Woodwind.OrgThe Clarinet BBoardThe C4 standard

  BBoard Equipment Study Resources Music General    
 New Topic  |  Go to Top  |  Go to Topic  |  Search  |  Help/Rules  |  Smileys/Notes  |  Log In   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 
 Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Exiawolf 
Date:   2018-03-18 10:25


I've been frustrated with reeds these past few months and I'm wondering if any one could explain or relate to my strife. I've been struggling to find good reeds (who hasn't) but exactly what's happening is so annoying. In January and February I purchased new boxes of V21's and they were both way too resistant, lending me only 2-3 responsive reeds out of two boxes. Mind you, this was out of nowhere because the V21's have been working perfectly for me up till then. I received another box of V21's today and playing through them revealed that they were ALL considerably softer, maybe even a little too soft. Is this drastic variation due to weather? Quality? Bad luck?

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Klose 2017
Date:   2018-03-18 12:12

Sounds typical for Vandoren. Some other brands are better but as wood is natural material, there is always a variation. Try to learn a bit of modifying reeds and adjust your playing a bit for different reeds. Or, try Legere.

Every time I feel frustrated with reeds, I think about oboe players.

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-18 15:10

If you live in an area where the winters and summers have wide temperature ranges, and therefore wide humidity changes, the problem may be reed warpage. On a flat surface, place the reed table down, and with fingers on both side of the reed at where the bark is cut rock the reed back and forth. If it rocks the center is swollen and it makes the reed feel harder. I either save these reeds for the summer or soak them for 2-4 hours until flat. I also mark them so as not use them for performance because they may dry enough to swell again. Another trick that works quickly is to drop them into hot water, just under boiling. (Some have said that this hurts the reeds but I haven't notices that - and so-what if they don't work well anyway) they seem to become flat in 10-15 minutes. And sometimes that even 'cures' them of warping!
I never use Vandoren because they all seem to be susceptible to swelling this time of year. Some cane that may have had better aging will not swell and they are also marked as such. Some reeds also act differently whether you wet the entire reed or just the tip.

Post Edited (2018-03-18 20:06)

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: bsnake1956 
Date:   2018-03-19 01:22

Ken is correct in the way you identify warped reeds. The only way to correct a warped reed is to sand or file the back until it is flat. Then try it again. The problem is, when you sand or file a reed, it becomes softer and it tends to warp anyway, especially in winter in the northern US or Canada.
I have never had any luck soaking reeds to correct warpage, especially for any period of time. If they are warped, they are warped.
That having been said, I had no luck with the Vandoren V21 reeds at all. I tried a box when I was vacationing in a humid country for a month. They did not warp, they just simply did not respond very well.
I would recommend another choice of reed. I use D'Addario reserve classics for a couple of reasons. They are thick, so they tend to warp less. They have thick tips, so the moisture in the tip of the reed dries out more consistently with the back. Also. I recommend a reed case that allows the back to dry out. This eliminates cases that use glass. Glass cases allow the tip to dry out faster than the back, because the backs are on the glass and tend to stay wet, allowing warpage.
I hope this helps.

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Caihlen 
Date:   2018-03-19 02:14

Which cases allow the backs to dry if you please?

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-03-19 02:59

Caihlen wrote:

> Which cases allow the backs to dry if you please?

I have several cases that were made by Gonzalez and also one very old one that was distributed by a NY store called Jack Spratt (probably by now defunct) back in the '70s that hold the reeds on their edges. Unfortunately, I haven't seen them in any of the online outlets for 2 or 3 years, so I suspect they've been discontinued. Too bad. I never have reeds warp in those cases.

If you find one, grab it.


Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: bsnake1956 
Date:   2018-03-19 03:05

I use the Daddario case as my primary reed holder. It has grooves on the back that allow the reeds to dry more consistently top to bottom ( it holds 8 reeds which it what I use in my monthly rotation). It also has a band ( elastic band) system that hold the reeds firmly but allow flexibility. Vandoren also make a case that has grooves on the back, which also holds 8 reeds and is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. I use this case also BUT it has a more inflexible (rigid plastic) system for holding the reeds in place. As I have indicated, the problem with glass cases especially in climates that are dry, is that the bottom of the reed cannot breathe, therefore they warp.


Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Caihlen 
Date:   2018-03-19 05:23

Hey thanks. I've been having a heck of a time. I heat with wood and live in NW Montana. Really dry climate. This looks like the ticket to correct that.


Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2018-03-19 17:50

Check our my reed pages on my website, may prove helpful but nothing will control the inconsistentcy of natural reed cane and those that manufacture them.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2018-03-19 20:40

I recommend switching to Aria and your reed crisis will all be be gone.

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

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-19 21:59

Not true - some Arias also swell although maybe less than others.
Steuers are also a bit better than most and I do know Steuer cane is dried/aged for two years before being cut and don't know if that makes a difference.
Any of my reeds that swell, I mark with a purple mark so I can trace its' life. In one box of 10 Arias, of which I have 6 left after giving away 4, the remaining 4 out of 6 have purple marks. I always soak them entirely in water and I know that by only wetting the tip, you may have different results. I also know that by soaking them for 3-4 hours and drying them over and over, that some give up the fight and stay flat. I am also testing the results from wetting them in 180 degree water that flattens them in 10-15 minutes.

Post Edited (2018-03-19 23:59)

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-03-20 01:34

I personally find that any cane reed can and probably will warp. But almost any cane reed can and probably will come back, become true, from proper break-in.

My thoughts are that the approach which requires minimal time, and perhaps most importantly - minimal effort - wins. That is to say that there are some methods where players start with rather hard reeds, and over many days slowly break-in their reeds with multiple playings and adjustments to eventually get them into performance worthiness.

I personally don't feel that method is good for the following two essential reasons.
1. Playing reeds that are too hard - whether it be in performance or during a lengthy break-in process invites unnecessary work. And I avoid "bite-'n-blow" at all costs.
2. Every time you play a reed, you are steadily reducing its lifespan. So for the best possible longevity, a brief break-in is beneficial.

Cane in its ideal form (a good reed) produces the best combination of feel (easy, reliable response, it is comfortable on the embouchure, and free to the wind), AND it produces the best possible tone. In my opinion, nothing compares to a good cane experience. Life is long, and I would hate to waste my precious performance life on anything but my very best, and for me - that is cane. So it is worth it to me to go through the following trials and tribulations to consistently and reliably achieve my preferred playing experience.

So here is what my trials and tribulations or to put it more antiseptically, my regimen looks like.

Since I am picky about reeds, and since I am a professional clarinetist I find it worth the investment to go through a batch of ten reeds each time I start the process - that way after I have winnowed the field, broken-in the reeds, I will still have a good number of concert-worthy reeds at the end of my several day long process.

1. I open a box, and simply wet them in such a way as to make sure that the reed's tip is sufficiently free of any waviness. And I play each reed for a brief moment (perhaps 10 seconds). This entire process takes less than ten minutes - to go through a box of ten reeds.

2. I place each of the reeds in my reed case (humidity control is CRUCIAL). The best value for your dollar where storage is concerned is to simply use the D'Addario reed clips that come in a box of any of their reeds. Then place your damp reeds in a plastic zip-bag, monitoring the humidity level to be no more than 75 percent, and ideally between 50 and 70 percent. In other words, keep your eye out for mold. If you see any, it is too humid. To make the climate less humid, keep the bag unzipped for awhile. It is actually much easier to maintain a proper climate in the zip-bag than it sounds. It just takes a little time to develop a sense of things...

3. Next play session could be twenty minutes later or the next day. I simply do the same thing - I play all ten reeds again; but this time I start to monitor the reeds and their performance. Are there any dogs? Are any too hard? Soft reeds typically firm up (at least my ARIA reeds do) during their several day-long break-in, so make sure not to throw away any soft reeds. If a reed is terribly hard, then I may scrape it down a tad, or I may discard it.

