Customizing Your Reed
If your reed feels too hard or too soft from the first time you play it or it isn't cut with perfect symmetry, don't throw it away, it may well be saved!For Reeds Which Are Too Hard:
Here is a trick that Joe Henderson showed me years ago for softening reeds which feel too hard. This really works and saved me many a reed both in practice sessions and on live gigs:
With the reed
wet and ligatured to the mouthpiece, press firmly a
few times with your
thumb on the middle and rear vamp slope area of the
reed to help loosen up
the fibers a bit and make it less resistant.
This may take
you some time to perfect because if you press
too firmly, you will
get a reed with too little resistance and it could
possibly end up losing its "spring" and resilience.
On the other hand, if you press too lightly, you won't
change. So it's better to approach it
cautiously at first because if you go overboard, there
is not much you can do to restore the spring.
Try a press or two, play it, and try again if need be.
you master this operation by feeling the right amount
and number of presses it takes, it may well be
worth it once you see the results..
alternative to this is using "Dutch" or reed rush, a
reed knife or
sandpaper. Dutch rush can work very well on the vamp
of a reed that
feels too hard or stiff. The advantage of using rush
is that you can
take material off in slight increments, test the reed
and then see
if it needs more, so this provides you with some
margin of safety to not overdo it.
You can also use light to heavy
grit cutting paper on top of glass
(depending on how much you want to take off), working
the table of the
reed in circles with not too much hand pressure as
Taking material off the
vamp with a reed knife takes a good amount of skill
touch. It is also a traditional method for thinning
areas which might make the reed feel a bit more
responsive. But do this judiciously or
you may end up over-softening your reed to the point
will be unplayable or have a very short playing life.
Hardening reeds is generally more difficult to do than softening them. The most widely and traditionally used method for this has been reed clipping. The trick here it to start by taking as little material off the tip of the reed with the clipper as you can, so you don't over do it and cut so much that the reed dimensions have changed considerably and it now becomes stiff and loses some of its vibrational characteristics. Some players try burning the reed tip to harden it which may work well enough in a pinch, though the results usually don't last long and if you aren't careful, you might end up with a piece of useless tinder-wood!
General Customization of Reeds:
There are several good books out on the subject of reed customizing and some work here can go a long way in giving you performance even more tailored to your own particular needs. We believe that we are giving you an excellent product to work with as our reeds perform and last as well or better than any brand we know of if the proper strength is selected. But a little extra customizing can't hurt if you desire it.
For example, as it's impossible
to get perfectly cut reeds in
the large runs we do, if one side at the back of the
vamp has a little
more bark than the other, or if you prefer a flared
"V" or "U" shape
here, adjustments with a reed knife or retractable
cutter can easily be
made. However we firmly believe that the way a reed
looks does not
necessarily correspond to how it will play as some
unevenly cut reeds
can very well play better than perfectly balanced
looking ones and visa
versa. The real test for this is simple...how it
actually plays and you should always base any customization
you might want on that. You can try taking some
material off in certain areas of the reed, but
remember too, anything you take off can't be replaced
so do this with caution.
Some players also seem to like drilling a hole at the back of the vamp (though one maker years ago had a model made this way and it didn't stay in production very long, probably because this tends to take some of the life and spring out of the reed. Others may even prefer using a Tenor sax reed on their Alto, for example. While we intentionally designed our models to be used specifically for their corresponding mouthpiece models, in the end whatever works best for you is what you should use.