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 How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-07-23 07:08

Few of us will disagree that at the higher end of clarinet playing, synthetics [possibly] notwithstanding, the idea of a reed playing perfect right of the box without adjustment, or that the reed might need continued [small] adjustments during its life is simple a fact of clarinet playing life.

Something Karl said in another post about, in so many words, the cost of one's time to work on reeds, versus the choice to be more particularly and demanding of the manufacturer in producing product that can come up to, and stay up to speed faster, with less player work, had me thinking.

I use to consider myself disadvantaged say, to the flute player. [Today, I just accept this as part of the instrument I love, along with intonation issues, etc..]
This is not to say that the flute isn't, at the highest levels of play, an extremely demanding instrument, or that gear doesn't matter, but that they just pick the dang thing up and play, like a pianist or a brass player, etc.

We clarinetists [need to] futz around with reeds, which takes away from practice time, or requires us to allocate more time than maybe the trumpet player to accomplish similar in difficulty goals, part of that time away from the metronome and etude books, being devoted to reeds. The question is, how much of our practice time, percentage wise, do you think we should be spending on it? 8%, 20% more, less?

[0%--just play synthetics?????]

(By no means do I sit in judgment of these non-clarinet instruments or players, or the extremely hard work required to approach virtuosity on any of these instruments.)

While it's not a one size fits all proposition, there are guidelines and extremists at either end.

On one side lies the player, who if they spent just a little [more] time on reeds might find it time well spent, and the other who seeks the reed perfection that doesn't exist, that adversely impacts (reduces) play time. Personal preferences, income, our proclivity to nuture arundo donax, or cut our losses and toss it (either initially or after some/considerable play,) and so much more play into the mix.

I would hope the window for these percentages has gone down in the last 70 years. What do think is a good window today and why?

I actually don't know my own percentage although it's small. I approach reeds like a major league baseball team does its development program. Many new reeds are in constant stages of play and adjustment before I put them with the "playables" or toss them. I tend to work on them in bulk, when too tired to practice for it to be productive, worse, possibly counterproductive, in an effort to be efficient with my practice time.

Thoughts?



Post Edited (2017-07-23 07:10)

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2017-07-23 14:53

I have a very short fuse when it comes to reeds. Life is short and I have better things to do with my time than futz around with substandard reeds. If they don't play well out of the box I'll give them one adjustment. If they still don't work then they find alternative employment as glue scrapers. These days I mostly play Legere European cut or 56 Rue LePic. I find the 56's to be more consistent than other VD offerings. I'd like to try Stuer, but so far they're not available in Oz.

Tony F.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-07-23 17:56

WhitePlainsDave wrote:

> I actually don't know my own percentage although it's small. I
> approach reeds like a major league baseball team does its
> development program. Many new reeds are in constant stages of
> play and adjustment before I put them with the "playables" or
> toss them. I tend to work on them in bulk, when too tired to
> practice for it to be productive, worse, possibly
> counterproductive, in an effort to be efficient with my
> practice time.
>

I've never thought to work on reeds when I'm too tired to practice productively. The idea has its merits. Except that if I'm in that condition, especially mentally, I'm not sure I'd have the patience for reed work. I work on reeds as I warm up with scales or other rudiments. Or I open a new box and spend most of an entire session testing the reeds and triaging them, wetting each and doing small adjustments to the ones that seem reasonable, putting the ones that vibrate but not well aside, and trashing the total non-starters.

The most problematic part of necessarily spending time playing on under-responsive reeds (as I try to improve them and break them in over several sessions) is that I can't really practice productively while playing on a reed that needs to be coaxed so much. I need to apply too much embouchure pressure, which is tiring, affects my fingers, and turns my already pokey tongue to lead. The real cost of spending too much time fixing reeds is having to try to play on reeds that are fighting back, especially if at the initial stages the reeds are winning.

Karl

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-07-23 20:13

When I was college I had an economics professors use the term "util" as a measure of usefulness. Eg, if I drink a couple of beers, the beers have a positive util (buzz from social drinking). But if drink a lot, then the beers might have a negative util (stupid drunk).
I think about this when messing with reeds. Yes, I swear by the ATG system. It makes the process virtually idiot proof and takes the guess work out...for me. Quick question:

Why is it you can work on a reed, balance it, and it plays great. Then the
next day it's garbage again. I'm not talking about the cane changing,
which can/will happen, but the reed is literally out of wack (unbalanced)
again. I'm always baffled when that happens. Was I not paying attention
on my first attempt to balance?

