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 Changing Reeds - redux
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 02:49

Just a quick note after several threads have covered the changes that have been made over the years to reed design by the major commercial manufacturers.

One of the instruments in a doubling book I'm playing in the next couple of weeks includes Eb clarinet. I have a few reeds in a case from previous Eb jobs, but I thought I'd try a couple of new, fresh ones from an old box of #5 Eb Vandorens (from long enough ago that there were only Vandorens, not VD Traditionals, V.12, 56 Rue lepic, or V21). It turned out when I opened the box that there were only 3 reeds in it. They all played, one quite well, the other two not as well but close enough to be adjusted if the reeds were needed.

I've just gone to my favorite online vendor to order some more Eb reeds. Looking at the "Traditional" (Blue Box) Vandoren reeds, which are the modern equivalent of the ones I have, I noticed immediately that the highest strength is now #4. I'll bet if I buy #4s, they'll be too hard. I'll need to try a box of #3-1/2 and a box of #3 to find a strength that works.


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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: KenJarczyk 
Date:   2017-08-11 03:19

Interesting! What show?
I'm not too certain on the old strengths vs. new, though. I do believe Vandoren offers Eb reeds in Blue Box and V12. There was some talk of them coming in the new V21 cut, too, but I've not experienced them. I have very good fortune with cutting Bb 56 Rue Lepic 3-1/2, myself.

Ken Jarczyk
Woodwinds Specialist
Eb, C, Bb, A & Bass Clarinets
Soprano, Alto, Tenor & Baritone Saxophones
Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 05:09

KenJarczyk wrote:

> Interesting! What show?

Music Man - Reed 3 has Bb clarinet, Eb clarinet and soprano sax. I don't know what revision it is - I'm sure the last times I played in the pit for it, there were no soprano saxes or Eb clarinets involved. The weirdest thing is the "Dixie style" solo in 76 Trombones Ballet - for Eb clarinet.

> I'm not too certain on the old strengths vs. new, though. I do
> believe Vandoren offers Eb reeds in Blue Box and V12. There
> was some talk of them coming in the new V21 cut, too...

Yeah, they're out in V21 now. I've been using shortened Bb reeds - mostly V.12s - but I thought I'd try going back to Eb reeds and see what I gain or loose.

The problem, as I've written about before, is that Vandoren seems to have designed so much more resistance into their reeds that the #5 Bb reeds are, at least for me, unusable out of the box without major work. And now I find the #5 Eb reeds don't even exist. Traditionals stop at #4 and V.12 and V21 stop at #4.5. And if my experience is typical, the top strengths are more like blanks that the player has to finish for himself.


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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: Ed 
Date:   2017-08-11 15:43

A number of years back I purchased a large stock of old purple box Vandoren reeds from late 70s-early 80s. They were all #5 and played great. When I purchased some newer VD in #5 they were so hard that they were completely unusable. Perhaps the older reeds softened some over time, but I think that the grading system changed significantly. It seemed that anything over a certain strength ended up in the 5 bin and most would barely vibrate at all.

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2017-08-11 16:04

This theme started me on an interesting discovery trip. Back in 1962-3 I played Eb clari in an RAF band. I still have the instrument that I played then, although I've rarely played it since. I also dug out a few eefer reeds dating from that period. They are Vandoren #4, I'm not sure what particular type, they just say Vandoren. Using the same mouthpiece I can still play them without any real problems, but a modern Vandoren Eb #4 Blue Box is much harder. Modern 3's seem to play about the same as the old '62 4's.

Tony F.

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: fskelley 
Date:   2017-08-11 17:45

So perhaps modern 2.5's are like older 3's or 3.5's?

Stan in Orlando

EWI 4000S with modifications

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2017-08-11 18:06

Based on a very small sample size that would seem to be the case. Unfortunately I don't have any soprano reeds from that period.

Tony F.

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: Jack Kissinger 
Date:   2017-08-11 18:44

One of the community orchestras I play with is opening the season with Shostakovich 5, so I’m going through the same thing you are right now, Karl, except that, rather than going through old boxes of reeds, I decided to experiment with V21s and cut down White Masters. Both seem to be working better than anything I've tried in the past.

FWIW, the first paid musical (and probably the second musical) gig I ever played was reed 3 in the Music Man. This was back sometime in the mid 90s. The book called for Eb clarinet and soprano sax. I remember because I used the play as an excuse and the money as a means to buy a soprano.