4. Repeat stage 3 three to five more times. Playing through ten reeds shouldn't take more than a few minutes. But as the process unfolds you can allow a few more moments per reed to evaluate, adjust as needed, and winnow.

Note: By the time I have played the reeds a few times, I will start to actually practice play scales on them, work on my orchestra rep, or an etude or some such. In other words, over time I gradually increase the length of time I play each reed. And along the way, I may take a moment to either winnow the field, or adjust the reeds which play a bit too hard.

Note that a reed that plays too hard can either bee too resistant to the wind, or too heavy on the embouchure (I have to bite the focus in place). And in both cases I adjust the reed for proper balance as needed during my several days of break-in.

So the process may seem lengthy but it really isn't. Just half a dozen times of playing through the reed...perhaps first thing before I start my day, or perhaps at the end of the day as a relaxing way to wind down. It really doesn't matter. Since I am always keen to play on reed strengths which feel comfortable, I can get service out of my reeds which are breaking in, and I winnow the field along the way. My storage method (humidity control) is crucial in massaging the warp out of the reed.

On warping. All cane reeds will warp during their break-in process. Just like an adolescent child. You simply don't know what you are going to get from moment to moment. So the key is to be patient, don't throw it out, simply wet-play- and-store, and repeat. Eventually the reed will mature through its adolescence, and become a responsible adult citizen, worthy of the stage. I never sand or scrape the bottom of my reeds. I simply allow the process above to unfold, and eventually my reeds become perfectly flat and stable. But it takes some time.

How much time?

Not much, perhaps 6-8 playings, but it is worth noting that some cane is very reliable from the get-go and other cane requires more time to settle. Be patient. And be willing to throw away the reeds which aren't up to the task after you have confidence in what sort of performer it will be.

Note that my above method is for reeds which play well within my comfort level - straight out of the box. I NEVER want to play a reed which is too heavy. And yes I don't care to play on reeds that are too light either, but I note that my reeds generally seem to feel harder as they break-in.

And when the reed no longer has snappy response, full range of dynamics, and crisp resonance, it is dying. I don't care to play dead reeds as a reed that is too old seems to lack range.

By range I mean - access to a full scope of dynamics. Newer cane has more elasticity, and it can take my air and my manipulations with zeal, and this is a lovely thing in accessing my artistry. I want my reed to be allow me to do whatever I want to do, and this requires both freedom AND support (working resistance). So make sure during your winnowing process that you evaluate your reeds for the type of repertoire you are playing AND for the acoustic environment you will be performing in.

Just my two-cents.

Brad Behn

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-20 17:20

Thanks Brad for a few new tips I hadn't thought of before.
I must emphasize though that there may be viewers seeing this who are thinking 'what is all the fuss about? I don't have these problems." We who have lived in this kind of wildly changing humidity areas have needed to solve these reed problems. Tom Ridenour mentioned to me that he trekked from Texas to Colorado and found that five of his good reeds worked well. But others making the same trip found that NONE of their good reeds worked! Tom spent much time in the northeast and knew how to prepare for these different conditions.

Post Edited (2018-03-21 03:19)

Reply To Message
 Re: Reed Inconsistency Experiences
Author: Caihlen 
Date:   2018-03-24 20:19

Well, I can say with confidence that the D'Adarrio case, having used it for a week, has made a significant difference in my reeds. I'm using the 72% pack that came with it and my reeds aren't drying out. Good stuff. Thank you.

Reply To Message
 Avail. Forums  |  Threaded View   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 

 Avail. Forums  |  Need a Login? Register Here 
 User Login
 User Name:
 Remember my login:
 Forgot Your Password?
Enter your email address or user name below and a new password will be sent to the email address associated with your profile.
Search Woodwind.Org

Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale

The Clarinet Pages
For Sale
Put your ads for items you'd like to sell here. Free! Please, no more than two at a time - ads removed after two weeks.

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact charette@woodwind.org