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Rotate them or play it until it dies?

Do you rotate your reeds or play one until it dies

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Staff member
I guess this is more of a poll question. Personally I rotate my reeds and have reed holders with the days of the week on them and then generally pick out a reed from the correct day. When a reed finally goes it just gets replaced with another reed from my humidor pouch of the same strength. I also carry four reeds a half strength harder and four reeds a half strength softer in the pouch as well.

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I generally do a rotation of cane reeds, with the occasional grab one at random.

On synthetic I play them until death and keep a new backup with me while playing.

I guess that makes me vote all of the above. :D
I definitely rotate them, but I always have 1 or 2 "performance ready" reeds saved that I do not use when practicing.
Rotate... definately.

I have two blue vandoren cases which I've taken the charcoal out of. One keeps my bevy of Rico Select Jazz (yes, its RSJ, not RJS... I know, it doesn't sound right, but check the thread on SOTW... on to digressing...) 3M which were hand selected with certain criteria (balance from the factory, stock, left-right. Eveness at the heel, purity of the heart, etc...) through visual inspection out of a box of 10. I carefully broke in each reed over the course of about a week, while spending most of the practice time on either older reeds or one of the lesser quality 3Ms out of the box which wasn't broken in over a period of time.

In my second case, I keep 2 Gonzales 3.5s which were lightly worked with some sandpaper, and 2 Gonzales 3.75s which were more thoroughly worked. This is for my classical/pre-2-weeks-ago-concert-band setup (R. Caravan mpc). Since I got my Meyer 6M, I had been using some old worked over RSJ 3Ss, but had a few squeeks, but this wasn't molded to my Caravan (the others held the MPC back, on top of being set up for something with a tip opening of .012inches narrower). I picked out two candidates from the same RSJ 3M box (only box I have right now) and took them to the sand paper. Soak, test, sand, rinse, test, soak, sand, rinse, test, etc... One of them came out really nice, one of them... was just OK. Anyways, right now I have just "my 6M" reed and my "sit in a cup of water incase the gig reed breaks" reed (some may say "back-up", I wax poetic... poorly). I need to buy/build a new reed case and pick up another box of reeds for the new mpc.

FWIW, I rotated those 4 RSJ reeds for the Caravan from September through late May... The Gonzales are great reeds, but as they run a bit on the hard side, I'm going to need to pick up some 3.25s before I'd switch on the R.C. I have 2 designated as concert-ready, and two for practice, but rotate all four through practice until right before a performance. They've lasted a long time after some careful break in.

Just what I do...


P.S. For as good as I am, this is WAAAAAY overkill. Just part of being a gear head, I guess, and a tweaker-at-heart.


Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
I had answered this question in previous thread, but I'll put the relevant part here too.

I have used Fibracell reeds exclusively on all of my horns for more than 10 years. (Not trying to get into the virtues of synthetic/cane debate here, just a comment to preface my comments about rotating & performance reeds.)

For each voice of horn I have at least 3 or 4 reeds I usually rotate through for rehearsals (because apparently I like spending buckets on reeds all at the same time!!! :emoji_astonished: ) . Despite the company's advertisements, I do find that the reeds do indeed vary...usually related to the batch they come from. When I find "the one" that is everything I want/need/desire/crave, etc in a reed (you all know what I mean...the one that you want to have a funeral for when it finally dies :cry: ), I do put it aside, and use it only for performances. I have a small collection of those for each horn that I usually take to shows...
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Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Once I thought I'd have to rotate because everyone's doing it and it looks soo professional, until I had to change reed in mid-rehearsal and all I had available was a fresh reed.
To make a long story short, I don't rotate and pamper them any longer, just clamp on and play'em to death.
I do, however, rotate my clarinets. :-D
Personally, I don't do any of the "breaking-in" stuff ... I did it for awhile and didn't noticed much difference for all that hasle.

That being said ... I usually have 3-4 reeds to choose from in case I put one on a it doesn't work the way I want it.


Artist in residence
Distinguished Member
I play Vandoren Java 3 on alto. I shave them with my knife, and once I'm satisfied with the resistance, I can usually get close to a month of use, playing every day.
I slap them on until they die, but merely out of laziness. I'm impatient when it comes to breaking in new reeds so when I get one that clicks, I just won't put it down.
I rotate---4 or 5 for each of the two mpcs I use most frequently. I think, given my level of skill (not-so-hot), that it's kind of superstitous behavior on my part. If I start a rehearsal and don't like how I'm sounding, I switch reeds, and usually that works (or at least I think it does). And sometimes when I check out the "defective" reed at home, indeed it has gone past its prime and needs to be retired. However, sometimes not----so I think it's often just in my head. But hey, whatever works!
I have 4 reeds I keep in "rotation". It really ends up just grab one and go. When that one dies a new one goes in. I usually end up playing multiple reeds per session as they tend to get weak after an hour or so. Give em a rest and they come back good as new.
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