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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

I've had the strangest thing happen to me these past couple of weeks. Almost exactly as it started to warm up here in Connecticut about two or three weeks ago, I felt like all of my reeds became incredibly stiff. It may not be too noticeable to the listener, but every reed just feels unresponsive, airy, and lacking warmth. At first I thought I may have had a leak, but it's been the same deal on tenor, alto, soprano, and clarinet, and it's affected both reeds that were playing well before the weather changed as well as the reeds that I've bought since then. Prior to this I have had very little issues with reeds, but this has been driving me crazy- playing has been a lot less fun.

I play on pretty soft setups because I take a lot of mouthpiece, don't bite, and don't like an airy sound. Vandoren Blue Box 2 on Tenor (Soloist E), Alto (Soloist C*), and Soprano (Yamaha 4c), and 2.5s on clarinet (5RV), and feel like I've always been able to play just as loud as everyone as well as still have a very focused sound when playing softly. I went as far as to buy a box of 1.5s for tenor, and they still didn't feel very responsive. I tried some other reeds I had laying around (even ones that previously felt too soft) to make sure it wasn't just a Vandoren thing, but I was having the same difficulties. I can sand them into something resembling the right strength, but the sound quality still doesn't sound like it did in the winter months.

I have a tenor legere signature (2 1/4- equivalent to vandoren 2) that I've been experimenting with, and while it continues to respond pretty well, I'm not a big fan of the sound that I've been getting from it.

I have a bachelors in Music Education and Classical Saxophone and am working on my masters in jazz, so even though I don't claim to be the best out there I'm certainly no beginner. I continue to do long tones and overtones every day and spend a lot of time playing in different ensembles, so I don't think I'm out of practice or anything. Let me know if you have any advice or experience with this kind of thing, because I'm stumped!

Thanks
 

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Discombobulated SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 201
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Have you turned off the heat in your house during this time? If so and it's gotten warm and humid, the humidity of your playing environment could have changed dramatically. I'm not sure if this would make your reeds harder, softer, or have any effect at all - just a thought for what it is worth.
 

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If you adjust your reeds, try flattening the flat (facing) side of the reed. Quick scraping with a Reed Knife (or ReedGeek) usually fixes a reed that's gone duffy on me overnight. Usually it's the newer ones that give me problems.
 

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Perhaps they're very old and are petrifying.........:mrgreen: Got mineral-rich saliva??
 

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I've had reeds change like this many times when the seasons change here in Colorado. It doesn't take as large a change as you might think.
 

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what probably might have happened is that your reeds have in fact gone softer but you, by applying the same embouchure, are now closing the read more and in a way, chocking it.

I have had the same happening on me although I would not say they are “ harder” but unresponsive losing the “ edge” that I so long for.

When at this stage I know I need new reeds
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for the replies. I reached out to a couple of my college professors to see if I simply wasn't just going crazy. I spoke to both my clarinet professor and saxophone professor, and they both verified that this was normal and offered opposite advice (predictably). I definitely can see merit to both approaches.

My clarinet professor recommended keeping reeds in a humidity controlled environment year-round, either in a plastic bag with a humidity pack, or constantly fully submerged in water as a lot of the players at my current conservatory do. This will lessen the effect of changes in weather and humidity on the reeds. I can definitely see how this could be effective.

My saxophone teacher told me that he had asked the very same question to the late great classical saxophonist, David Bilger. Bilger believed that because wood takes a while to reach equilibrium moisture content, during seasonal changes the inside of the reed is experiencing different humidity conditions than the outside of the reed. This contrast prevents the reed from vibrating effectively and makes it feel hard and stuffy. His advice was the opposite of my clarinet teachers- fully expose the reed to the elements for a period of time. I left my reeds bark-side down on my desk for just short of two days, and when I went to play them again they played excellently. I felt like myself again. I think the fact that I was keeping them in their plastic sleeves in my saxophone case was preventing them from really assimilating to the new climate. Hopefully this experience can help someone out who is going through a similar struggle!
 

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It's not out of the realm of possibility that all three of your saxes are leaking...stranger things have happened....
 
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