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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Guys

So I have a personal understanding of how different reed cuts work for me and I’d like to see if some of this information is transferable to other players.

Basically I view the different reed cuts as a progression of steep to flat shapes

In order from most steep cut (classical) to most flat cut (jazz):
- Vandoren Blue/Hemke/Gonzalez Classic
- Daddario Royal/Gonzalez RC
- Gonzalez Jazz
- La Voz
- V16
- ZZ
- Jazz Select
- Java green
- Java red

(I might have Java Red & Green mixed up as I don’t have heaps of experience with both of them)


So it's a bit more than just flat reeds being bright vs steep being dark.
A steep cut reed has a thin tip and more wood as you progress down the reed, so has a wider range of reed thicknesses.
This gives more of a specific place on the reed where each note of the horn can be voiced on the reed.
I find that the low notes live out on the tip of the reed (they need longer strokes of the reed to form longer sound waves?)
Anyway, I've observed that my lip slides in (and loosens) towards the tip for the best resonance point for low notes. So with a thinner tip a steep reed has good response for this note and it’s easier to play low Bb quietly.
The flat cut reed will vibrate all over it's length more easily which will give a brighter and louder sound overall, but also takes away the separation of where each individual note can be voiced on the reed. It's like all notes are produced all over the reed. I find palm keys and low notes harder to find good resonance for. Palm keys are pinched, low notes are more difficult to play lightly.
When playing palm keys on a steeper reed my lip slides down the reed and there is more wood there to give those notes some chunkiness to vibrate in, so they don't get thin. The problem with steep reeds is that because the notes resonate in smaller localised areas of the reed it therefore isn’t as loud.

So to try boil it down in a summary I would say that in choosing to go steeper or flatter with your reed cut you are trading off between;
flat cut - brightness/volume
vs.
steep cut - note voicing
So yeah please let me know what you agree/disagree with here :)
 

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Hemke reeds are 'flat cut' and are considered a dark playing reed.
Do more research with a wider range of mouthpieces and compare the results. 😉
 

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Some interesting thoughts. Probably mouthpiece facing length is also a factor in finding the most suitable reed. To be more precise, not only length but also the degree that the curve is elliptical rather than purely radial. This may be part of the reason why more players use "classical" cut reeds with "classical" mouthpieces, ditto "jazz" cut reeds with "jazz" mouthpieces.

In general I think it works better to take less mouthpiece in order to play low notes with control regardless of the reed profile. This may be a bigger deal for classical repertoire which more frequently calls for pp bell notes as opposed to jazz and pop orchestrations.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hemke reeds are 'flat cut' and are considered a dark playing reed.
Do more research with a wider range of mouthpieces and compare the results. 😉
Yep sure I *could* do that
I def wouldn’t say this is a complete study of all reeds (I don’t have Rigotti etc) and that isn’t my aim.
I did feel Hemke were some kind of anomaly cut that I couldn’t get to sit that well in the steep to flat continuum.
So they are flat but thick?

Also V16 is the same steepness as ZZ but just thicker overall.

Anyway mostly I’m hoping to introduce the idea of looking at reeds so that the next step in finding a reed that works for you is a little faster by seeing which reeds are more closely related in steepness.

And also to think about the voicing idea that I find gets lost in the flat cut jazz reeds as I think this concept isn’t talked about much from what I see.

I think many (me included for some time) head towards jazz reeds for brightness and volume without thinking about what we might be giving up.
Every design must have its drawbacks...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Some interesting thoughts. Probably mouthpiece facing length is also a factor in finding the most suitable reed. To be more precise, not only length but also the degree that the curve is elliptical rather than purely radial. This may be part of the reason why more players use "classical" cut reeds with "classical" mouthpieces, ditto "jazz" cut reeds with "jazz" mouthpieces.

