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 breaking in reeds
Author: BGBG 
Date:   2018-03-26 02:20

I am confused if it is recommended to break in a whole box of reeds at the beginning even if not paying all of them right away, or to break in only a few, play them awhile, then break in a few more, etc. Or does it matter at all?

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-03-26 02:46

You're confused because so many players give different answers. This is a topic you've been worrying and stressing about for as long as you've been posting here. It does matter to some players, not so much to others. Once more, you're about to get barraged with a lot of responses that will leave you with a completely non-definitive non-consensus. Pick a regimen and follow it for awhile. If it seems to have benefits, keep it. If you find that you seem to be ruining reeds, try something different. By now you've read about a gazillion approaches.

The range of opinions among accomplished players runs from "take a reed out of the box and play on it until it won't play any more" to the meticulous, multi-step plans in several books you can buy online. Ed Palanker ( has information on breaking in reeds and avoiding reed warpage. There are, some posters' insistence to the contrary, no firmly set rules and no one approach to reed preparation that absolutely works or doesn't. Anyone who tells you "you must..." is really only telling you anecdotally what he or she does.

Pick a plan and follow it. See what happens. React to the result.


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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2018-03-26 03:34

BGBG, how much do you play, and how long at each session? If you play many hours a week, and many hours each day, working up a box of reeds at a a time makes sense. If you are just getting started, or only play 30 minutes a day, you can probably just work on a few at a time. Long practice sessions will make a reed mushy, so best to have enough that you can switch out every every 30-60 minutes, then let them rest and dry for a few days.

Someone recently commented that to get some perspective on this, play oboe for a while. Absolutely true! Oboe reeds don't even come in boxes, cost as much as a box of clarinet reeds, EACH, and get played out much faster. Theres no real option to breaking them in, but it's still critical to have a few that play to rotate.

Jim C.

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-03-26 04:48

I think if you first define what you want to accomplish you can find your own answer.
Reeds last a long time?
Reeds don't change during a performance?
Reeds get worse or better over time?
ID each reed with some markings, dates, colored ink or anything to keep track.
I use yellow on those I have rubbed vigorously with the smooth side of a piece of sandpaper and I make a small groove in the butt end and color it purple for the reeds that swell etc. etc.
Then start on many paths that have been suggested here and even make up a few.
Keep records and eventually you will find the best way to your goal. You need to find out what works for you and in time you will find your own answer..

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: BGBG 
Date:   2018-03-26 08:22

I guess it is puzzling because I think I have never seen or encountered anything where so many people do so many varied and perhaps contradictory things and they all seem to work no matter how opposite they appear to be. I do have the answer but I wish someday I would find it. I like to play and have tried many things that I read and perhaps the opposite and still am searching for a consistent way to proceed. I do not find the things do not work but only wonder why so many different ways exist. I have always wanted to play a clarinet and finally did and am having some success but it is hard to know how to become better. But I keep on trying.
I have only been playing about 3-4 years, am a hobbyist rather than professional, and try to play around half hour per day. I am technical minded and like to mess with things and improve them and I am not unhappy with my progress. I just get confused about all the many and sometimes direct opposite ways to do things and I am sure these are all people who are excellent players. Maybe I am making it harder than it really is. I apologize if my postings offend anyone but I am only trying to learn and improve. When I am unsure I ask.
I am now keeping the new reeds drier than previous ones and in a humidified 69% Boveda pack plastic box. Wet them a minute or two in warm or room temperature water before playing. Only using two reeds now, a 3.0 and a 2.5. I have two boxes of each but only 2 in use.

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2018-03-26 22:25

I'd suggest you read my read page on how I think you should break in your reeds based on years of successful experience. Easier than listing it here.


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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: tucker 2017
Date:   2018-03-26 23:14

Or you can try Legeres or another synthetic reed. Many love them.... other's not so much. See what works for you.

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-03-27 15:10

With the Steuer reeds the cane is so good just slap one on and play it until it dies after a month to 4 months.

A lot of other cane is so bad people think that rotating the cane will add life. Usually not. If the cane is bad, nothing can be done to save it. Don't waste your time.

Myth has it that Vandoren and Rico get ALL of their cane from France, not true. They get it all over the world. So little now comes from France.

The best cane still comes from the Var region of France right next to the ocean where the winds blow the cane and make the fibers strong. Just like how some people work out everyday at the gyms.

The soil is special too, this is where great French wines come from.

So most of the cane does NOT come from France anymore, because this is now full of condos and beach front properties. Resort towns. The wonderful cane fields are long gone. But Steuer never sold out. They have plenty of great cane and they only use Var cane by the ocean.

The person that made reeds for 40 years for Vandoren left and went to Steuer because of the great cane so YOU are actually getting Vandoren reeds on steroids.

This is why you don't have to rotate reeds. The cane lasts and lasts for months. There is a break in period of about 3 day, where you have to keep wetting the Steuer reeds. Then the reeds settle down. This is due to the cane being cured for about 4 or 5 years. It's dry. Then look out, it is amazing.

I can't keep the reeds in stock. I'm always back ordered.

Yes I don't believe in rotating reeds when a reed plays great, because it will last a long time. As several of you know I worked at Rico and they made 25 million reeds a years so I saw some pretty horrible cane come through the doors. It's now so bad that very few players are using the Rico Reserve reeds, it's that bad. The reeds are horrible. Sales are way down, and a lot of stores don't even carry it anymore. Their top brand is slowly going away.

Oh, when I worked at Rico Vandoren ran out of cane and bought cane from Rico. And Rico has the worst cane ever.

Again, if the cane is bad, you can't make it good by rotating it. It's not gonna work. Sorry folks. If the fibers are weak and thin you can't make them strong. Just like working out. Your first day at the gym you surely can't press 200 pounds, your fibers can't handle it, but after 6 months maybe you can. This is what good soil and wind does, by the ocean to the Var cane.

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

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2018-03-27 23:33)

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2018-03-27 16:08

I set up the whole box at the same time. I want to know the distribution of light to stiff reeds, how many are concert worthy, etc etc etc.

Given the general thought that in each box three reeds are great, three are bad, three are workable, (one is worthless), preparing the whole box allows you to know what you’ve got, assuming your organizing your reeds in some meaningful fashion.

If the majority of the box is great — wonderful. If the majority of the box is dreck, time to order more.

I can see the truth behind much of what Bob has to say. I recently set up two boxes of the same brand/strength simultaneously. The two boxes had radically different reeds in them. The second box was largely worthless.


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: breaking in reeds
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-03-27 16:33

I agree that the key is to find a routine that works for you and go with it. If you always do the same things, you will be at the same starting point and be able to sense the difference in different reeds and batches. Being an organic product, it will vary from time to time.

Regarding different brands, we are fortunate that there is a lot to choose from. FWIW- I have had excellent results with Rico-D'Addario, Vandoren and other products as well.

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