Home Forums Saxophone Reeds Adjusting a reed that doesn't play well

This topic contains 11 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by saxjohnny saxjohnny 1 year, 1 month ago.

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  • #20191
    Michael Bishop
    Michael Bishop
    Participant

    Hi Johnny,
    I got a new box of Java Greens today as I will be uploading the Green Onions on Tenor sometime between tomorrow and Sunday, and I’ve always noticed that with the Java Greens there’s always that 1 reed that plays just fantastic and lasts forever; but the other reeds don’t play that well out of the box. In addition to the 1 reed, I may find a 2nd reed that plays respectable. Do you ever use any tools to adjust the other reeds, or do you even bother messing with them and not use them at all?

    #20192
    saxjohnny
    saxjohnny
    Keymaster

    No, haven’t been doing anything to reeds but I did buy a Reed Geek a while ago and think it can help quite a bit.

    #28297
    wayne wojnarowski
    wayne wojnarowski
    Participant

    Any body out there know what a reed geek is? Michael Brecker a good book is the art of saxophone playing lots of tips and I have a manual all bout customizing your reeds. As Johnnie said reed rush works good sandpaper does as well use fine grit move with the grain of the reed be careful to stay away from edge also you can buy a reed trimmer.

    #28304
    Jeff
    Jeff
    Participant

    Hi Wayne, I tried to buy a reed trimmer and other tools here, but they are simply unavailable because these special tools are regarded as too expensive to import. This is what I do now to each new reed out the box before I play it. Reeds have doubled in price here over the last two years, so I try to make them all playable.

    1) Place a sheet of A4 paper on a very smooth and flat surface. Place the reed on the paper with the flat side down. Hold the reed with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers in the top, middle and bottom position on the reed. Carefully move the reed backwards and forwards in a straight line across the paper, keeping the pressure on the reed as even as possible. After a minute of this polishing action, pick the reed up and examine the surface. The goal is to make it smooth and shiny which helps for a good seal on the mouthpiece. I don’t do anything else to this side.

    2) Holding the reed to the light examine the V shadow. If the shadow is uneven I use a smooth flexible fingernail file to carefully rub down any high spots. I only work in the middle portion of the reed and avoid altering the very front edge. Just as Johnny describes in his video above.

    3) Holding the reed by it’s thick base I carefully smooth the left and right side edges of the reed, of the lip contact surface area. This gives them a smooth rounded edge which again improves lip comfort. The least material one removes the better for the reed’s performance.

    3) Holding the reed down flat and firm with the left hand index and middle fingers – one in the middle and the other over the front edge to protect it. I use a flexible fingernail buffer to carefully polish the reed’s lip contact surface area. The nail buffer is very smooth and removes very little material. I stop when I can see that the lip contact surface area is smooth.

    4) Feeling with my finger I test to see if the front corner edges have sharp points. If they are very sharp I use the smooth fingernail file to carefully round them out. Hold the reed in your hand without any fixed support as one must use very little pressure and be very careful not to damage the leading edge. I rest the file on the corner and slide it across from the outside edge towards the middle of the front edge, to prevent breaking a splinter off the edge. Move the file in a curved arc to remove as little as possible to give it a small rounded edge which won’t catch your tongue.

    This procedure has saved me reeds which I couldn’t play at first, and makes the reed more comfortable on the lip so I can play longer.

    #28326
    Jeff
    Jeff
    Participant

    Reed Geek Instructions.

    Reed Geek Website

    This thing looks very much like the cutting tool of a lathe.

    I’ll have to try that!

    #28340
    William Cingolani
    William Cingolani
    Participant

    I Usually use a Reed Wizard if I have to trim a reed. The price of the Wizard was cheaper when I first bought it

    #28397
    wayne wojnarowski
    wayne wojnarowski
    Participant

    Hey Jeff, thanks for the response .Man you remind me of me . I used to mess around with reeds but found out it takes up to much time and I wasted a lot of reeds . However I still mess round with them a little, as Johnnie would say soak them and try them out , but then I would sand them lightly, Jeff get these books or look at a great chart in the book, The art of saxophone playing by Larry Teal, Another that I think you would love is Selection Adjustment and Care of Single Reeds by Larry Guy he is a classical player but I think you would find this interesting. But really time consuming . Jeff where do you live , is it hard to get reeds ? let me know I would gladly mail you some!

    #28413
    Jeff
    Jeff
    Participant

    3:08PM 29 Nov

    Hi Wayne, thank you for your kind offer but the last time I bought reeds, I bought three boxes for my Tenor and three for my Alto, so I’ll be okay for the next 20 years.

    I live in Vanderbijlpark South Africa on the Vaal river. The prices of imported goods can be ridiculous here if the item isn’t sold in large quantities. For example the Yamaha products cost twice as much here than in the rest of the world. I had a look at the USA ‘Reed Wizard’ but I could buy a 2nd hand Tenor for the price of that tool! Now I just follow my little reed procedure with nail buffers, which only takes me about two minutes and I’m playing.

    I can tell you what has made a huge difference lately. I don’t know if you saw my post on ‘ligature discovery’, but I played my Alto yesterday for the second time after rotating the ligature to the screws on top position. I was blown away by the tone, with it sounding the way it does now I don’t think it could be any better if I replaced the standard metal ligature with an expensive type ligature – it’s that good!!! My conclusion is that anyone who says that the screws must be over the reed, is just simply wrong. After all if you play with a ruler on the edge of the table – the firmer you clamp the ruler the better the tone.

    Now that I solved the reed and ligature issues, I can concentrate on getting my alt-issi-motion going!
    I don’t want to just be a fiatographer forever!!!

    😉

    #35169
    Profile photo of Frank Scott
    Frank Scott
    Participant

    Thanks for the info on the reed wizard. That is really neat. At $309 I will have to stick to the sandpaper and fingernail file or reed rush that Johnny talked about.

    #35174
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    Frank – what you can try is after soaking a new reed, dry it out, then place it on a flat surface and rub it round in a circle for 2 mins, this smooths out the bottom of the reed and seals the pores.
    then rub the top side of the reed with your thumb nail.

    a lot of these tools work, but you only need them as a last resort for reeds that are unplayable.

    Once you start filing reeds down, you shorten the life of the reed to a few weeks, but its still better than throwing them away

    #35183
    Dazza
    Dazza
    Participant

    Interestingly I left a few of my new ZZ’s in a glass of water for a day by mistake and returned to practice last night and put one on. I have been having trouble again dropping down to the low D as it wants to go an ocatve higher on my new MBII of all things! After putting on the soaked reed it instantly wasn’t an issue and it would sound a lot more easily from all directions. I am uncertain whether the long soak was all that was necessary or maybe just need to be more patient and give them a good 5 minute soak before starting to play. I remember Johnny once saying that he leaves his reeds on the MP and just picks it up and plays and it soon comes good. JF – do you soak before you stroke (your horn that is!) as a general rule?

    #35189
    saxjohnny
    saxjohnny
    Keymaster

    No, like you stated, I rarely take the reed of my mp. just when I get a new box or 2 I chuck em all in the glass of water and go thru them.
    Dazza, you should experiment with this since you have had some interestingly good results… find out why. Do a 5-10 minute soak, 12 hour soak etc to see if there are any differences. I’m by no means suggesting my way of just leaving the reed on is good, and would rather recommend no one do that. I’m lazy that way and the reed really does pop back after a minute of playing so it works for me but there are better ways!

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