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 Reed Life
Author: NHM 
Date:   2007-08-30 20:13

I have been playing again in the last month after a 35 (yes that is 35) year layoff and I have a couple of questions.
The first is almost akin to 'how long is a piece of string' but I am going to ask anyway. I am currently using Vandoren Traditional number 2 reeds (principally because there is no strength in my embouchure yet and it's what I feel comfortable with) and my question is, how many hours should I get out of a reed before it starts to go off?
The second is one that I asked here about 18 months ago and I still have not had any luck with so I am hoping that either a newbie or someone who missed the last post will be able to help. Can anyone help identify a clarinet with the name "Leslie Sheppard Burgess Hill Sussex" stamped inside an oval on the bell? The only other reference I have ever found to Leslie Sheppard was an Oboe on an auctioneers website.

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Iceland clarinet 
Date:   2007-08-30 22:03

No one right answer is to this question but for me each reed last 20-25 hours of playing and that is if you have several reeds 5-10 in use and rotaited them regulary maybe playing each reed 30-60 minutes.

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: tictactux 2017
Date:   2007-08-30 22:35

Mine last some 30 hours too. Then they disintegrate (preferrably during the final ff in a piece) rather abruptly, and I get a new one, give it a wet lick and off we go for another 30 hours. I don't break mine in, but I rarely play longer than 2 hours in a row.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2007-08-31 11:52

You need to keep your reed clean to get it's full life. Rinse off the reed after playing with water and you will feel the dead lip skin come off of it. I equate the excess material to trying to hike with a backpack full of rocks.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: hans 
Date:   2007-08-31 14:50


Re: "how many hours should I get out of a reed before it starts to go off?", there is no simple answer to that question. A reed is a piece of dead organic matter, so that each one is almost unique, just like every piece of wood cut from a tree is. Therefore, so is the way it responds to being moistened, digested by saliva enzymes, and made to vibrate. A better quality of cane may produce more consistent results.

I use a plastic reed on my clarinet; however, on my alto sax I have had cane reeds last from mere days to about 10 months so far, playing it at least 3 hours per week. I may have that one mounted to hang on the wall when it finally fails (it's a Zonda). I mark each reed with the date when it is first played to keep track and, as David said above, I keep them clean.

A synthetic reed is much more predictable, but not everyone agrees that it can produce the same quality of sound.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: BobD 
Date:   2007-09-02 13:55

If it's on the inside of the bell it's probably an owner's name. Try a 1 1/2 reed.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: NHM 
Date:   2007-09-03 12:19

Thanks Guys,

20 to 30 hours seems about right as the reeds that I have used have been somewhere between this and have suddenly gone off making me think it was me!!

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 Re: Reed Life/Leslie Sheppard
Author: Virginia 
Date:   2011-04-17 08:21

Leslie Sheppard was an instrument retailer in Burgess Hill, Sussex. His mark was stamped on many instruments of foreign manufacture, exactly as retailers do today :)
Leslie was my grandfather's cousin.

You can read more about his early life and career as a military musician at:


the post fron Nov. 21, 2010.

I gave up the clarinet 40 years ago and took up the flute (I can hear them throwing things already as I scuttle away) No reeds to chew on! Hopefully you're still playing and enjoying the music.

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 Re: Reed Life/Leslie Sheppard
Author: conormccarthy 
Date:   2014-11-27 05:10

Hello Virginia,

I know this is a long-shot as this topic is already almost 4 years old...but I was looking for more information on your relation Leslie and his shop. The link in the above post no longer works.

I am an Irish double bass player, I play with the Toulouse orchestra (orchestre national du capitole de toulouse), and have recently come across a double bass with many connections to my hometown, Cork, in Ireland. It is stamped Leslie Sheppard, Sussex (according to the description - I have yet to see the instrument) I would love to know the time period of when the shop was open. I think this instrument was sold some time after 1930 and before 1950, but it is, I suspect much older, probably 1800 or so.

The double bass was bought by an amateur orchestra in Cork, the Cork Symphony Orchestra. The conductor and founder of this orchestra was Aloys Fleischmann, a famous musician in Ireland at the time, and his wife taught my Grandmother to play piano. It is from her that I am connected to classical music (in fact I have traced her musical legacy somewhat, and her teacher, Tilly Fleischmann was taught by Bernhard Stavenhagen was in turn taught by Franz Liszt!). Being a double bassist I am very interested in any more information I can find on this instrument, and Leslie's shop is a big clue!

Thanks for taking the time to read this,

Yours in music,
Conor Mc Carthy

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: hinotehud 2017
Date:   2014-11-28 08:22

When I was in college, I rotated my reeds every 30 minutes of playing. I kept a record on all my reeds and marked on a sheet every time I played on that reed. It was uncanny, but every reed lasted exactly 26 1/2 hours. It helped predict how much life was left in your best reeds that you wanted to use for important performances.

