Fibracell Premiers and Tip Opening

Discussion in 'Reeds' started by saxphil, Jan 31, 2008.

  1. saxphil

    saxphil

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    I have noticed Premiers play powerfully and would appreciate opinions on preferred strength for theses tips:
    Alto:.075,.080 HR
    Sop:.055,.068 HR & Metal
    Tenor: .105 Link STM 7*
    It has been suggested that the Premiers follow pretty closely one's preferred cane choice in it's number system but some suggest up from that and some down.What do you suggest?
     
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  2. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    I have found that the Fibracells play not as soft as one would think on the soft side and play not quite as hard as one would expect on the hard side. If that makes any sense.

    If I had to compare them to Rico Royals I would say that the Fibracells range from a Rico Royal 2 to a 4 depending upon the strength indicated.

    On a metal link .105" tip I would generally play a soft or a medium soft. In the new numbering system it would be either a 1 1/2 or a 2. I remember some years ago that Mojobari mentioned that he writes what he feels is the strength of the Fibracell on the reed with a Sharpie.

    The relationship between the facing curve, the baffle, and the tip opening will dictate the strength of the reed. What I have found is that a high baffle piece will generally need to be a lot more open than a lower baffled piece to play the same strength reed. I played a Rousseau JDX on bari that measured about .130" but there's no way I could play the same reed on a metal link on bari that measured .130".
     
  3. Sole

    Sole

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    So, this is honestly the first time I've heard of a synthetic reed. I was wondering what exactly the differences are between cane and synthetic. And would they be practical to use in a high school setting?
     
  4. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Wow. That's a loaded question. The answer will depend on who you speak to. I've been using Fibracells for nearly 13 years now, after trying a whole bunch of other synthetics. These reeds (the Fibracells) were, in my opinion anyway, the ones that were closest to cane without the fuss and muss.

    I'll write more about this a bit later, I'm pressed for time right now.

    The short answer to this that they can be. I usually have my HS students use them because in the long run they are cheaper and more reliable than cane. But... you always have to have a back-up with you, because when they give out, there is no warning. They just go dead and start sounding like a sick duck. Not a huge problem if you're playing in a concert band, but if you're playing in the jazz band--and especially if you're soloing--it's a huge problem.

    More on this a bit later too.
     
  5. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Helen - they just die that quickly ?
    I've only been using synthetics for a short time but haven't had one die on me, and then mostly on clarinet - Legere's

    I have a few Fibercells for sax but don't use them much as I don't like the tone and I haven't fiddled with different strengths due to the cost. Plus have a shipping box full of cane reeds cuts down on the necessity of buying reeds. :)
     
  6. saxplayer1004

    saxplayer1004

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    answer to the high school question
    Doesn't bloody matter what equipment you have or if it's "practical" for use in a high school setting.
    If you're band director doesn't allow them, then you can't use them. I play metal mouthpieces and Rico reeds almost exclusively. Classical, Jazz, Pits, everything. In high school, I don't play Selmer saxophones, and find that the law of diminishing returns is especially prevalent in instruments. I was told I couldn't use my King Voll-True II with a goldbeck mouthpiece and Rico reeds in high school because it wasn't a Selmer or a Yamaha, was a metal mouthpiece, and didn't have Vandoren reeds. I was stupid, and told the director to shove it and almost got suspended. Decided to be an asshole, and took a Vandoren reed with a Rico B5 mouthpiece, stuck it on a buddies leaking Selmer Series II and asked him blindfolded which sounded better. Won that argument, but don't recommend that course of action.

    If your director is an idiot stickler about that sort of thing, hide it to keep the peace. The Fibracells work just fine for concert band settings, and I use them on bass/contrabass clarinets all the time. Adds a bit more punch to them which is helpful, and for saxes it depends on your mouthpiece. I've found the added punch on a sax isn't useful for blending with french horns and euphoniums, especially if you're embouchure isn't fully developed yet
     
  7. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    saxplayer, you really shouldn't hold back so much. Tell us what you *really* mean :p.

    I've attended a high school where I could only play an instrument approved by the director or one of the folks that did lessons (the school had a band class and lessons one-day-a-week). I did shock them when I came in with a Pan-American metal clarinet, but I proved its worth when I played it.

    Band directors sometimes do tell beginning students that you must have either a Yamaha or Selmer instrument -- or that you need to go to a music store that's preferred by the school. The reasoning behind this is relatively sound: the band director is probably a brasswind player that knows how to finger a saxophone (for instance) and not much beyond that. However, he knows that Yamaha (for instance) makes quality horns, so telling a parental unit that he should buy little Timmy a Yamaha saxophone is something safe to say.

    All that said, I do think that if little Timmy happens to have his grandfather's immaculately restored Selmer Balanced Action instead of a Yamaha 23, the kid or a woodwind teacher should at least be allowed to prove that the horn's really decent. However, that's jus' me thinkin'.
     
