Saxophone Forum


by syrasax
(75 posts)
8 years ago

Reed Strength

Hi all. I’m in between teachers at the moment and I need some wisdom on the subject of reed strength. I’ve always used pretty soft reeds since I started a little over four years ago. My set up is an Otto Link STM 6* with a Vandoren Optimum lig and I float between the V-16 and Java #2 and a Rico Jazz medium soft on a YTS-62. My intonation is solid although I have a little trouble articulating the low B and B flat. The notes come out but I have to coax them a little more than I probably should, they don’t just pop. I’ve settled in on these choices and feel pretty good about them and the reason I “float” is simply because there are times when I feel like changing for a little different sound. For the most part, I like my sound and never felt too compelled to force a harder reed on my set-up. I have tried some stronger reeds but anything more than a 2 1/2 is like putting a 2x4 in my mouth and I struggle to get any sensitivity or decent sound. I don’t enjoy it and it seems like it would be a waste of time for me to make a harder reed work for me. Yet, from reading posts, it seems like I play a softer reed than most folks do. So what’s the theory behind reed strength? How does the mouthpiece you use affect what reed strength to use? Does the style of play (jazz, concert, church etc) factor into that? Is there something inherently wrong with using a soft reed? Thanks all and have a Happy New Year.

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  1. by Saxyboy
    (52 posts)

    6 years ago

    Re: Reed Strength

    Syra- The more open the tip of your mouthpiece is, the softer the reed you can use and blow comfortably. Or conversely, the closer the tip opening on your mouthpiece the easier it is to blow a harder reed. With your Link 6, I'd suggest a Medium LaVoz, #2 1/2 Rico at the softest probably. Just find one you can blow easily and get the power and control you need for what you play - and then find yourself a new private teacher and PRACTICE!

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  2. by blackfrancis
    (396 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Reed Strength

    Nothing wrong in using a soft reed, but your choices seem to be on the almost-too-soft side. With a reed this soft on a medium-close tip, the low notes should be no problem, assuming the horn has no leaks. It may be that the facing curve on your Link is off. (Not unusual with Links) It's well worth your time and money to get it checked and corrected. If you decide to go this way, I heartily recommend Ed Zentera's work.

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    1. by sax_maniac
      (984 posts)

      7 years ago

      Re: Reed Strength

      Hey, blackfrancis... Still keeping the a** ward at the hospital full?

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      1. by blackfrancis
        (396 posts)

        7 years ago

        Re: Reed Strength

        Aye, so I am! And now that Syra's packin' an EZ piece, It's filling up even faster! I'll send you a pic of the latest: the Darth Maul Tone Edge.

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        1. by sax_maniac
          (984 posts)

          7 years ago

          Re: Reed Strength

          You are a mad man.

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      2. by barisax999
        (400 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Reed Strength

        the theory on reeds goes from person to person and not even the pros can decide. my jazz teacher has a 7 tip with a 3 reed, and hes one of the best in the state. some pros like really stiff reeds and large tips. like james carter, but in my opinion, james carter is one of the worst jazz sax players out there with a solo record label. size 2 is probably a little bit softer than what you want. it will take time to bump up reed strengths and for the time, you may want to shave thicker reeds down some, to more of a quarter step. in the end, its all a preference issue. however, thinner reeds will make playing in the upper register tough if you want it to not get shrill sounding.

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        1. by Sax Mom
          (964 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Reed Strength

          Try sticking with the hard side of the ones comfortable for you, and don't float to the softer side. After more consistent playing on the harder reeds, you may find your technique develops to where the harder reeds are more accessible to you. Plus, as barisax mentioned, you'll need a harder reed for the altissimo to sound with a decent tone.

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          1. by syrasax
            (75 posts)

            8 years ago

            Re: Reed Strength

            Thanks for your feedback folks.

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            1. by JimmyC76
              (1 post)

              6 years ago

              Re: Reed Strength

              It depends on what you need. I know with my setup my mouthpiece is .095 med chamber I need to play a harder reed. I play a 3.5 vandoren v16. This combination gives me the versitility to play at higher volumes without sacrificing control at lower ones. If you like a soft reed, you will need a more open mouthpiece to provide the volume you probably will need in a professional situation. However don't just put on 3 and give up on it cause you don't have pinpoint control the first time you play it, it's going to break down and give you what your looking for after playing it for a little bit. Of course if your having a lot of trouble getting decent sound out , it is way to hard. I'd just start with a 3 and give it a shot. Im trying Rico jazz selects and they are softer than vandorens so i tried a 3 Hard, its a tad soft. All brands are different. So I'm thinking a 4 soft might compare to a 3.5 vandoren, but i'll have to probably buy a 4 med too just to find out.
              Jim Curless

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