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: TomS 
Date:   2014-11-28 18:44

I get about 20-25 hours for Vandoren ... the blue box and V12s seem to be about the same. Balance your reed very early in their life and check them again each time you play ... biting and selective chewing to make an unbalanced reed kinda-sorta play will damage it and reduce it's life expectancy.

Only briefly soak the vibrating part of the cane reed, from the tip to about 1/4" before the bark is stripped off. Use tap water to wet the reed initially and to rise it after playing. Dry it by rubbing between the thumb and index finger and let it dry for just a little while, flat side up, before returning to your reed wallet.

I've only used Legere synthetics and they last about 3-4 times longer ... I usually have 4-5 reeds that I rotate. Eventually they get fatigued, the response gets bad and the sound loses center and focus.

With my M13 MP and chosen instrument, I think my sound is actually best with the Legere Quebec cut . They play flatter in the high register and there is more articulation noise everywhere, but the sound, consistency and stability is to my liking.

The Legere take a longer to warm than-up than cane, so if I have some very warm water available (especially in cold weather) I will drop the ENTIRE reed in for a 2 minute soak. The Legere also continue to soften as you play them, so in an hour I have to put a different one on my MP.

IMHO, a really exceptional cane reed is better, but rarer, and I chose to spend most of my very limited time playing than messing with reeds.

With the Legere, you must find a cut and strength to match your MP, so some rather expensive experimentation will have to be performed for best results.


Post Edited (2014-11-28 19:08)

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Jamnik 
Date:   2014-11-30 22:03

The reed topic came up while talking to Tom Ridenour. Although my daughter nor I haven't tried it personally, it does seem logical. I will try to post here what he said to the best of my memory.

A cane reed is organic and although a slow process, saliva will break a reed down once it comes into contact. As the reed is played, the combination of the reed vibrating while the saliva is breaking the cane material down destroys the reed. Playing ff-fff really works the reed and causes damage quicker due to more stress. If you pre soak a reed prior to playing, the life if the reed should be extended. Tom showed me a setup where he had a dry reed placed on his mouthpiece of choice. When he was ready to play he dipped the mouthpiece and reed tip (3/4"-1") into the hydrogen peroxide and then placed a mouthpiece cap over the reed for a 3-5 minute soak period. He said he had good results with this method for extending reed life and also played with much more consistency because variables of reed and ligature placement and ligature tension was eliminated.

At home this sounds feasible but on the road it would not be very convenient.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2014-12-03 23:09

Some of us (ahem...) end up with such a ridiculous drawer full of reeds that wearing one out to the point of utter unplayability is cause for celebration. Into the bin with it! Space freed up for one more!

To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: nellsonic 
Date:   2014-12-04 01:19

I've been using the ReedJuvinate, which takes the basic idea that Tom Ridenour was talking about and runs with it. I've been using it about a month now and have been playing a single cane reed since then for 90%+ of my playing. I haven't been clocking myself, but I've been playing about 10-20 hours a week lately. I've been pretty skeptical about this product, but it's hard to argue with this reed, which I balanced using the ATG system at the beginning of this run. If I can get this kind of performance out of a second reed, after this one finally degrades, I'll be a believer!

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: The Doctor 2017
Date:   2014-12-04 16:39

There are a couple of processes going on here in reed degradation, one mechanical, one enzymatic, and the other bacterial and fungal. No one knows what the actual most harmful aspect is that degrades reed performance.

On the mechanical side the rapid flexes as the reed is played breaks down the reed structure and flexibility and the ultimate ability of the reed to vibrate. Another mechanical aspect is the skin detritus and other debris that may collect on the reed and hamper the movement of the reed. Peroxide as mentioned with remove (oxidize) the organic material that may clog the reed but it also oxidizes some of the carbohydrate holding the cellulose reed bundle together. Ethyl alcohol such as in some mouthwashes will kill bacteria and fungi but it too will attack the matrix holding materials in the cellulose. Both alcohol and peroxide will eventually degrade reed structure unless they contain a balancing humectant.

Human saliva does not contain enzymes that break down cellulose but some bacteria and fungi do. Bacteria and fungi do not grow on a reed that is totally dry so in some respects drying out reeds stops these organisms from breaking down the cellulose of the reed.

The idea that maintaining a moisture content in the reed is achieved by keeping the reed in a moist environment which may or may not maintain a reed that is optimally hydrated and increasing playability.

My own experiments show that it takes a reed a lot longer to be fully hydrated than a achieved by a short soak in water or saliva and some wetting agent may help in getting a totally dry reed into a fully playing condition.