  8. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Yes, they do give out that quick Steve. There is a short warning on them: you start sounding a bit like a duck, and if you don't change it watch out--major sick duck coming. If you're an altissimo player, then you do have more of a warning, because you will notice a decreased performance in the altissimo range first. That's when I rotate my performance reeds into my rehearsal reed category. But if you're not an altissimo player, then the duck noise is the warning that a sick duck sound is on the way. :emoji_smile:

    Getting back to the original question.

    Here is a partial list of the differences between cane and synthetics. This is in no way intended to be a full list, but it covers some of the highlights. Hopefully others will chime in with more differences as well.

    Synthetic

    • Last longer
    • Do not need to be wet--great for doubling
    • Do not need to be adjusted with reed knives or dutch rush--YMMV depending on brand used, and personal preference
    • More consistent reed to reed
    • Cost more initially, but because they last longer, tend to be cost effective in the long run. (You do have to look after them however.)
    • Can be cleaned.
    • Good quality ones sound the same as cane.

    Cane

    • Have a shorter lifespan
    • Need to be wet in order to play well & respond correctly
    • Most need to be adjusted to get optimal peformance out them
    • Completely inconsistent reed to reed and box to box
    • Require maintance and care in order to keep them playing well as long as possible
    • Can't really be cleaned
    • Good quality cane reeds are getting increasingly more difficult to find.

    With regards to using synthetics in a HS setting, as I already mentioned, I usually have my students use Fibracell reeds because they are consistent, and last a long, long time. Usually 2 reeds will last an entire school year--as long as the reeds are looked after, and stored in the original container. This will of course vary depending on how much you practice and play outside of school.

    Saxplayer1004 already mentioned that some teachers don't allow or like synthetic reeds. If that's the case, then you might not have a choice, but depending on the circumstances, you might still be able to use Fibracells. These particular reeds look and sound like cane reeds. A teacher might not even know that you're not using cane. I've had students use them for the entire year before they told their teachers that what they're playing on is a synthetic reed.

    Just a few last points I should mention:
    • Not all synthetic reeds are the same. Different brands do definitely sound different and respond differently.
    • Some synthetic reeds should not be adjusted--according to the company that makes them at least. For example, Fibracell recommends that you do not adjust your reeds because the Kevlar fibers in them can be exposed during the fiddling process.
    • Some synthetics are better for certain types of music, or are made for certain types of music. For example, Fiberreeds by Harry Hartmann are available in different versions for different styles of music.

    As I mentioned in my first post, I have used Fibracell reeds since about '97 or so. I use them on all my horns soprano through bass. I have played multiple saxes in all the bands I have worked in, and these reeds are great, because they do not need to be wet. I swap horns, and can immediately jump from low Bb to an altissimo F (F4) without worrying about my reed. It's there. It's immediate. I use them for all styles of music I play from jazz through rock, and everything in between. I solo a lot in all the bands as well, that's why I can't have my reeds let me down. I'm also a heavy altissimo player, so my demands on my reeds are multi-faceted.

    Before I switched to Fibracells, I used the Rico Plasticoats, and before that Rico Royals. I just got so tired of the inconsistencies of cane reeds, that I started trying out the various synthetics until I fell in love with the sound and response of the Fibracells.
     
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    ... I'd like to add my experience with the Rico Plasticovers.

    First, the Plasticover is a cane reed that has a thin coat of plastic on it (see Rico's blog).

    I used the Plasticovers for one specific reason: I had a gig where I was playing Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, bari sax and (I think) alto sax. I didn't want to worry about my reeds drying out, especially as it was a long gig and I had to use the Bb clarinet (and alto sax) for only one or two pieces.

    The reeds worked fairly OK, but I found them to be a little soft (I usually use Vandoren 3.5). Other than that, no real problems in the gig.

    A day later, though, all the reeds were warped out of shape. Badly.

    I think that if I had metal or hard plastic reed cases to store the reeds in, I wouldn't have had a problem.

    I do think that if I was still actively playing and playing big horns (bari sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), I'd go for synthetic. The reeds for these monsters are expensive. If I can buy one to last a month instead of an entire box, that'd save a lot of cash.
     
  10. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Unlike Pete, I've never had a Plasticover warp on me. Maybe it's the difference in climate? I use Plasticover on the instruments I double on like sop, alto, and bass clarinet. I use Legere on bass sax as recommended by Benedikt Eppelsheim. I also use Legere on my contra (bass and alto) clarinets.

    I use cane on soprillo, sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, and bari sax. Right now I am reallying liking the Vandoran Red Box (introduced last year IIRC) and Vandoran ZZ reeds in the #3 strength.
     
