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 Wetting reeds butt down
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-12-25 23:27

I was just re-reading Ben Armato's booklet, "Perfect a Reed ... and Beyond." When I got to the section about warped reeds, I was reminded of his recommendation (insistence, really, as I discovered in a phone conversation with him once) that reeds be wet by placing them butt-down, not vamp-down, in a half inch of water. The water is meant to soak up through the reed. He mentions 5 minutes in the booklet.

I remember trying this when I first talked to him about it maybe 20 years ago and, for the heck of it, I tried doing it again today with a batch of new, unplayed reeds. The reeds that I wet this way don't seem to be any more flexible than a dry reed taken straight out of the box. I am scratching my head wondering, just as I did the first time, how this can possibly work.

Armato was an accomplished player in the NY Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and I assume he prepared his reeds this way before he played on them. so I've always been reluctant to write it off out of hand.

Has anyone here adopted this procedure? For anyone who has, what am I missing?

Karl

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2018-12-26 01:57

Hi Karl,

I also recall this instruction and I employed it for a time. I found the reeds I was preparing were more inclined to warp in this fashion.

As Armato made his own reeds and his cane at that time is probably significantly different than commercial reeds today, I accepted this as sincere advice that no longer applies (in my experience).

James

Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: fernie121 
Date:   2018-12-26 04:03

I avoid getting the butt of the reed wet at all cost. No need to as it’s not the part flexing on the facing right?

Bb Clarinet: Ridenour G1, Mouthpiece: Bernardo’s 1940 Cicero Reeds: Vandoren traditional 3.5, Behn Aria 4, Legere EC 4, Ligature: BG duo

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-12-26 05:24

fernie121 wrote:

> I avoid getting the butt of the reed wet at all cost. No need
> to as it’s not the part flexing on the facing right?
>
Well, his rationale, I think, was that it would wick up through the fibers without damaging the surface area or disturbing or distorting the reed's "parabolic design" (the profile across the vamp). He claimed it *prevented* warping (against Tobin's experience) and that vamp-down wetting promoted it.

I'm not so much interested in the arguments pro or con as I am in players' experiences with his approach.

Tobin, I imagine the "vascular bundles" (his term) of hand-made reeds might be more open at the butt end than in commercially finished reeds, so that may be a valid point. I gather from your reply that you actually got water to wick up into the vamp so you weren't, in effect, playing a dry reed. I can't even get that far. I actually tested before-and-after, playing first on the dry reeds for a few notes and then again after leaving them butt-down in the water (he recommends a half-inch). No difference, and there was no feel of any degree of moisture in the tips after wetting. Were your results different?

I don't know what would have happened with a longer wetting period (but how long? 10 minutes? 15? longer? - I may experiment more), but then it begins to verge on becoming impractical.

Karl

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-12-26 22:50

You ned to get the underside of the reed wet to ensure there are no leaks between it and the mouthpiece facing - even just licking the underside of the heel is enough to do that. If you get a leak between the reed and the facing, then you'll get chirping.

Same with coated and synthetic reeds - lick the flat side under the heel to make sure it seals against the facing even though the reed itself doesn't need soaking.

Chris.

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-12-26 23:15

Chris P wrote:

> You need to get the underside of the reed wet to ensure there
> are no leaks between it and the mouthpiece facing - even just
> licking the underside of the heel is enough to do that.

I understand, though it's something I've never thought about before. Do you mean by "no leaks between it and the mouthpiece facing" that the underside needs to seal against the curve - the rails - under the vamp area? Or do you mean the reed's underside needs to be wet where it lies on the table?

Of course, the reed's ability to seal against the rails (sides and tip) is important - that's one important test for a warped reed. I guess I never really thought of the underside of the vamp remaining dry once I start playing.

Karl

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2018-12-27 03:28

Soak the butt end(reed) to encourage warping. Sand flat. Repeat the process many times. Theoretically after some time the reed is flat and stable. Whether it’s worth the effort is questionable. This seems a more appropriate procedure when hand making a reed. With a finished reed the dimensions should be very close to the finished tolerances so this repetitive soaking and sanding might be too radical. ie. some parts of the reed are now too thin.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-12-27 07:23

I've read this, but disagree. Here's why, I don't want this part of the reed to warp. If it warps and it will, the reeds are never flat on the table of your mouthpiece, thus you will have trouble balancing a warped reed and getting the reed to play its best on a properly made mouthpiece.

A lot of mouthpieces do not have flat tables. Maybe in Ben's case his mouthpiece wasn't flat so a warped reed didn't matter.


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


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2018-12-27 08:04

Of course you don’t want the flat side of the butt end to warp while playing. This procedure of soaking and drying is a preventative measure. Exposing it water allows the reed to expand and then contract. . It also might warp. The sanding then corrects things. You repeat the process until it is stable.

