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Hi,

I've a question concerning the breaking-in of reeds. I red at least a dussin of different suggestions about how long to soak them, in what liquid, how often, how long to play them... There seem to be as many different receipes as sax players. Now, both of my teachers just played the reeds out of the box, no preparation whatsoever. I do the same but give soaking a try from time to time. My experience is always the same, soaked reeds are much more difficult to play. Should I buy reeds that are a little softer? At the moment I use Vandoren 2.0 and ZZ 2.5, should I use 0.5 less and soak them instead? I red in one of the threads here in the forum that reeds become softer after soaking, but that's really no what I experience. Any thoughts on that?

Best, Till
 

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If soaking them (making them softer) is making them harder to play, then you need a harder reed, not a softer one I would have thought? There is no way I can see that soaking is making the reed harder/ stiffer, it may well be harder to play, but thats because its getting softer, right? :?
Even if you dont soak them, as you play they are effectively getting soaked/softer. Pre-Soaking just eliminates the transitional period.

But what do I know, I like plasticovers and legeres, so soaking is irrelevent.
 

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Yeah, if soaking them makes them harder to play they are probably just too weak at that point. I think all this stuff about soaking reeds in water or whatever is some sort of sax myth. I don't think it helps anything.

I play mine right out of the box, I put each end in my mouth for about 30 seconds or so to wet them, and put it on the mouthpiece and get to playing.
 

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I think your reeds might be too soft?

Perhaps soaking them makes them soft to the point of being unplayable? I'm not sure.
 

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Soaking reeds raises the fibers. You need to scrape/plane the side flat that goes on the mouthpiece or it won't play well. A single edge razor works well for this task and is inexpensive, if somewhat sharp and dangerous.
 

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Carl H. said:
Soaking reeds raises the fibers. You need to scrape/plane the side flat that goes on the mouthpiece or it won't play well. A single edge razor works well for this task and is inexpensive, if somewhat sharp and dangerous.
Will it work with my gillette MkIII? It gives me a closer shave, so it should shave the reed well, right?:D;)
 

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When I show my students how to use a single edge razor I also promise them if they ever use it "recreationally" I'll find them and pound the crap out of them before I turn them in to the police. Sax players have a funny rep as it is without carrying single edge razors and a piece of glass everywhere they go too.
 

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hakukani said:
Will it work with my gillette MkIII? It gives me a closer shave, so it should shave the reed well, right?:D;)
Only if your mouthpiece facing is 3 or under.:D
 

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Carl H. said:
Soaking reeds raises the fibers. You need to scrape/plane the side flat that goes on the mouthpiece or it won't play well. A single edge razor works well for this task and is inexpensive, if somewhat sharp and dangerous.
Sanding on a glass plate might be less perilous:) The potential is there to butcher the reed either way. Typically I only wet the vamp to avoid that problem...is that wrong?

Anyway, I found this semi usefull / informative link...might as well share it:

http://www.ricoreeds.com/Resources/Rico/Videos/RI_Tips_Sound_Quality_Reed_Anatomy.pdf
 

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For the rogue fibers rub flat side on finest grit sandpaper on a flat surface.
J. Allard even suggested using just a piece of white paper.
 

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Canadiain said:
Sanding on a glass plate might be less perilous:) The potential is there to butcher the reed either way. Typically I only wet the vamp to avoid that problem...is that wrong?
A blade does a cleaner job of removing the raised fibers. Paper kind of drags them along the length. I tend to use blades for removal and my thumbnail for burnishing the vamp. Coarse paper - not sandpaper, just clean white paper - is nice for finishing/polishing the flat part.

Next time you are in a hardware store, go to the welding supplies area. For about $1-2 get a clear lens protector for a welding helmet. It is just the right size to fit a reed and it fits in a case if you keep it in the cardboard holder it comes in. The glass, single edge razor, paper and water are what I use 95% of the time when I work on single reeds. I made a reed case with a compartment for the glass and razor and keep one in most of my cases.
 

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Pgraves said:
For the rogue fibers rub flat side on finest grit sandpaper on a flat surface.
J. Allard even suggested using just a piece of white paper.
I was typing when this was posted. Good to know others do this as well.
 

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Carl H. said:
A blade does a cleaner job of removing the raised fibers. Paper kind of drags them along the length. I tend to use blades for removal and my thumbnail for burnishing the vamp. Coarse paper - not sandpaper, just clean white paper - is nice for finishing/polishing the flat part.

Next time you are in a hardware store, go to the welding supplies area. For about $1-2 get a clear lens protector for a welding helmet. It is just the right size to fit a reed and it fits in a case if you keep it in the cardboard holder it comes in. The glass, single edge razor, paper and water are what I use 95% of the time when I work on single reeds. I made a reed case with a compartment for the glass and razor and keep one in most of my cases.
I tend to carry my ATG system around in the case, which has a suitable size glass plate in it, and i think I have a razor blade in there somewhere (I should probably find it before it finds me!)

I havent really had any problems with plasticovers though (fibres encased?), and with the legere artificials stray fibres are a non issue. If all else fails just reef down on the lig and squash it to the table, right:D
 
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sod9728 said:
I think your reeds might be too soft?

Perhaps soaking them makes them soft to the point of being unplayable? I'm not sure.
Never thought of that. I have some 3.0 and 3.5 lying around, have to give it a try....
 

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I used to try everything under the sun to make reeds play better. It got to the point where I envied people who played them straight out of the box. What I do now is wet it for a few seconds, butt first, then the tip/heart just in my mouth. Then I rub down both sides with a metal mouthpiece cap or a flat piece of glass followed by "polishing" it against a rolled up piece of paper until it shines on both sides. It doesn't take long, seems to make the reeds fairly consistant, and I just throw out reeds that are too lopsided at the butt. If the heart is obviously and completely misshapen, it's usually because the whole reed is cut at an angle, and is garbage... look at the butt, and you'll see. If it's just a little bit of assymmetry at the heart, a second with a knife or file will even it up, but honestly, I got so fed up with anything reed related that I barely bother to do that anymore.
 

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I like to soak my reeds for 2-10 minutes, depending on the amount of time I have before I have to play (aka how early/late I am to a rehearsal/lesson/gig) in water. When I'm in the practice rooms at school, I run warm water over the reeds until they look wet all over, then stick them in my mouth. By the time I get back to the practice room, they're usually good to go.

At this point, they're pretty close to waterlogged. I found that I may as well start with them this way because they're going to get there anyway as I play, so this way there's less change while I'm actually trying to make music. Also, most waterlogged reeds tend to play pretty similarly, so I'm getting more reeds that work fine out of the box. The wetter reeds sounded a little dead for the first week or so that I did this, but then I realized that squeaking on reeds this wet is almost impossible, so I started playing more courageously, which more than made up for the deadness.
 

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Do not soak reeds. Ever. Moisten a new reed in your mouth (all surfaces, and yes, the butt!) and place it in a Reedguard for at least an hour before playing. Put the reed back in the Reedguard after playing and continue this routine for the life of the reed. Periodically wash the reeds and Reedguard with drugstore Hydrogen Peroxide. Use a soft toothbrush on the reed and carefully brush all surfaces. Wipe off excess moisture with a paper towel and put it back in the Reedguard.
There. I've freely given you all the wisdom of the ages. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. Over the last 45 years of playing gigs, I have tried everything else, and this is what works - every time.
 
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