  11. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

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    Yes, overall they do save cash. At least they do for me in the long run. I have 4 reeds that I have in a La Voz or Rico--or whatever the brand name on the thing is--reed holder. I rotate their use as if they were cane reeds. These 4 reeds last me approx. 1 year of heavy playing. That's a total of show and rehearsal usage. After they've lost their show quality, they become practice reeds. The show reeds are kept separately in their own reed holder, and they too are rotated. I do this with all the horns I use, soprano through bass. However, now that I really only play tenor in 1 band, the other reeds last me even longer. :-D
     
  12. saxhound

    saxhound Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Great minds think alike. I actually keep eight Fibracells in rotation on tenor since I play that the most. Four 2.5s and four 2s. I like to play the 2s when I am at a very relaxed gig or rehearsal, and pull out the 2.5s for the rock stuff or non-amplified big band.

    I wish I could learn to like the Fibracells on clarinet. For some reason, they just don't do it for me. I'm still using LaVoz MH. Invariably, some band leader will call Sing Sing Sing or Don't Be That Way at the end of the last set, when my reed has completely dried out.
     
  13. saxplayer1004

    saxplayer1004

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    I was talking to my shop who has prices as low as WWBW for everything, he said his prices on vandoren Blue Box for bari was $6 a reed... That's INSANE, like $2 a reed for clarinet, I am NOT paying that much for a bloody reed. Rico's are just fine, and hell, a lot of the guys that I have played with use Rico's. If I was a legit player I MIGHT consider it, but I doubt it.

    Ya my biggest pet peeve in music is gear snobs, pisses me off in SCUBA too. I keep a beat up Bundy II, junk plastic mouthpiece and a Rico Orange box 2 for alto around just to piss band directors off when I ge thired to do master classes. I bring my King Voll True II and 82z in with me as well, with my Goldbeck and Meyer 5m and Selmer Metal Classic E with me so they can try to tell me the Bundy sounds like crap.

    GRRGGGG

    ok, ya, what everyone else said. As far as the plasticovers go, I keep mine in the old metal Lavoz cases, which work REAL well, so I don't get warping on them till about a month or so of play... I had my first plasticover blow out on me, and I used it about 6 hours a week for probably 14 weeks...
     
  14. DavidW

    DavidW

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    I have been using a bari Fibracell on bass clarinet for over a year now and love it. However, each time I tried them on bari, they sounded dead. I suspect my old Link STM has an uneven table and cane is more forgiving on it :)
     
  15. Sole

    Sole

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    How are those? I've been wanting to try them because I just don't sound very jazzy with my set up and am looking for something to help me on my way.

    My director is very chill about what you use. He isn't very fond of cheapo rico reeds but that's about it reed wise. Instrument brand wise, he has no issue with it as long as you sound good and can play well. Although he can live with out Jupiters. We have just about every brand under the sun at school, from unknown to yanagisawa.

    There were multiple people I wanted to quote but I felt it'd be too long so I'm just going to type a general response.

    What types of reed cases do you all use? Are synthetics good for a marching band? Do the strengths of synthetics weight about the same as cane? And what kind of resistance do they have? I guess that kind of goes with the last question. I know I have many questions, and probably more to follow, but I'm exceedingly interested in trying new things.
     
  16. saxismyaxe

    saxismyaxe Friends of the WF Distinguished Member

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    Must be something going on with your setup. I use Fibracells on my baritone and bass saxophones, and they are quite vibrant and full sounding.

    I've tried all of the synthetic reeds out there, and the only ones I like are the Fibracells. They are close enough to cane to coddle me into using them.

    As far as the ZZ reeds, my suggestion is to get a half strength harder than you usually play, because I've found that they become too weak (at least for me) quite early vs. other reed cuts if you don't.
     
  17. saxplayer1004

    saxplayer1004

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    You can make yourself sound "jazzier" on just about anything, a lot of that is you and your mouthpiece.

    Nothing wrong with Jupiters, their artist series of horns seriously rock...
    And nothing wrong with "cheapo" rico reeds, orange box reeds have taken me to All-States for 6 years in a row, then gotten me through professional pit gigs and the like in college.

    for reed cases I use old metal Lavoz cases that you can't really find anymore. I had an older Vandoren one but didn't like it because it tended to make my reeds moldy. For the reeds not in the metal cases, I use these
    http://www.wwbw.com/La-Voz-Reedgard-IV-for-Clarinet-or-Alto-Saxophone-540374-i1151061.wwbw
    The pros I play with either use those, or the glass $elmer cases but again, $$$
     
  18. saxismyaxe

    saxismyaxe Friends of the WF Distinguished Member

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    I use this type of case, but you MUST use, and replace as needed, the desiccant cartridge with it in order to avoid mold.
     
  19. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    My experience with ZZ's is that more come out of the box in a playable and live reed. YMMV. But the reed isn't what contributes to a jazzy sound. Mouthpiece, articulation, and your theory are really what I find makes that work.
     
  20. saxplayer1004

    saxplayer1004

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    ya, I have replaced it but it did this with the new desiccants. Probably didn't help I was using the 4 reeds I put in the case... probably just too much water in there
     

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