Freelance woodwind performer

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Bob Barnhart 2017
Date:   2018-12-27 09:44

I’ve been using the ReedGeek on the butt of the read (as well as under part of the vamp) in conjunction with sanding (to ensure flatness in all directions) and the results are frequently significant in improving performance and there is no warping.

Bob Barnhart

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2018-12-28 17:51

I have an article on reeds on my website and I explain why one should NEVER let the butt part of the reed get wet to avoid warpage that prevents the reed from sealing. I suggest you read it and see my explanation. Many of my articles appeared in the Clarinet Journal many years ago.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-12-28 19:54

How can you avoid the heel becoming wet when cane by its very structure and nature will draw water all the way through it by capillary action?

It's all going to get wet sooner or later so you can't avoid the inevitable.

Chris.

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2018-12-28 21:41

Agree with Chris. It seems to me that, if warpage is not a problem, then the entire reed may as well be wet, or maybe it even should be. Before practice, I immerse my reeds in a glass of water and let them float there for anywhere from several minutes to a half hour, depending on how disorganized I am that day. They're intentionally wet through when I play them. I don't seem to have any warpage problems, though admittedly I might not recognize the difference between a warped good reed and a just bad reed.

After use, the reeds dry out in the open, flat side up, and NOT forced onto a flat surface - if they want to be warped when dry, I don't care, as long as they are flat when wet.

When I find my understandings conflict with those of someone like Ed Palanker, who has my full respect and automatic benefit of the doubt, I have to wonder, how can this be? If I can't resolve it by reading then it gets chalked up to the vagaries of quantum mechanics experienced on the road less traveled.

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2018-12-28 21:56

Chris P wrote:

> How can you avoid the heel becoming wet when cane by its very
> structure and nature will draw water all the way through it by
> capillary action?
>
> It's all going to get wet sooner or later so you can't avoid
> the inevitable.
>

Well, again, that's my question. In other players' experience, how effective is Ben Armato's way in moistening a reed's vibrating area enough to provide flexibility? Obviously, Armato's experience was that the vamp would get wet because "cane by its very structure and nature will draw water all the way through it by capillary action" but, he insisted, without the risk of warping he attributed to soaking from the vamp.

I soaked several reeds butt-down for about 20 minutes yesterday and still they played as if they were dry. I don't have that kind of time to wet a reed when I'm getting ready to play.

I'm not asking which way anyone thinks works better. I've been wetting my reeds from the vamp end since I first began playing clarinet 60 years ago and I haven't over the past week seen any reason to change. I'm just trying to understand why an accomplished player in a major American orchestral position would so strongly advocate this if it didn't actually work in some way.

I'm not advocating. I'm trying to understand, preferably from players who actually follow the butt-down procedure. I gave up on it years ago when I first bought one of Ben Armato's products (I have a Reed Wizard and a Perfect-a-Reed) and read this recommendation in his accompanying booklet. I couldn't make it work back then, even after talking to him about it by phone.

I'm getting a clear message from this thread, though, that, apart from Tobin, who I assume also gave it up, there is no first-hand experience on this BBS with this, much less anyone here who has actually adopted butt-down wetting successfully.

Karl

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2018-12-29 17:51

Once again I will refer people to my article's on caring for reeds to prevent warpage, meaning not sealing on the facing of the mouthpiece. I refer to the principle as "playing dry", which is not exactaly what it sounds like. It worked for me and many of my students and colleagues that I convinced to try it.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-12-30 00:56

My take - after making reeds for 50 years.
-------------------------------------------------------
* Saliva is thicker than water and tends to seal the pores.
* Use saliva until the tip curls. Then only use water.
* A curled tip after a short soak means the water isn't getting into the pores easily.
* Sealed pores need a longer soak.
* A wet tip and dry butt affects the flexibility of the cane since the tip swells and the butt doesn't.
* Some cane warps and some cane doesn't, due to how well it was aged. Mark the warping cane and treat it differently.
* An older, broken in reed that warps, may flatten after a few hour soak. It takes more time for the water to get through the sealed cane.
* Always wet the whole reed. Better to find it warped now and not after playing it for a while. A warping reed begins to feel more stuffy.
* Flattening a swollen table changes the reed dimension relationships by taking out some of the 'spine'. Use only as a last resort, or you will need to refinish the reed shape into its original shape.
------------------------------------------------------
My take. Everyone is different. Experiment and see what works for you.

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 Re: Wetting reeds butt down
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-12-30 22:29

You can take all the steps you feel necessary to prevent the heel of a cane reed getting wet, but it will.

Considering single reeds are processed from tube to finished reed whilst the cane is dry, all the work done to make a reed that has a perfectly flat underside is only going to be undone as soon as the reed absorbs moisture.

And since every single piece of cane is going to be different to the next, they won't all hold their finished dimensions in exactly the same way once they take on moisture during soaking or playing. Some will work better than others, but they are all going to be affected.

It's just a bit of dead and dried up grass that the majority of players depend on to generate the sound which by that very essence is a totally laughable and ridiculous concept if you think about it.

Chris.

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