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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000269.txt from 1994/05

From: Tom Haley <ssi@-----.COM>
Subj: Re: Working on reeds
Date: Tue, 17 May 1994 11:12:16 -0400

Kirby Fong writes
> Stan Geidel initiated a discussion about the amount of effort spent
> working on reeds. My own experience generally matches his and that of sev
> others who replied. At one time in the dim and distant past I tried makin
> reeds from blanks. I found this excessively time consuming and switched t
> strategy of buying manufactured reeds which were a little too stiff for m
> mouthpiece. This means a modest amount of scraping is needed to make the
> reed usable. I try all reeds in a box; nothing is discarded solely on vis
> inspection. I might do a little scraping on the first playing, but it see
> more profitable to set a new reed aside and try it again the next day. Pl
> characteristics seem to change during the first few playings, and I want t
> get an idea whether a particular reed really has any potential before inve
> much effort shaping it. My experience with Vandoren 3-1/2 to 4 is that
> roughly one third will never be playable in the sense that the tone qualit
> is not acceptable, one third may be acceptable for practicing (acceptable
> but not sufficiently responsive to tonguing), and one third are good enoug
> rehearsal and performance. I believe that due to irregularities in cane f
> and density, it is too much to hope that using mechanical devices to make
> reed the same shape will result in every reed becoming playable; after all
> reeds in a box are already machine made and do not turn out identically.
> Therefore, a final, custom adjustment is necessary. I find that it is use
> just to hold the reed on the mouthpiece with my thumb and to blow a few no
> By trying the reed a little high or low and also offsetting to the left o
> right, I can get an idea whether the tip is too heavy and whether the side
> properly balanced and therefore know where to scrape. Visual inspection a
> scraping to achieve a balanced looking shadow around the heart is not my
> starting point; how it plays is what's important, not how it looks. My
> current attitude about working on reeds is: don't do a lot on any particul
> reed all at once. Do a little work each day for three days. By then it s
> be apparent whether the reed will ever be usable and warrant further inves
> I might also add I try to keep eight reeds playable and use them in rotati
> I suppose giving them a few days rest might increase their longevity, but
> having a fair number of reeds like this means I can go for months without
> having to open another box of reeds to work on. This means on a long ter
> average, I don't have to spend much time working on reeds.
> Kirby Fong

I would like to second the approach to reeds that Kirby Fong presented.
This method of breaking in reeds and resting them as given me a slightly
higher than average playable reeds per box, as well as making them last

The only thing different that I do is to sand the bottom on a flat
surface and to lightly smooth the top with 400 grit sandpaper, but that
is not done until the next day. By the way, I usually spent 5 min day 1
and 10 min day 2 & 3. At that point, they go into the rotation of
'breakin reeds' that I play during short rehearsals / practices which I
cut / scrape / sand until the reed plays well enough to keep or discard.
The reeds I keep get seperated into performance / practice that I use
no more than 60 min until they are 'ready'.

tom haley

p.s. this works on sax reads too,
and I wish it worked on flute for those "bad reed" days.

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