In general I think it works better to take less mouthpiece in order to play low notes with control regardless of the reed profile. This may be a bigger deal for classical repertoire which more frequently calls for pp bell notes as opposed to jazz and pop orchestrations.
Yeah for sure there are many factors but I’m trying to narrow down to the effect of changing just the steepness of the reed on a given setup and the effect this might have
 

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In general I think the "steep" cuts work better with shorter facings and the "flat" cuts (I'd call them "concave") work best with longer facings. I'm not sure that an elliptical facing curve would favor a different cut more than it would favor a slightly softer reed.

Regarding your list, lewism, I'd put the Java reeds higher up than the Select Jazz reeds. Otherwise I think you are dead on.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
In general I think the "steep" cuts work better with shorter facings and the "flat" cuts (I'd call them "concave") work best with longer facings. I'm not sure that an elliptical facing curve would favor a different cut more than it would favor a slightly softer reed.

Regarding your list, lewism, I'd put the Java reeds higher up than the Select Jazz reeds. Otherwise I think you are dead on.

Thank you Steve :)
I’m sure the facing does interact with the steepness of the cut, but what do you notice is the effect of changing the reed steepness only?
 

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Vamp is 3-dimensional, not 2-dimensional, and far more complex than your summation of "steepness" vice "flatness". It gains more dimensions due to mouthpiece facing curve variability, chamber shape variability, players' chops and air variability, reed-to-reed variability (less of a geometric factor with modern production methods but still huge in terms of organic factors), etc.
Just looking at the reed cut, from base of vamp to tip there is a "fairly" simple curvature along the centerline (spine), which you may call "steep" or "flat", but it is infinitely variable. From that complexity we can move on to the surfaces of the shoulders (moving away from the spine toward the side edges of the reed). This adds more complexity, in three dimensions.
You can take a micrometer and plot the surfaces of reed cuts (I've done a bit of this), but even then, how "different types of cuts play" is hardly quantifiable or qualifiable, because, even for just one of those specific cuts of reed, it all depends... on the facing curve, the baffle/chamber, and the player... on any given day.
One can make some generalizations, and mfr. literature may help. e.g. Vandoren say that the V12 is recommended for longer facings.
Another generalization I've made is that "American" cuts (e.g. Java, which you may call "flat") tend to work better on more open chambers (a la round, scooped-out side walls and longer with respect to tip opening) facings, whereas "French" cuts (e.g. Vandoren blue box, which you may call "steep", and not to be confused with "French file cut", which has to do with the bark at the base of the vamp) tend to work better with shorter facings and/or more square-shaped chambers. I would include LaVoz and Hemke in the latter group... but these are gross generalizations...
What you call "flat" reeds (e.g. Java) are actually more "curved" in the side view, looking at the curvature of the spine, than traditional Vandorens. That is only one of many things that fail to characterize the complexity of reed cuts, let alone their interaction with the mouthpiece/player.
Vandoren attempt to display in two dimensions the profiles of their various reeds, on their website. It may shed a bit of light on what I'm talking about.
 

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Another very helpful rule (albeit of thumb) that I've found useful is:
More baffle >>> thicker tip, thinner vamp (e.g. Java-like in the most extreme case).
Less baffle >>> thinner tip, thicker vamp (e.g. traditional Vandoren in the most extreme case).
 

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Blank thickness (which they try to quantify but is also 3-dimensional and highly variable) and cane organic structure (likewise highly variable) are also critical factors.
BLOB (bottom line out back): Play a bunch of reeds, over the course of several days, on your "preferred" mouthpiece, to really get the feel of what works. Note that you may find out that your mouthpiece don't work, and you have to start all over...
 

