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Reed Finishing/Adjusting Systems

#1
I've seen a number of posts on how many "playable" reeds one can find in a box, depending on the brand. Has anyone tried things like the "Reed Geek" or Tom Ridenour's "ATG Reed Finishing System?" If so, how well do they work? I've read about advanced players adjusting and balancing their reeds.
 

Ed

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Staff member
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#2
I use the methods described in The Art of Saxophone. Most of the time, I find that if I sand the vamp and make sure the reed is flat that I have no issues with most reeds. I also think it is really important to have a well adjusted mouthpiece. My mouthpieces all have basically flat tables with just a touch concavity just pass the window. The rails are even and the tip is consistent.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#3
Coarse paper (white paper, not sandpaper) is what I use to do 99% of my reed work these days. I still carry a plate of glass and a blade in several of my cases for fine tweaking, but seldom see the need to work a reed that much.
 
#4
In my experience, the single most important thing regarding preping a well playing reed is to make sure the table (flat side of the reed) is planar and also smooth.
This should be done to ANY reed you get out of the box and it can be done in a variety of ways.
Some time ago I bought myself the Vandoren system for reed preparation but I hardly use it because I believe I can make a better/finer finish of the reed by using other methods.
After soaking the reeds for a short period in lukewarm water, I use a variety of Sandpaper grains (600, 1000 and 2000) and sand the table until it has a polished appearance and seals very well against the mouthpiece. Sometimes I finish the reed table by polishing it against a piece of paper....this makes the table real shiny, which makes for a good, clear tone. Whether the reed seals well can be checked by verifying if the reed "pops" well against the mouthpiece rails. Indirectly, this also checks whether the mouthpiece is in a good shape.
Some reeds may also need some touch-up on the contoured side, but this better be done with great care, as some small changes in certain areas can make an unbelievable difference on how the reed plays.
From what I remember, I threw away only one reed in the last 3 to four years since I use this method (that particular reed had a cracked corner....it should not have been packaged and sold by the manufacturer.
All other reeds I succeeded in turing them into well playing reeds, even the once which have a irregular looking fiber pattern, are not all that symmetrical in the end view, etc.
Some tender loving care and taking some time to play with the reeds will give you good results.

Herb
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#5
> This should be done to ANY reed you get out of the box and it can be done in a variety of ways.

Dunno. I don't tweak my reeds. I just play them as they come.
 

kymarto

Content Expert/Moderator
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#6
If you really want to see what is possible, order "The Saxophone Reed: the Advanced Art of Adjusting Single Reeds" by Ray Reed (really) on Amazon.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#7
Mark me down under the "use them out of the box" heading as well. I've tried sanding the backs with fine and ultrafine "glass paper" (we actually had a stock of this stuff laying around the house when I was young), but ultimately gave it up as it didn't seem to make any difference.

I have been known to clip a reed edge before, but have even given that up over the last ten years or so. (Can't find the damn'd clippers in some cases...)
 
#8
I broke down and bought the ATG system by Tom Ridenour. After a few attempts on some less than perfect reeds, I think I got the knack of it. Both Ed's and Herb's suggestions to level the table, really helped. Working the tip and ears really improved the resistance. I found the 320 grit way too heavy, which softened the reed too much. I backed off to 400 and 600 grits, AND letting the sanding block do the work. The best thing is not having to pull splinters out of my lips anymore.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
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Administrator
#9
I'm surprised someone hasn't said, "Use synthetics and don't worry about the 'systems.'"

A saxophone "finishing" technique that was in vogue a few years back was to put a hole in the reed. If you go to http://forumsaxontheweb.net, search for the poster named, "Bootman."

FWIW, I've occasionally used fine sandpaper and/or a reed trimmer. I've relatively often used a reed knife. Mind you, I was using Vandoren 3.5s at the time and Vandorens seem to err on the "little too thick" side instead of the "little too thin" side.
 

Ed

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#10
The hole didn't go through the reed and I have been known to use it as a last ditch approach to saving a reed that played too hard. Most of the time, I find it more useful just to put the reed aside and play on it when I'm playing more often and need a slightly stronger reed.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#11
Of all the reed improvement methods I've seen in about 40 years, the Ridenour ATG system and the ReedGeek are the best. The ReedGeek doesn't do anything that cannot be accomplished by another method, but it's fast and foolproof. If economy is your only objective, don't buy it, but the ReedGeek may be cheaper in the long run.

The ATG system, on the other hand, is a real money saver. I have never seen any other reed preparation method that produced a larger percentage of good results.
 
#12
I'm surprised someone hasn't said, "Use synthetics and don't worry about the 'systems.'" ...
Funny you should mention that :emoji_astonished: :emoji_astonished: :emoji_astonished:. I don't like Fibercell. To me they sound harsh and "tinny." Legere aren't too bad, but it seems that I have to adjust my emboucher. I haven't tried Bari reeds. Perhaps this is for a different thread, if it hasn't already been covered.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#13
Ah, we have no problems beating dead horses, here.

