cultivated in "the old days" would be better than what is used today unless modern cane is a hybrid variety that grows even faster than what was planted in the past or if cane is simply not cured properly prior to cutting or allowed to mature as well.

I am inclined to suspect that the bad cane theory is much like the mouthpiece material debate (which will never end). People say you have to have old hard rubber to obtain a vintage sound and blame the material, not the design. (I dont want to rehash that discussion here). Players also blame reeds and say it is poor cane.

So is the cane different or is the issue in reed design and/or execution of the design. Perhaps new reeds are mass manufactured with less attention and rigorous standards? Or do we just like to make excuses? Perhaps a little of all of these?

I dont pretend to have the definitive answer. I am curious and I thought Id open a bag of worms early in the morning.
 

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Maybe they just now use the cane they use to throw away? It could be that instead of "choice" they just use everything due to having more modern methods of making all reeds cut to look right.
I thought that reed quality suffered when it basically became one conglomerate that makes all the reeds.
It used to be that Ricos were on the "bright" side and "La Voz" more "dark". Now they just all seem the same.
 

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I think the primary issue is the handling of the cane after harvesting. I don't know if they force dry it now or let it dry/age naturally-possibly that could make a difference. Personally I don't think reeds are any worse than they ever were. Decades ago, when I was just a pup and learning from the old players-you just worked on your reeds--and didn't whine about it. It was just part of the job.
 

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I think the primary issue is the handling of the cane after harvesting. I don't know if they force dry it now or let it dry/age naturally-possibly that could make a difference. Personally I don't think reeds are any worse than they ever were. Decades ago, when I was just a pup and learning from the old players-you just worked on your reeds--and didn't whine about it. It was just part of the job.
+1 for that!!!!!
 

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One thing to consider:

The more experienced you are as a player, the more you notice the imperfections, the fussier you become.
You might not have noticed bad reeds when you started playing so when you think about the "old days" you might get the impression that reed quality was better.
 

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One thing to consider:

The more experienced you are as a player, the more you notice the imperfections, the fussier you become.
You might not have noticed bad reeds when you started playing so when you think about the "old days" you might get the impression that reed quality was better.
I was playing in "Rock" bands in 1957, and back then we had to sand them to make them good.
 

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I don't buy the "cane used to be better" myth either. As Sigmund says, there is no logical reason why this should be so. And I don't remember reeds being any better 30 years ago.
 

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It was just part of the job.
Like I said in another thread, I read Coltrane said in an interview he had to go through several boxes of reed to find a good one.

I've also heard this, that they're using ovens. Don't know if there's any truth to this...
Rigotti and Gonzalez still let cane dry under the sun and their reeds suck just as much as any other brand.

there is no logical reason why this should be so.
Yes, the severe frost that killed French cane production in the 80's. After this event, most companies invested in plantations in South America.
 

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One thing to consider:

The more experienced you are as a player, the more you notice the imperfections, the fussier you become.
You might not have noticed bad reeds when you started playing so when you think about the "old days" you might get the impression that reed quality was better.
I find the exact opposite, the more proficient I become the more I am able to play on all reeds. 8-10 yrs ago, I was playing 2 maybe 3 reeds out of 10, nowadays I'll use everyone in a box (I don't do any work on them).
 

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I find the exact opposite, the more proficient I become the more I am able to play on all reeds. 8-10 yrs ago, I was playing 2 maybe 3 reeds out of 10, nowadays I'll use everyone in a box (I don't do any work on them).
I think it was Buddy de Franco who, during a masterclass in Denmark, said about reeds: "The better you get at playing, the more reeds out of a box can you play."
 

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I don't buy the "cane used to be better" myth either. As Sigmund says, there is no logical reason why this should be so. And I don't remember reeds being any better 30 years ago.
+1. I started playing in 1967. One of the things my first private teacher taught me was how to doctor my reeds and, man, did they ever need it.
 

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Like I said in another thread, I read Coltrane said in an interview he had to go through several boxes of reed to find a good one.
One thing I have in common with Coltrane is that we were both Navy musicians. When I was in the Navy they supplied our reeds. Typical wasteful gov't. employees that we were we played the really good ones and threw the rest in the trash. Apparently Trane continued that policy as a civilian musician. Of course he, unlike me, could afford it. My Jazz Selects cost approx. $3 each. Thankfully, they're a whole lot more consistent than the Rico Royals the Navy supplied me with back in the 1970s. Some of them still need a little help to play really good but I'd rather work on them than throw 3 bucks in the trash can.
 

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Hi Phil,
The excellent Brilhart Ebolin you modified and I bought is plastic and the sound is just as warm as any hard rubber mouthpiece.
Not to open another can of worms here but my experience over the years with hard rubber, plastic and metal confirms scientific evidence that the material is insignificant. Selmer's classical metal mouthpiece sounds no different on recordings
than hard rubber.
 
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