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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So after playing a number of different reeds I've settled (for now...) on Hemke's. I really like the sound I get on them.

I had been playing 3s (I moved from RJS 3S Unfiled, which are about the same on reed charts). I don't know if it's a difference in how the Hemke's blow vs. the RJS, but I'm tiring out on them rather quick, especially when I play an extended exercise. Then I start biting too much and cutting off my sound and blaaaaaagh.

So I dropped down to 2.5s. That's helping with my embouchure endurance, and tuning top to bottom is fine...except now I'm afraid it's negatively affecting the tone by making it tinny, especially in the upper register. I'll be seeing my instructor tomorrow and thought I'd have him blind test two reeds (one of the better 2.5s I tried, and my best 3) to see what he thinks about my sound; maybe I'm just perceiving a difference that doesn't actually exist from the other side of the horn.

I'm working long tones as part of my warm-up every day (I have limited time, so I break the range up into a three-day cycle: B2 down to C#1 on Day 1; C1 to Bb1 and C2 to F#2 on Day 2; and G2 to F3 on Day 3. This lets me run through the cycle twice between my weekly lessons. I MAY shake this up a bit by doing the straight tones on the first cycle, and work on vibrato on the second cycle. Especially since I really need to work on vib. in the upper register).

I just wanted to see if there were any other recommendations for when you're stuck between strengths, where what you're on may be too soft for your rig, but the next one up is too hard.

MPC is a Brilly Great Neck 4 (I'm not sure what the actual measured opening is).
 

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When I have a reed that's a bit too soft, moving it up just slightly on the mouthpiece can help keep the edge out of the tone. Though I can't move it up too much or it negatively affects articulation.
 

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Regardless of what the reed charts say, you are reporting that the Hemke 3S is harder than what you are used-to and its forcing your embouchure. Then, in the middle of getting used to the harder reed, you dropped back to a softer one which is now unsatisfactory. I think you should stick with the 3S but use the same reed a few days at a time - I think you're right on the verge of getting used to the slightly harder reed. You might cut your long tone time in half and bring it back up gradually. Incidentally, this reed on a #4 mouthpiece does not strike me as a hard set-up so I'm thinking you need embouchure development anyway.
 

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Have your teacher show you how to sand/scrape your reeds.
It takes only a minute to take a 3 down to a 2.75.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Regardless of what the reed charts say, you are reporting that the Hemke 3S is harder than what you are used-to and its forcing your embouchure. Then, in the middle of getting used to the harder reed, you dropped back to a softer one which is now unsatisfactory. I think you should stick with the 3S but use the same reed a few days at a time - I think you're right on the verge of getting used to the slightly harder reed. You might cut your long tone time in half and bring it back up gradually. Incidentally, this reed on a #4 mouthpiece does not strike me as a hard set-up so I'm thinking you need embouchure development anyway.
I've been in the habit of rotating my reeds. I've got six reeds ready altogether (I'd do more, but I'm using one of the hygro cases and that's as many as it holds. Funny, considering Vandoren sells in boxes of 10 :p ); three "practice" reeds I cycle through between lessons, (same practice cycle as my long tones, one reed on day one, one reed day two, etc) and the three best I've set aside as rehearsal or performance reeds. Should I hold off on doing that?

Have your teacher show you how to sand/scrape your reeds.
It takes only a minute to take a 3 down to a 2.75.
I'd considered that, problem is I've had such good luck with the boxes I have otherwise that I'm afraid of screwing them up. Yeah, the 3 plays a touch hard for me, but other than that they all play very well.
 

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I would learn to do a little reed work and your harder reed could be brought to where you need it to be in a minute once you learn how. Larry Teals book The Art of Saxophone Playing is a good place to start. I play on Rico Jazz Selects and Rigotti Gold. Even with the half strengths on the Rigotti broken into three substrengths, I found myself caught between substrengths on larger tip mouthpieces. Larry Teals book showed me where on the reed I needed to sand to lower the resistance. It worked with immediate results.
 