I might re-balance a reed one more time, but if fails again, I'm done. It has negative utils and not worth my time. Of course, even with the ATG a reed can be beyond repair. Sure I can fix it to be playable, but it's still not worthy of rotation with much better reeds. I give those the wall test and put the reed (and me) out of its misery.

~Robert L Schwebel
Mthpc: Behn Vintage, Lig: Ishimori, Reed: Aria 4, Legere Euro Signature 3.75, Horns: Uebel Superior, Ridenour Lyrique

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2017-07-23 20:28

Tony F, if you talk to the US distributor of the Steuer reeds, Bob Bernardo, whom I order Steuer reeds from, there is a way for you to play on Steuer reeds. On his website, it says $5 shipping international, so I would assume he can ship these reeds internationally? Shoot him an email/call him and see what he says. He might be busy these days due to the ClarinetFest though.

The link to his website is:

https://steuerwoodwindreeds.com/clarinet/

You can also try to just order off the website. But if you want a sample box of reeds, you need to contact Bob I think.

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-07-23 23:15

Thanks, yes I ship all over the world. Chile, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Germany, everywhere. Even Russia has ordered reeds. Argentina, so many countries order. I don't make a profit, maybe that's why.


DESIGNER OF - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-07-23 23:19

"Why is it you can work on a reed, balance it, and it plays great. Then the
next day it's garbage again. "

I don't know. And I keep mine in a humidity controlled environment when not in play.

I will say this. To play a reed is to damage it. We're asking it to vibrate 1000s of times in even the shortest of play sessions, and any moving part is subject to wear and tear.

Maybe, in part, it does become worse while we play but we don't notice it given the gradual nature with which this happens during play.

This does not explain it all, at least for me.

As a young player I witnessed the older more experienced ones come to rehearsals with plenty of lead time to work on used reeds prior to play. I learned to accept this as part of that which often needs to be done, at least for me, before play sessions.

Included in this might be the repositioning of a reed ever so slightly to the left or right to account for perceived asymmetries in strength or mouthpiece on either side of the midline of its length, or up and down from the mouthpiece tip to account for overall weakness and strength respectfully.

I also accept imperfection but cannot easily quantify for comparison purposes my patience level for this as compared to others, nor is that level constant from one day to the next, nor can I say less subject to variability than the average player.

I think that smart clarinet players are pragmatists. If they have a solution to a problem, like an alternate fingering or a pre-play routine to get reeds back up to speed, they tend to not focus their time on why certain things like reed play breaks down between concurrent play sessions happens, as curiosity is a time sink that if it doesn't lead to understanding that enhances play, is time better spent playing--not that I am in any way against knowledge for knowledge's sake.

I rarely experience this effect directly as I am always rotating reeds. OF course I do experience it indirectly as whatever reed I choose was in fact played previously even if it wasn't yesterday.

For me at least, this is why I am so happy Legere Euros exist. Despite all their limitations, they are my safety net when I just can't get reeds working on a particular day. They prevent me from the frustration that can ruin the concentration needed for a good practice session.

Surely, someone will come out with the reed vibration storage case, claiming this constant vibration keeps reeds playing as good as you left them.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-07-24 00:15

WhitePlainsDave wrote:

>
> I don't know. And I keep mine in a humidity controlled
> environment when not in play.
>
> Maybe, in part, it does become worse while we play but we don't
> notice it given the gradual nature with which this happens
> during play.
>

I don't know why this happens, either. But my best *conjecture* (with no real scientific backing) has been that three actions are at work:

1 - As you play a reed when it's new out-of-the-box, its pores are quite open and absorb water easily. Most of this water sits in the area that's in your mouth as you play. As the reed rests after playing, the water wicks farther into the cane. When you wet it and play the next day you aren't dealing with the same distribution of moisture.

2 - Related to (1), unless you stop very soon in the process of adjusting a brand new reed, you will end up adjusting the way it vibrates when its tip is fairly saturated, when it is likely more flexible than it will ever be again. Because as a result of the wetting and drying cycle, the pores begin to close up (some players deliberately "seal" the cane as part of the process) and it takes longer for water to soak in.

3 - The image in my mind (again related to 1) of what happens while I'm playing a new reed is that the tubes that form the grain quickly fill up with water and become swollen. When the water wicks farther in or dries from the surface, I'm not sure that the tubes actually return to their initial size or shape. So the structure of the cane actually changes with the first soaking (or so I imagine).

