Ways to Make Your Reeds Last Longer
- Make lots of reeds at a time. I make them and break them in in batches of 10. Since my job is very demanding, I have to have extremely high standards. Getting a job is even harder than retaining one. Therefore, if you are a student or do not yet have a job, your standards need to be even higher than mine!
- About one of every four of my blanks turns out to be a good reed. If you are not making more than two or three reeds at a time, how can you expect to have any good reeds on a consistent basis?!
- Don't rely upon that "Old Faithful" reed in your box to see you through a period of bad cane or bad reed making! Get on the phone and order cane from a different supplier if you find yourself with bad cane. Keep several different batches of cane from several different suppliers on hand at all times.
- Have several reeds in each of the different stages of assembly at all times. Keep the reed pipeline running.
Break in Period
- If you soak cane for two-hour periods prior to processing, the break-in time will be significantly shorter.
- Break reeds in over a period of two weeks, preferably with a whole week of rest after the first break in.
- Don't play on new reed for more than 20 minutes for the first couple of playing sessions.
- Break the reed in by playing long tones, slow scales, arpeggios, but very little technical, fast music. Avoid the high register at first. See reed-break in exercises.
- Put reed away for drying and rest when it develops a sizzling sound.
- Put reed away for drying and rest when its tone narrows and brightens due to excessive playing.
- During the indoor heating season, store reeds in a humid environment. A plastic bag with a few holes in it and orange peels in the bag works well. Keep an eye out for mold!
- Use three or four reeds in rotation any given week.
- Give each reed at least one day of rest in between playing.
- Use good oral hygiene.
- Rinse reeds out after playing.
- Scrape accumulation of lip skin, "lunch", whatever, off reed with your finger nail or reed knife while reed is wet.
- Clean "lunch" out from between blades with pipe cleaner or sandpaper. Note: reeds that collect stuff between their blades are probably too old anyway and should be retired.
Your reed is too old when one or more of the following is true:
- The tone begins to spread at "f"
- Even though blades are thin enough, it begins to lose its response.
- Slurs become bumpy or more difficult. A poor slur from high G to Eb above the staff is a good indicator.
- Reed starts to become discolored.
- Tone becomes smaller
- Certain registers lose their pitch. E.g., open F and E go sharp
- Pitch of the reed becomes unacceptably sharp.
Throw these reeds out and make more!