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 Reeds in quarter step strength?
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-08-11 18:35

Throughout most of my clarinetting life, sellers listed reeds in incremental half steps of hardness (1, 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, etc.)

I notice many discussions now indicating quarter steps in strength. Has this always been an option - or is this something new? If new - did it come about due to the synthetic reeds...or some other factor?

Final question: For those of you who use 1/4 step strengths - do you find consistency down to the 1/4, or do the reeds sometimes fluctuate up or down 1/4? (Meaning: sometimes when I open a box of #3 reeds, I get what I call "strong 3's" or "weak 3's" - internally, I've always figured they must be about 1/4 strength off...Do reeds ordered in the 1/4 strength hardness suffer this fluctuation?)

Thanks!
Fuzzy

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 Re: Reeds in quarter step strength?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 19:29

fuzzy wrote:

> I notice many discussions now indicating quarter steps in
> strength. Has this always been an option - or is this
> something new? If new - did it come about due to the synthetic
> reeds...or some other factor?
>
Some reeds have been graded in quarter strengths for years. They sometimes are identified as "+" - e.g. #3.5+ or #3+. Regular "Traditional" Vandorens by contrast have never come in quarter strengths and even skip from #4 to #5 without a half between them.

Synthetics are not the genesis of this.

> Final question: For those of you who use 1/4 step strengths -
> do you find consistency down to the 1/4, or do the reeds
> sometimes fluctuate up or down 1/4?

There is always a range of resistance within any box of reeds. With luck the average strength comes down incrementally with each gradation. I have no idea what 1/4 strength really means or feels like, so I can't say if the range is actually +or- 1/4 or something else.

Karl

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 Re: Reeds in quarter step strength?
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-08-11 21:55

Karl answered the first question, I will attempt to embellish upon the second.

Apart from the synthetic market (i.e. Legere), where precise quality control can be brought to the table in the creation of the reed product, I hold the belief, having tried countless brands and models over 40 years, that the gradation of cane reeds, given its evolution into a typical 5 point industry scale, is, at the quarter strength level of precision, more marketing than substance.

If that's anti-vendor--who BTW is doing nothing more than the consumer wants, and competing with their fellow vendor to bring us the best product-- I'm about to come to the vendor's defense shortly.

I feel this way because the techniques used to measure strength are, while perhaps the best method of automated testing barring all else anyone has devised, they in my opinion bear little correlation to how a reed will play once put into service.

I say this because the typical test involves applying a known air pressure, at a known distance, to a dry [and cut] reed, and measuring the degree to which the reed deflects: based on the same principles as an eye Glaucoma test.

All strengths of a cane brand are cut identically. It is mother nature that controls strength.

Once the reed is wet, which breaks down [by design] the fibers, subjected to the material stress of vibration, and the cycle repeated, its correlation with the strength the factory assigned to it is, I believe, at best only basic basis of comparison.

I believe, in light of these factors, that the best a player can do is purchase a strength slightly greater than their comfort, gleaned from testing, and then adjust it down. This methodology not only acknowledges the factors discussed above, but embraces and uses to the player's advantage acceptance of the fact that a so called "good reed," defined here as right out of the box, requiring absolutely no adjustment, at least in my experience, is both akin in frequency to a winning lottery ticket and...should be what a player expects, no disrespect to the vendor.

Why would a uniformly cut reed, with precision, at least in Vandoren's case, to less than a human hair, yield anything but a starting point for user adjustment, rather than a consistent product, given the raw material, even in the best of cane for play, is a highly variable substance?

That others may site greater numbers of good reeds, as defined above, within a box, is a product of I feel 2 factors: opinions vary as we all have slightly different expectations for a reed that are difficult to quantify and standardize, and that we play works of different difficulty that place different demands upon our reeds to deliver.

===

One post script note: for me, adjustment of a reed is not something done simply before the reed is put into service. It may be an ongoing process necessary before each time it is used.



Post Edited (2017-08-11 22:00)

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 Re: Reeds in quarter step strength?
Author: Roxann 2017
Date:   2017-08-13 06:10

I use Gonzales FOF's in a 3/4 strength and find that they don't vary much at all. I've used them for 2-3 years and appreciate the fact that they've helped me move up to a bit stronger reed without sacrificing my embrochure. Every once in awhile, I'll tackle a stronger reed with success. However, when I've been away from my clarinet for awhile (traveling, mainly) for an extended period of time, I am glad I have 1/4 strength reeds so I can build back up.

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 Re: Reeds in quarter step strength?
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-08-13 08:01

I am glad that find the consistency you describe. I wish my experience was the same. I tried FOF's in different strengths and they were not right for me to the extent that strength differences seemed only an ancillary and irrelevant thing for me to note, that I didn't.

(Of course YMMV and others as well.)

Here's what I'm curious about. Have you tried other strengths of this brand and found them not only consistent but consistently *different* than your normal go to strength, in a manner consistent with each strength's labelling?

I think you have but I'm not sure. You seem to have implied that you have weaker strengths of the product available to you for times when, having not played for a duration, a weaker strength best suits your startup needs.

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