The one common element in everyone's reed "break-in" process is that adjustment should be done incrementally over several sessions because of these unavoidable changes in the cane itself. The reed won't vibrate reliably until these changes have run their course and the cane stabilizes.

Karl

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: gwie 
Date:   2017-07-24 09:15

I used to spend a huge ton of time working with reeds. I have a Reed Wizard, Reed Geek, ATG system, and all the various tools from different companies. I'm the guy that carries a toolbox along with my clarinet case! I worked constantly on my reeds, practiced so I could do it very quickly, and did work for all of my students to ensure that their reeds played their absolutely best.

I'm done. Now I just put on my Legere Euro and play. Give me another few months and few more concerts to make it a year, and I'm probably going to get my students to switch too.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2017-07-24 14:21

Thanks for the heads-up concerning Steuer reeds. I'll have an order off later today.

Tony F.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2017-07-24 23:02

Instead of giving all my ideas of adjusting and breaking in reeds and not spending your days and nights doing it I suggest you reed my articles about it on my website, I've been very successful with my basic techniques. In the end though, you still need decent cane to make a very good reed.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: mproper2009 
Date:   2017-07-28 14:13

May be as amateur player I do not have that problem.
Just take reed from a box. Play whole pack. Then pick 5 and use them.
Then take other 5.
I am using Marca reeds and Dodario select reeds, and do not have any problem for practising.

Of course there are some differences, but they are so slight that I do not care, as well as my teacher, who previously was obsessed by reed finishing, until he decided to switch to premium reeds, which are made from button of cane.

BTW how much you use your reed. Mine last between 10 to 20 hours of playtime, and them it becomes too soft.

Reeds are really inexpensive to buy machines like reed geek for almost 300 bucks.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-07-28 20:43

mproper2009 wrote:

> Reeds are really inexpensive to buy machines like reed geek for
> almost 300 bucks.

Just for the record...

Maximum $69.95 anywhere I've checked (that's on the Reed Geek website where the price isn't discounted). There's a Double Geek, I see, for about $10 more - I don't know exactly what it does more than a single Geek does.

Karl



Post Edited (2017-07-28 20:43)

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-07-28 20:55

"May be as amateur player I do not have that problem.
Just take reed from a box. Play whole pack. Then pick 5 and use them."

Therein lies the rub Andy....and by no means is it meant as criticism towards you.

We each have a, "very difficult to quantify and standardize" willingness to tolerate lack of performance attributes in reeds. It is perhaps, one of the things that motivated me to start this post in the first place: primarily as a means to seek some outer boundaries of acceptability in adjustment time to reel in the reed perfectionists spending too much time adjusting, at the expense of practice itself.

More advanced players than you may be entertaining repertoire and judging that demands sound quality, intonation and technical feats that despite their abilities to overcome with a so-so reed, make it easier to address with a closer to solid one.

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Cappuccino 
Date:   2017-07-28 21:44

I just throw them out if they do not play well.

I get a lot of life out of my reeds, however.

Alexander May
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFZta2RG4iM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh8O5DC4Tqs

"Looking at art, you're looking at the result of a philosophy." - John Emmett

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2017-07-29 18:09

When a pro player is always striving for perfection reeds become more of a problem than those that are satisfied with one that is simply playable. I've often practiced, still do, on reeds I would never use in rehearsals or performance because they're not "perfect" enough for my high standard. Yes, having a high standard can be a curse sometimes but that allowed me to have a professional career for 51 years as a symphony player. It also forced me to learn how to adjust my reeds to my standard over time.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: mproper2009 
Date:   2017-07-30 02:19

Wow, 50 years as a player that is incredible. Now I see why you are saying this.

Again I think based on what I hear from this thread and my teacher, that it makes sense to go in that nuances when you are at least on conservatory level .

Just back from rehersal, with 4 reeds, and two mouthpieces, all are same reeds 3.5 strength marka.

I hear a big difference in mouthpieces but reed is either go or no go . I will use it or just leave it for later. For rehersal I have 4 reeds that already been played for a while and they sound best to me.

I just do not want to mess with them, just to improve something that is working.

And as my teacher said you need to invest time in practice rather then toying with reeds.

Thoughs?

And sorry for my amateur language I am not pro at any means

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-26 05:38

I like working on reeds. They are my relaxing time and they are not fattening. My problem is I have so many fantastic reeds on my desk I have to buy more to work on.

:=)

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 Re: How Much Time to Adjust Reeds
Author: Johan H Nilsson 
Date:   2018-03-29 23:58

Not spending very much time on balancing. Still preferring cane to synthetic on soprano clarinets.



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