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SchlockRod, what reeds give some of the traditional Vandoren resistance but with more brightness, easier blowing? In other words between a jazz and classical cut? V16's are not quite it for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Vamp is 3-dimensional, not 2-dimensional, and far more complex than your summation of "steepness" vice "flatness". It gains more dimensions due to mouthpiece facing curve variability, chamber shape variability, players' chops and air variability, reed-to-reed variability (less of a geometric factor with modern production methods but still huge in terms of organic factors), etc.
Just looking at the reed cut, from base of vamp to tip there is a "fairly" simple curvature along the centerline (spine), which you may call "steep" or "flat", but it is infinitely variable. From that complexity we can move on to the surfaces of the shoulders (moving away from the spine toward the side edges of the reed). This adds more complexity, in three dimensions.
You can take a micrometer and plot the surfaces of reed cuts (I've done a bit of this), but even then, how "different types of cuts play" is hardly quantifiable or qualifiable, because, even for just one of those specific cuts of reed, it all depends... on the facing curve, the baffle/chamber, and the player... on any given day.
One can make some generalizations, and mfr. literature may help. e.g. Vandoren say that the V12 is recommended for longer facings.
Another generalization I've made is that "American" cuts (e.g. Java, which you may call "flat") tend to work better on more open chambers (a la round, scooped-out side walls and longer with respect to tip opening) facings, whereas "French" cuts (e.g. Vandoren blue box, which you may call "steep", and not to be confused with "French file cut", which has to do with the bark at the base of the vamp) tend to work better with shorter facings and/or more square-shaped chambers. I would include LaVoz and Hemke in the latter group... but these are gross generalizations...
What you call "flat" reeds (e.g. Java) are actually more "curved" in the side view, looking at the curvature of the spine, than traditional Vandorens. That is only one of many things that fail to characterize the complexity of reed cuts, let alone their interaction with the mouthpiece/player.
Vandoren attempt to display in two dimensions the profiles of their various reeds, on their website. It may shed a bit of light on what I'm talking about.
I agree that a 2 dimensional view is a gross simplification
But here is how I think that could be useful...

Say if a play uses Jazz Select and likes it but feels they need more body in the reed to play into to give a little more resistance and get better voicing on, they don’t have to fumble randomly around and go all the way to Vandoren Blue to see what that’s like. They can try something in between and more closely related to what they have (La Voz, Gonzalez) and hopefully save money rather than try everything.

Or if they love Daddario Royal but would like to try something a little more bright then jumping all the way up to Java is probably a waste of money.

Just trying to create SOME kind of direction on what to try next if a persons reed isn’t working that great for them.

I would guess this could be what’s happening....
Flat reeds work with large chambers because there is more chamber for voicing to happen so that agrees with a reed that doesn’t have large voicing variation.
Small chamber needs a steep reed with more voicing ability.
If you put a steep reed on a large chamber you get too much variation of voicing and so can’t project well.
If you out a flat reed on a small chamber you get no voicing possibility at all.
Could be what happens???
 

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Discussion Starter #13
SchlockRod, what reeds give some of the traditional Vandoren resistance but with more brightness, easier blowing? In other words between a jazz and classical cut? V16's are not quite it for me.
I’d try something nearby like La Voz or Gonzalez Jazz.

I’m guessing Jazz Select and ZZ are too bright and free blowing for you?
 

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I agree that a 2 dimensional view is a gross simplification
But here is how I think that could be useful...

Say if a play uses Jazz Select and likes it but feels they need more body in the reed to play into to give a little more resistance and get better voicing on, they don’t have to fumble randomly around and go all the way to Vandoren Blue to see what that’s like. They can try something in between and more closely related to what they have (La Voz, Gonzalez) and hopefully save money rather than try everything.

Or if they love Daddario Royal but would like to try something a little more bright then jumping all the way up to Java is probably a waste of money.

Just trying to create SOME kind of direction on what to try next if a persons reed isn’t working that great for them.

I would guess this could be what’s happening....
Flat reeds work with large chambers because there is more chamber for voicing to happen so that agrees with a reed that doesn’t have large voicing variation.
Small chamber needs a steep reed with more voicing ability.
If you put a steep reed on a large chamber you get too much variation of voicing and so can’t project well.
If you out a flat reed on a small chamber you get no voicing possibility at all.
Could be what happens???
I think that makes sense.
 