Greg Pimintel lists three versions of the show on his website, “Rental,” “2000” and “Alternate Orchestration.” The “Rental” version is the one you have now. The “2000” orchestration also calls for both instruments though not in the same book -- Reed 2 plays the eefer (along with clarinet, bass clarinet and alto sax) while Reed 3 has the soprano sax. The “Alternate Orchestration” is probably the version you’ve played in the past. It only calls for 4 reed players, none of whom is asked to play either the Eb or the soprano sax.

Have fun with the show. I’ve played it a couple of times now and have a lot of fond memories -- though not, as I recall, of the Shipoopi dance.

Best regards,

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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-08-11 20:24

This is very interesting indeed. In HS ('84-'88) I played on Oliveri 5s (2x4s), College ('88-'92) Vandoren 4s. Seems like my mouthpiece was a Larry Combs LC1.
When I started playing after college I found Clark Fobes and his products are just terrific. I had a CF+ but switched to a Europa 3 for the warmer quality, using a Steuer 4.

Behn changed my concept after a couple bouts of Bells Palsy and gave me a set-up that utilizes softer reeds - freer blowing. Now as time goes on, as my embouchure has strengthen (back to normal?), I've needed a slightly stiffer reeds on my mouthpiece. I believe Brad plays basically the same thing I do, yet uses softer reeds (Aria 3.5, Legere Euro Signature 3.25? He certainly can clarify if he's reading this...don't take my word for it). I'm finding Aria 3.5 a tad soft for me and moved up to a 4, seem to work perfectly, but use 3.75 Legere Euro Signature.

This set-up gives me a "blow and go" with a touch of resistance with a good embouchure. I'll admit I haven't hit C7 with my easier blowing combo, it was easy when I played 5s. You know it just doesn't come up much (ok never) in the music I'm playing.

~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: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 20:56

(Apologies for the length of this post)

Going back to a previous thread about material vs design in determining reed vibrating characteristics - mainly resistance or strength - I think it's not likely that cane has changed so much in the last 40 years. We can assume Vandoren wasn't throwing away stacks of cane that it deemed too hard for reeds. So the #5 strength was almost certainly the densest, most resistant cane in the harvest. It then seems fairly clear to me, unless someone inside the industry can provide facts to the contrary, that the unplayable stiffness of today's #5s is simply the result of cutting the reeds thicker somewhere, not denser or stiffer cane. And it isn't just the thick-blank reeds - the Traditionals are too stiff as well.

The problem began to form itself in my mind when a few years ago I read a post by Clark Fobes on his blog spot. In it he suggested, as I remember (I'm heavily paraphrasing), that stiffness has more influence than thickness on the sound quality a reed produces. The gist of what he was suggesting was that a #5- stiffer, more dense cane - will always produce a different sound than softer cane, no matter how much wood you scrape out of the #5 to make it respond. Clark, if I remember, was writing about the importance of cane density in making reeds by hand, that you'd never be able, no matter how much you thinned a hand-made reed, to achieve a certain firmness of sound if the cane were simply too soft.

Maybe the reason a player back in the 1960s used a #5 and adjusted it to play with less resistance instead of just using a softer strength was that the softer reed didn't produce the same tone quality. But today, having to use softer strengths - softer cane - because of the more resistant profile means accepting a different sound quality than that produced by those more vibrant #5s of 40-50 years ago. Keep in mind that by all reports all of the reeds of a given model are cut to the same specs. The measurements didn't - couldn't - change only for the softer strengths while leaving the #5s as they used to be. Thus, the #5s got stiffer along with the rest of the line. And to use them, IMO, you need to treat them as blanks and do more hand scraping than most players want to do, especially since every stroke with a knife or rush becomes one more opportunity to make a mistake that ruins the whole attempt.

I can't shake the feeling that somewhere along the line Vandoren (with other manufacturers following to compete in the same markets) switched to the reed equivalent of "New Coke" more or less unnoticed. Maybe what we need is a campaign to bring back the "Classic Coke" Vandorens. Records of the old dimensions (if I'm right that they've changed significantly) must exist somewhere that could be recreated on modern CNC cutters.


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 Re: Changing Reeds - redux
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 21:22

Thinking a little more about this, I would suggest unscientifically that reed action is divided into two main qualities: resistance (flexibility) and resilience (springiness, the ease and strength with which it returns to its normal state after being flexed). It seems to me intuitively that harder cane would be more springy, more resilient - would be more insistent on regaining its original (straight) shape. Might this suggest that softer, more flexible cane could be less resilient, might return more sluggishly? If these are properties of the cane and not of the reed profile, they would persist even as you cut the reed thinner to improve overall vibration.

I have no scientific backing for any of this, only intuition and comparisons to other materials in other applications where it seems these concepts are true.


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