I think the "tinny" (I'd call it "buzzy") does seem to depend a lot on what kind of mouthpiece you use. Also, it's been at least 20 years since I used a full synthetic and longer than that since I used Rico Plasticovers (the former I didn't care for, the latter were OK, but warped easily). When you play instruments that use big reeds, a synthetic is an even better choice because the pure cane ones start getting really expensive, really fast. Hey, $18 for one synthetic contrabass clarinet reed or $35 for a box of five cane reeds? That's a big concern.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#14
$35 for a box of five cane reeds?
When was the last time you bought contra reeds? Sounds like a sale price to me.
 
#15
Ah, we have no problems beating dead horses, here.

I think the "tinny" (I'd call it "buzzy") does seem to depend a lot on what kind of mouthpiece you use.
OK! I'll bite (sorry to give the horse another whack)...

Seriously...as a novice clarinetist, what type of mouthpiece would favor a synthetic reed? I've used a Vandoren M30 and a Ridenour RZ MT-36 mouthpiece with a 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 Legere. They are very bright and have a lot of upper harmonics. A very piercing sound. Cane reeds 2 1/2 to 3 give me a warm, dark, open sound.

PS, If this is getting out of control regarding the subject, you could PM me or start another thread?
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
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#16
When was the last time you bought contra reeds? Sounds like a sale price to me.
I think I just Googled. WWBW has them for $42. You're probably right that there was a sale.

... as a novice clarinetist, what type of mouthpiece would favor a synthetic reed?
My feeling is that, if you are a novice, you shouldn't be using either a reed finishing device or a synthetic reed. This is because you or your instructor might find that you're going to want to play a harder or softer reed relatively quickly and it's difficult to modify a synthetic. Cane? Too hard and shave it down. Too soft and just buy another reed of a different strength. Also note that a La Voz hard (for instance) isn't necessarily the same strength as a Vandoren 4. It's one of the maxims I've written about: beginners aren't allowed to have GAS.

Regarding the buzzy, my experiments were generally with saxophone mouthpieces. On clarinet, when I used the Rico Plasticovers with my Selmer C85 and Vandoren (IIRC) B40 -- both hard rubber -- I couldn't really tell a significant change in tone, nor could folks listening to me.

I played with the Plasticovers and a couple other synthetics on my baritone saxophone mouthpieces, they were quite buzzy on my Berg Larsen 110/0 hard rubber 'piece (it's considered a "jazz" 'piece), and I'd assume them to be even more buzzy on a metal or crystal 'piece. I felt the same with the full synthetic on my Sigurd Rascher (really large chamber, hard rubber). However, the Plasticovers were more or less OK. Somewhat buzzy, but because the main purpose I was using the synthetics for was to be able to play multiple instrumenst without having to soak reeds, I felt it was OK enough. The one thing I can say is that I didn't like the taste of any of the synthetics.

You could also make an argument that the ligature also can or does make a difference. I can say that playing with ligatures occasionally made me want to select softer or harder reeds.

There are an awful lot of variables. That's why you can have a bunch of folks disagree on what the best setup for a new student is. If you want an ultimate setup from me, for beginning Bb clarinet players:

* Start with a wooden Yamaha clarinet. YCL-34 or better. Get a warrantied one or one that's fully overhauled. If it's used, have your teacher play it to make sure there are no problems.
* The stock Yamaha 'piece and ligature are OK, but I'd recommend a Selmer C85 or Vandoren B45 hard rubber. The C85/B45 can easily take you far beyond college.
* The ligature that comes with the Yamaha, Selmer or Vandoren 'piece is fine, but I really like the Gigliotti, Rovner and Rovner-clone (like BG) ligatures. (Or see if SOTSDO will fabricate one for you. He's got a patent.)
* Get some 2.5 reeds, not more than 5. I liked the Vandoren V12s when they came out, but Mitchell Lurie, LaVoz and Rico Royal are pretty decent. Plain ol' Rico ones can even be OK for the first months.

I can adjust a lot of the above for budget considerations, too.

There are companies out there that say that even the plating on the keywork affects the clarinet's tone and we've not even talked about pads, barrels or bells. I also strongly believe that worrying about the fine points of gear is for someone who's semi-professional. Otherwise, just listen to your teacher.
 
#17
Pete, I wished I had your advice & experience, before starting up again. I played for about 6 months in elementary school and got bored. About 8 mos ago I wanted to go back (after a 50 year hiatus). Thanks to the advice of one of your sponsors/distinguished members, I took the plunge. Yes, I did get GAS, but found a great combination of MP, ligature and barrel, which has given me many pleasurable hours. Perhaps one of these days, I may get into synthetics, but for now, cane and learning a few finishing techniques will have to do.
 
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