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You have the following options, any of which can work:
1. Learn to live with 3's
2. Learn to live with 2.5's
3. Scrape the 3's to make them less hard - this is what I would do, it's not difficult
4. Cut a tiny bit off the tip of the 2.5's to make them harder
5. Move the 3's slightly down, away from the tip of the mouthpiece (only as a quick fix in my opinion)
6. Move the 2.5's slightly up towards the tip (ditto).
 

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Working on embouchure and air support can help you to play softer reeds. At first, when moving down in strength, it's common to have issues with sound as your embouchure is kind of "trained" into the harder reed. More flexibility of embouchure will help you not be so stuck on having to play a very specific strength. Reeds change over surprisingly short periods of time, so if you get into a position where you rely on some the very very specific type or strength, then this will sooner or later cause a problem when you least need a problem, ie on an important performance.
 

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Have your teacher show you how to sand/scrape your reeds.
It takes only a minute to take a 3 down to a 2.75.
This and practice.

I know people have good luck with trimming the tips of reeds but I have never liked the way they play after. Maybe I didnt stick with it long enough.

It the short run do as Bandmommy says. I think its the easiest method.

Btw...you can slightly free up a hard reed by soaking the full reed for a couple of minutes. Strap it to the mpc, push down on the vamp closing the tip several times. I find it helps open up dull sounding reeds too.
 

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Mounting the reed on the mouthpiece is a simple thing but most get it wrong. It should be exactly even with the tip when pressed to it. It takes a little longer to be sure and you need to 'backlight' it but it is worth it in the long run. Deliberately setting the reed forward or back is an emergency measure only that always has more negative results than positive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Spoke with my instructor today, and he agrees the 3 gives the better sound. I'll be backing off a bit on my long-tone practice, cutting the daily routine in half and using the full 6-day period between lessons to cover the range of the horn until my embouchure gets stronger. I think it also helps if I roll my lower lip out a little more.
 

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Reeds change over surprisingly short periods of time, so if you get into a position where you rely on some very very specific type or strength, then this will sooner or later cause a problem when you least need a problem, ie on an important performance.
This is an important point. You really do have to attain a certain amount of flexibility in terms of reed strength because even in the same box there will be some variability and also reeds 'soften' a bit over time as you play them. Which can be a good thing if the reed is slightly hard starting out (and of course you can sand them a bit as others have pointed out). Finding a certain strength that suits you only gets you in the ball park. From there you need to get used to adjusting to some minor variation. I usually play Rigotti Gold 3 light, but also have a couple boxes of 2.5 strong. There is a difference but I find I can use either one just fine, so I use both sizes. At least until I run out of the 2.5 strong reeds...
 

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I never advocate playing reeds that are good right out of the box. What happens is when they break in and settle they become almost (in some cases) a whole half strength softer.

This is why I always recommend to buy reeds that are a little too stiff out of the box. Play them and break them in over about a week and then they will last for a really long time at a strength you are most comfortable with.

But yeah, they'll be a little hard for a little bit.

Sometimes the backs need to be flattened half way through their life. Maybe a little off the face of the reed to open the pores up again. But other than that.

This is why I buy Vandoren red box 3.5's. They are almost all a bit too hard out of the box. By the time they settle they feel like a 3 or a tad stiffer and they play that way for as much as a month before needing any work on them.

This is my experience and it's what works for me. I used to go through at least twice as many reeds as I do now.

Based on this I would suggest you stick with the 3's. Keep playing them. Soak em in water. Break em in. They'll play like good 2.5's soon enough without the tinny sound.

And don't stop doing long tones. You only have to do them for 5 minutes a day.
 

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Spoke with my instructor today, and he agrees the 3 gives the better sound.
So can he not suggest a way to improve the sound of a 2.5 ????


