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Hardbopjazz

Sax players, how often do you change your reeds?

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I recently saw David Murray live and two weeks earlier, George Coleman live. At both shows David and George changed reeds twice during their first sets. Why would you need to change your reed during the set? I didn't hear any speaks coming from either's horn. Is it something the musician knows that doesn't seem right with the reed in the mouth piece?   

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If it don't feel right, replace it. Simple as that.

There's more involved than does it squeak or not. If there's any issue with a reed not responding just so, if a reed makes its presence felt in a way that distracts from the player's flow (physical or mental or creative), then that's a problem. Flow is the object of the game. The object.

There's also the thing that you break a reed in, especially one that feels like it's going to be a keeper. You don't get all excited and ride it hard from jump, you treat it gentle and break it in, play it for a little bit, then take it off to recover and season. But I don't know that you'd do that on a gig.

Reeds are temperamental. One that is playing great at 4:00 can change it's mind at 9:00. Or one that's playing great at 9:15 can decide to retire at 9:30.

You never really know with reeds. You never really know.

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Those guys should have picked good reeds before the gig.

Normally, a reed lasts for weeks or even months - perhaps not if you are in Glenn Miller's orchestra and playing every night.

If you are trying out a new reed, you might very well reject the first new one, which would explain these guys trying two each. There are bad reeds in every box, but you can see the bad ones by looking at them for uneven-ness.

Since I started playing, I have stuck with the brown box Ricos (not the Rico.Royals) with constant success. Recently, I tried some Vandorens and they were good, too.

Reeds need not be a nightmare, and never have been for me.

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That brown box has been orange for quite a while now...

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I always did months with a reed. If the fungus comes up, change it :D

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I got "months" out of a good reed up from the 70s until somewhere in the 90s. After that, a good-playing  reed could last anywhere from months to weeks to days to hours to literally just minutes. Of course, most reed brands basically went to hell somewhere in the late-early 70s anyway.

But - reeds will get persnickety about room temp, humidity, etc. I have had what was a perfectly good reed at home in the afternoon turn to total shit after going into a damp, overly air-conditioned club later in the evening.

And depending on how you play with the reed, you can certainly have a reed "blow out" on you without warning. The more "correctly" you play, the less likely it is for that to happen. But the more "correctly" you play, the less you're going to get really intimate with your reed. A really good reed not only allows intimacy, it encourages it, begs for it, really.

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At the Coleman gig, he kept the reed in his mouth when he wasn't playing. Is there a reason for that?

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For me, a good reed is hard to find.  A really good reed.  As Jsngry notes, the product has declined since the seventies.  I tend to play reeds out-of-the-box to determine if they are even worth breaking in (or trying to cut and salvage).  Many hit the trash can right away.  Maybe I toss a few with potential, but, hell, they are cheap and life is short.  Playing time even shorter, and I cam feel mine waning, unlike Wayne.  I usually practice on "okay" reeds and keep the good ones for special times.  (I don't gig, ain't no gigs in Africa; but for jamming and playing with others.)

Dry reeds suck - may squeak, hard to blow -  so most players try to keep them wet.  

Edited by BeBop

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14 minutes ago, Hardbopjazz said:

At the Coleman gig, he kept the reed in his mouth when he wasn't playing. Is there a reason for that?

Sounds like it might be good reed but still just a teence stiff, so the saliva is going to break that down just a bit.

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I started using Rigotti Golds and have had much better luck finding good reeds over Rico or Vandorens. 


Typically you go into a show with a reed you previously picked because it did what you wanted but like JSngry said, that can change quickly. 

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19 hours ago, JSngry said:

Sounds like it might be good reed but still just a teence stiff, so the saliva is going to break that down just a bit.

Probably. George ended up using that one for the rest of the set and the second set.  

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Here is George working on his mouth piece and reed.

 

IMG-0375.jpg

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☝
1
On 1/24/2020 at 3:27 PM, JSngry said:

After that, a good-playing  reed could last anywhere from months to weeks to days to hours to literally just minutes. Of course, most reed brands basically went to hell somewhere in the late-early 70s anyway.

Any theories on why reed quality went down?  

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If memory serves, there was a switch in cane sourcing, perhaps due to some environmental change, perhaps also for financial reasons. Supply/Demand/Etc.

Also, the cutting process got really sketchy, probably due to machine tooling, possibly just a decline in quality control.. Used to be even the most basic, cheapest box of reeds would mostly be well-centered, evenly cut. Nowadays...good luck on that. Last time I was buying reeds regularly, their were "premium" brands that had a much more consistent cut, but still...premium prices.

The first consideration (cane sourcing) can be researched to a more definite conclusion. The second, maybe not. But the results speak for themselves.

So, theories is all they are.

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