Growth of most bacteria and possibly fungi on reeds usually is not a health issue because normal flora in our mouths has been adjusted by our immune systems to not cause unhealthy and disease causing situations. I would not however use a reed that another person who has a disease uses.
IMO it may not be good to store reeds in a moist condition without some form of disinfectant treatment prior to use.

L. Omar Henderson

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: katiemules1 
Date:   2014-12-04 21:07

I would look into trying the same brand of reeds but instead of the traditional blue box, try the silver box of reeds. The VanDoren reeds will be great especially transitioning off of the traditional box and on the same size. Try and eventually move up to a size 3.5 in the end. Store them properly and be sure to care for them!

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2014-12-05 00:45

FWIW, I don't think there is an answer to the question "how many hours should I get out of a reed before it starts to go off? To be honest, I don't put so much value on reed longevity as many players here seem to. Sometimes I get months from a reed (playing on it a couple of hours a week in rotation with others). Sometimes I get 3 weeks from a reed at the same rate of use. But for me, when it's done, it's done, and I always have others to use. I start new ones as old ones die. I've never felt any special qualm about throwing a reed in the recycling can if it gets dull or balky and I can't readjust it to revive its resonance and response.

I do have a relatively short "break-in" routine that I follow - mostly limiting the time I play on a new reed for the first 3 or 4 uses. Nothing fancy or especially systematic. I've tried other more elaborate systems that I've read about here and elsewhere and found them not to be especially helpful.

It's only a reed. Break it in for a few days and then just play on it until you can't.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2014-12-05 21:25

It lasts however long you feel you want to/can play on it.

Recently had a classical sax player in our band who was a finalist at Pershing's Own auditions. He had used the same reed for 7 years for performances. Then it broke, and he has another "performance reed" now.

Knew another fantastic classical sax player who not only uses the same reed till it breaks but leaves it on the mouthpiece. Takes it off only to swab out the mouthpiece, then puts it back on for storing till next gig.

Bottom line, no one will EVER know how old your reeds are. All they know is how you sound. Dry them, keep your mouthpiece clean, change them when you feel you want to.

If you are unsure, try a new box of reeds every few weeks. If most of that box sounds better than your adjusted and broken in reeds, probably time to change. But it's up to you.


US Army Japan Band

Post Edited (2014-12-05 21:26)

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2014-12-05 21:39

Over time, the tone suffers with an old reed. Comfort yes, sound no


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2014-12-06 04:48

DavidBlumberg wrote:

> Over time, the tone suffers with an old reed. Comfort yes,
> sound no

That's been my experience. I used to break out a new reed and playtest it against my old reeds about once a week until I found the new reed just sounded better. For me and my job, I essentially go through a box a month. That's playing probably about an average of 2-3 hours a day M-F. But I use all the reeds in each box.


US Army Japan Band

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2014-12-06 07:57

Does anyone have thoughts on how the size of your reed rotation affects the playing time of the reeds within that rotation?

To rephrase, if I'm giving my reeds more time between play, because I have more of them to choose from, will the time that I do play them be affected?

One might suppose such a strategy might only end up giving a reed more "rest" time to be broken down by enzymatic and biologic process, especially since I do store them in a humdity stabilized environment. And it's not as if the reed "heals" from use based damage while at rest.

And yet, albeit through at best anecdotal findings, I think my larger red rotations help individual reeds give me more play time. I do clean them off with tap water before and after use.

....strange, and maybe entirely subject to this tester's perception bias.

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2014-12-06 10:25

I use the 'old timers' preparation of new reeds.
Place the new (and DRY) reed on a suitable piece of plate glass making sure that the reed doesn't overhang the glass. Then burnish the reed with a round object such as a pen. This will close up the tiny tubes in the cane effectively making the reed reasonably waterproof. Lay each edge of the cut section of the reed on the edge of the glass at a time. Then burnish that side.
Then use Butcher's paper (eg, Newsprint paper without the poisonous ink) on the plate glass and polish the back of the reed. The paper actually does polish the reed.
I"ve found that the reed will last much longer when this is done. And as was mentioned above, do not leave saliva on the reed after use. Rinse in clean water and dry with your fingers. This should prevent the tip from warping.
And of course place the reed in a container that is not airtight , or just leave it on the mouthpiece.
When about to use a reed, it is of course dampened to make it flexible usually by just holding it in your mouth while you set up the Clarinet. Or alternatively , soak just the tip in water. A reed that has become water logged will eventually have that section of it's back that's over the window of the mouthpiece slightly swell into the area.
The whole idea of burnishing the reeds is to prevent water logging of the bulk of the reed.
How long do my Clarinet reeds last for ? Quite a long time actually. But then I don't constantly play Clarinet as I have my Oboe and Flute to practice on as well.