I'll be backing off a bit on my long-tone practice, cutting the daily routine in half and using the full 6-day period between lessons to cover the range of the horn until my embouchure gets stronger.
Can you explain what this means? Long tone practice is the ideal way to cover the range of your horn and increase flexibility of embouchure and improve control of airstream. This is what is needed to get the best out of softer reeds and get a better tone from them so you can then gain the advantage of the versatility of dynamic and expression you get from softer reeds. Just saying the harder reed sounds better isn't actually helping you in the long run.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Can you explain what this means? Long tone practice is the ideal way to cover the range of your horn and increase flexibility of embouchure and improve control of airstream. This is what is needed to get the best out of softer reeds and get a better tone from them so you can then gain the advantage of the versatility of dynamic and expression you get from softer reeds. Just saying the harder reed sounds better isn't actually helping you in the long run.
Right now what I've been doing, mostly because of limited practice time, is to break down long tones over the full range of the horn over three days. Day 1 I'll do 10 notes, Day 2 I'll do the next 10, etc., until I cover everything from Bb1 to F3. The problem I've been having is that by the time I'm done with long tones I don't have much left in my embouchure to do anything else I'm working on (scales, patterns, etc.). So I mean to cut my long tone practice in half; Day 1 5 notes, Day 2 5 notes, etc. and cover Bb1 to F3 over the six days I have between lessons. Once my embouchure is strong enough I'll go back to doing it in a 3-day cycle (probably using the second 3 days to focus on my vibrato).
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
So can he not suggest a way to improve the sound of a 2.5 ????




Can you explain what this means? Long tone practice is the ideal way to cover the range of your horn and increase flexibility of embouchure and improve control of airstream. This is what is needed to get the best out of softer reeds and get a better tone from them so you can then gain the advantage of the versatility of dynamic and expression you get from softer reeds. Just saying the harder reed sounds better isn't actually helping you in the long run.
I'm going to press about that a bit further this week, as I do want to see if I can get fuller sound out of them; I'm able to get a lot better vibrato and can bend notes a lot more readily on the 2.5s.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So a minor update on this.

I decided to have the tip opening on my mouthpiece measured since all I had to go by was the marked size. Turns out the opening is only about .060 to .062 (the tech's digital calipers were broken, and the plain ol' analog set measured it at just a few hairs above the .060 mark). Brilhart's charts specify that piece (4) is supposed to be .075, so it's a LOT more closed than it should be (the seller didn't specify the actual opening). I'm sure that's one reason why the softer reeds were getting such a thin/poor sound.

Strangely enough, I think I got my best tone on this setup when I tried a RJS 4H tenor reed for giggles...
 

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So a minor update on this.

I decided to have the tip opening on my mouthpiece measured since all I had to go by was the marked size. Turns out the opening is only about .060 to .062 (the tech's digital calipers were broken, and the plain ol' analog set measured it at just a few hairs above the .060 mark). Brilhart's charts specify that piece (4) is supposed to be .075, so it's a LOT more closed than it should be (the seller didn't specify the actual opening). I'm sure that's one reason why the softer reeds were getting such a thin/poor sound.

Strangely enough, I think I got my best tone on this setup when I tried a RJS 4H tenor reed for giggles...
Did the tech closely examine the MP table and facing for possible historic rework and did the tech play it? What was his opinion?

What particular year/model is this, and have you mentioned (in the posts) alto or tenor?

Put some pics on here if you can.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Did the tech closely examine the MP table and facing for possible historic rework and did the tech play it? What was his opinion?

What particular year/model is this, and have you mentioned (in the posts) alto or tenor?

Put some pics on here if you can.
Great Neck Tonalin 4 (alto) with a S/N that puts it c. 1945. I didn't have time for a thorough evaluation or play test by the tech, but I believe it's the original facing, and from what I've read Brilharts are notorious for having tip openings that deviate wildly from what they're supposed to be.
 
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