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I’d try something nearby like La Voz or Gonzalez Jazz.

I’m guessing Jazz Select and ZZ are too bright and free blowing for you?
As I said, it all depends... But: I'd say this ^^^ is an approach that makes sense. There is also J**z Select and maybe some synthetic reeds... Legere... You have to play them to really find out.
 

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I’d try something nearby like La Voz or Gonzalez Jazz.

I’m guessing Jazz Select and ZZ are too bright and free blowing for you?
No, not too bright and free blowing. For me, those two seem to loose their response and power rather quickly. Perhaps it is the cane rather than the cut.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
No, not too bright and free blowing. For me, those two seem to loose their response and power rather quickly. Perhaps it is the cane rather than the cut.
I would say it’s the thinner body of those reeds softeneing for you as they wear in, and therefore giving you not enough chunkyness left in the reed to create your power against.
The reed needs to resist air force to create sound power.

So yeah I would try heading up a bit in steepness of cut to give more body to the reed.

These reeds will probably give you less joy straight out of the box.

I find...
If a reed plays great out of the box it’s going to be too soft in 2 weeks time.
My best reeds are the ones that I could never survive even a 2hr gig on straight out of the box.
 

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I would say it’s the thinner body of those reeds softeneing for you as they wear in, and therefore giving you not enough chunkyness left in the reed to create your power against.
The reed needs to resist air force to create sound power.

So yeah I would try heading up a bit in steepness of cut to give more body to the reed.

These reeds will probably give you less joy straight out of the box.

I find...
If a reed plays great out of the box it’s going to be too soft in 2 weeks time.
My best reeds are the ones that I could never survive even a 2hr gig on straight out of the box.
So I assume you mean your best reeds would kill you if you tried to play them 2 hrs straight brand new?

Interesting, I started another thread on Glotin Super Jazz. I had thought they were popsicle sticks before. But now I love them (in 2.5 strength) and they seem to last. Unfortunately they are no longer available. I've read that Glotin sold its production machinery to D'Addario.

Does anyone out there use more "steep" or "classical" cuts for jazz on a Meyer type mpc? If so what reeds? I haven't yet invested in V12 or V21 reeds for alto. But I believe they are even more "extreme" than the blue box so probably the wrong direction. Other candidates like Zonda and Gonzales have reportedly gotten much lower in quality.
 

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I would say it’s the thinner body of those reeds softeneing for you as they wear in, and therefore giving you not enough chunkyness left in the reed to create your power against.
The reed needs to resist air force to create sound power.

So yeah I would try heading up a bit in steepness of cut to give more body to the reed.

These reeds will probably give you less joy straight out of the box.

I find...
If a reed plays great out of the box it’s going to be too soft in 2 weeks time.
My best reeds are the ones that I could never survive even a 2hr gig on straight out of the box.
I'm the same way. I purposely play reeds that need a few days of break in time. Then the reed responds at it's best for a longer period of time before needing to be adjusted.

If I played 3's They'd play out of the box but they wouldn't be playable within a few days most likely.
 

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Thank you Steve :)
I’m sure the facing does interact with the steepness of the cut, but what do you notice is the effect of changing the reed steepness only?
"Steeper" cuts (really, cuts with the heart closer to the tip of the reed) sound duller, all else being equal. The problem is, for me, I like a medium-long to long facing and Vandoren Blue Box just don't work well on those... reiterating, for ME.

Almost every other reed I've tried works OK on my mouthpieces, but I prefer the SOUND and RESPONSE of the Rigotti Gold (AKA Jazz cut). The just seem to fit me. I know lots of guys that like Vandoren Java (Red and/or Green), but those have never sounded good to me. My second choice is the Select Jazz reeds, followed by Orange Box (but because these are SO concave, need a harder strength in the Orange Box).
 
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