Post Edited (2014-12-06 10:39)

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: avins 
Date:   2014-12-07 17:37

I used the VD v12 3 1/2 in the past, about 6 or 7 of them out of a box for about a month or so . playing for around 1 1/2 hours daily and 3 hours on weekend days , all this until I started with Legere Signature 3 1/2 , just a great pleasure , they are consistant from day to day , nice tone , although I do rotate them during practice.
I have these 3 reeds at the moment which Ive been playing on for about 4 or 5 month without any deterioration so far , , They are a little more difficult to play at higher tones than top e but perhaps its just me or perhaps I ll try out a 3 3/4 when Ill be in Berlin soon .
I still have a go from time to time with my VD v12 just for comparison , There are some excellent reeds in the box , The problem is that they are so few in a box, one or 2 , But all in all I must say that since playing on the Legers , I just pick up the clarinet and start practising , concentrating on my music skills

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 Re: Reed Life/Leslie Sheppard
Author: el gitano 
Date:   2018-02-18 17:52

I bought in eb** in UK a böhm clarinet in A.
It´s wooden with a hardrubber bell and keys in nickel.
For information the stamp says:
distributed by
Leslie Sheppard.
So he sold with (not under) his name instuments of Orsi.
This one is in good shape with a real well intonation by 440 hrz. A nice instrument.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-02-22 07:47

Wish Mitchell Lurie was alive today. He got 8 month and more out of a reed. Getting a year out of a reed wasn't uncommon. I played on a few of them that were 8 months old since I was in charge of his reeds at Rico. They played like they were still new. He didn't do anything special to the reeds. Used the same reed for months and months and sometimes a year. He kept the reed on the mouthpiece. He used a Pomarico mouthpiece, made for him. The reeds were dirty. Never cleaned them. Against everything listed above. Never rotated. He just played them until they died.

That weird freak...

(kidding in a very nice way. He was a great man and a special friend. An honor to be his friend and to make his reeds.)

Yes I miss him. We had a very trusting relationship and it was always a blast playing duets together, dinners, all of that fun.

Trusting refers to Rico trying to change the system of his reeds, such as using cane from some other country. I always warned him by phone and when he came in I really didn't have to say anything. He knew what cane was the best. It was a complete pleasure. He was so smart.

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2018-02-22 08:01)

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 Re: Reed Life/Leslie Sheppard
Author: Mac the hip 
Date:   2023-03-31 10:59

Hello Virginia,

I recently bought an instrument that says Leslie Sheppard on the side do you know what years he was making the instuments?

Hope to find the music

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 Re: Reed Life/Leslie Sheppard
Author: Mac the hip 
Date:   2023-03-31 11:01

Hello Conor,

I was interested in finding more info myself, did you find anything out about Mr Sheppard

Hope to find the music

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Paul Globus 
Date:   2023-03-31 20:05

Thirty-five years ago we had no choice but to use cane. Today there's a better alternative.

Legere reeds (the European Signature in my case) last much longer and play much better than most cane reeds. No hassles with seasoning and adjusting and all that time-wasting stuff.

Okay, it may take a bit of time to get used to Legere reeds but when you do there's no going back. Look around. Many of the best players have said goodbye to cane forever. Do yourself a favour and switch.

Good luck.
Paul Globus

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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2023-03-31 20:40


More than 35 years ago, I tried Fibracell, Plasticoat, even the early plastic models (Artie Shaw recorded with one - at least once). Perhaps not the greatest of choices, but we did have choices.


Many of the best players have said goodbye to cane forever.

...which would mean the opposite is also true: Many of the best players have chosen cane reeds.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: PaulW 
Date:   2023-03-31 20:50
Attachment:  Reeds (1).jpeg (93k)

I too have returned to playing my Buffet RE20 after a hiatus of about 35 years. The Buffet Crampon (3 1/2 hardness) reeds had been languishing in my closet also for at least 35 years old.

Upon playing I found the reeds were fine - my tone was fine, and it seems that they had withstood the ravages of time without degradation. So this is an obscure data point for anyone keeping track of such things.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2023-03-31 22:48

Paul Globus wrote:

> Okay, it may take a bit of time to get used to Legere reeds but
> when you do there's no going back.

Well, anecdotally FWIW, I've gone back. I played for nearly a year on Legere Euro Signatures. In the end I went back to cane. That doesn't mean I've given up on synthetic reeds forever, just for now.


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 Re: Reed Life
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2023-04-01 01:34

Generally I guess I get about 2 weeks with my Vandoren 2.5s. I usually try a new reed or two prior to a rehearsal and see which of those and the one I previously used for a concert is best for the next concert. I'm not adverse to slapping on a brand new one and doing a rehearsal and concert with it, which is not the norm. At times I'll shave a bit off the new reed, but not usually.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus item A0.1001315, Sheet Music Direct.

Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus item A0.1001314.

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