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Thread: How to wet reed & how often?

  1. #1

    Default How to wet reed & how often?

    Hello there! I might sound very dumb posting this thread, but i'm a complete newbie and I just bought my first sax ytd. How do you wet your sax reed? Like do you just put it in your mouth, soak it in tap/drinking water, and for how long? Also do you need to repeat it EVERYTIME you want to play your sax? all answers will be appreciated thanks!

  2. #2
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012 dexdex's Avatar
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    Smile Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Hi Nicole, congratulations and welcome to the club.
    I shouldn't be answering, as I play synthetic reeds on all my horns. But I remember. Cane reeds need some moisture, so you have to wet them every time you play. If you don't, they will squeak, warp, and die faster. You can do it with luke warm water in a glass, or just in your mouth. Some of us will recommend to break-in a couple of reeds in advance, what I used to do. It is particularly useful to select your best reeds for live performance. As long as you're only practicing, you can just play your reeds as they come. You will soon notice how inconsistent they can be, out of the same box.
    Next point: let them dry or keep them moist after playing ? I used to let them dry, on a flat surface. Vandoren's small reed clips do the job. You can also find various devices, reed guards and so on. Whatever. Again, if they aren't on a flat surface while drying, they tend to warp.
    Hard life, isn't it ? Why not swap your sax for a flute ?
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  3. #3

    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    WOW.
    Okay, thank you so much for all your help! But one thing - what do you mean by 'breaking-in reeds in advance'?

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012 dexdex's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Every reed relaxes a bit after being played some minutes, compared to it's new state, out of the box. It gets a tad softer, and easier to play. The idea is to do that process to eg 3-5 reeds instead only 1 at a time. The advantage is that if the one you're playing "wears out", or if you break it by accident, which occurs quite often at the beginning, hitting it against your shoulder, or wherever, you can pick another reed which you already played a bit, and won't have the typical stiffness of a new reed. It is a general habit among most seasoned players, but, strange enough, none of my clarinet teachers (yeah, I started on the blackstick) ever made me aware of it. As I said, as long as you are learning, it isn't that critical, but once you'll have your first auditions, you'll be happy to have 1-2 back-up reeds you already know they play fine.
    Sop Yana SC880 - Vandoren V16 S6 - Fiberreed Carbon Classic MH ¦ Alto SA-II - Meyer 7M - Fiberreed Carbon M
    Tenor MkVII - Link STM 8* - Fiberreed Carbon M ¦ Bari SA-II - JJ ESP 7* - Fiberreed Carbon M
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    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Some of us go through a more involved break in procedure: First soak the reed in water, then stroke the read down the vamp toward the tip to seal the reed pores, and then play it for a short while before putting it on a flat surface to dry. Repeat this procedure several times and the reed will be more stable and last longer while playing more consistently. This process also lets you do this you can select the best players from the not so good. But don't reject a reed until it has gone through several soak/stroke/play/dry cycles -- you may find your opinion of a reed changes after some work on it. Once the reeds have been conditioned, play them in rotation for maximum reed life.
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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012 dexdex's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Thanks guido, I was too lazy to describe it that detailed. Don't you think we're going to scare her away ?
    Nicole, you can see now how and why our horns almost become pets or buddies for us ?
    Sop Yana SC880 - Vandoren V16 S6 - Fiberreed Carbon Classic MH ¦ Alto SA-II - Meyer 7M - Fiberreed Carbon M
    Tenor MkVII - Link STM 8* - Fiberreed Carbon M ¦ Bari SA-II - JJ ESP 7* - Fiberreed Carbon M
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    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    A lot of us know to wet the reed before playing but do we know why we need to.

    It's basically to lessen the stiffness and increase the mass of the reed for playability and to lower the vibrating frequency of the reed to lessen high frequency squeaking.

    The reed soaking doesn't really need to be overdone, just a minute or so in a cup of water or whatever and unless the weather conditions are unusual that should usually be enough for a playing session.

    For those who like Science http://koppreeds.com/virtues.html

    A young bassoonist typically learns in the first lesson that the reed is not expected to vibrate until it has been thoroughly soaked. But why is this so? Scientists have explained that this soaking (or hydration, as they prefer to call it) has important effects on the vibrational characteristics of even a simple rectangular section (a clarinet reed blank, for example) of Arundo donax, tending to lessen the stiffness and lower the vibrating frequency. When a piece of cane is made into a finished bassoon reed, additional effects of hydration come into play.

    Casadonte carried out an experiment to measure a vibrational difference between unsoaked and soaked Arundo donax. He first clamped a dry, rectangular sample of Arundo donax and plucked it, obtaining a frequency of 269 Hz. When he soaked the cane sample and repeated the experiment, the frequency dropped to 220Hz. A physicist would say that the modulus of elasticity drops exponentially (that is, the cane becomes more flexible) as the reed is saturated.28 It also gains in mass, as explained below.

    Double reeds are subject to additional physical forces. In the special case of a bassoon reed, the swelling of soaked tissues causes the reed’s tip to pucker and the aperture to open to a functional dimension.

    When a bassoon reed is hydrated, “free” water is stored within the cellular cavities and vascular tissue capillaries. According to Casadonte, the degree of swelling in a clarinet reed, taken new from its box and then fully hydrated to a level suitable for performance, is greatest in the radial (inside-to-outside) dimension: 16.8%. The reed also swells 7.5 % in the tangential (left-to-right) dimension, and 4.5% in the longitudinal (tip-to-butt) dimension. The weight or mass added by free water is 3.75 %.29 We can assume that the degree of swelling is somewhat less in a bassoon reed, which is gouged thinner; it thus contains a higher proportion of sclerified cells, and absorbs less water.

    When the bassoon reed is allowed to dry, the tip aperture will often become partly or fully closed. But hydrating (fully soaking) the reed causes the blades to swell in thickness, increasing the tension and restoring the tip aperture to the correct degree of openness, a critical requirement for correct vibration of the reed. This additional effect occurs because the tip of the reed is thereby placed under additional tension.

    Some tension is present in the bassoon reed even before it is soaked. What might be called “dry” tension arises from (1) the deformation of the cane’s natural arc into a flatter arc at the reed’s tip, and (2) the deformation of the natural arc into a much tighter arc at the back of the blade.30 Hydration brings about two new effects that might be called “wet” tension: (3) the hydrated blades increase in thickness; given that movement of each blade is constrained by its contact with the other blade, the swollen blades can only expand by assuming a higher arch. In a secondary effect, (4) the hydrated tube of the reed swells against the brass adjustment wires, and the resulting pressures further influence the tip aperture.

    Sources of Tension in Bassoon Reed Blades

    "Dry" tension is always present, the result of:

    Flattening of cane's natural arc at the reed tip
    Rounding of cane's natural arc at the reed tube
    "Wet" tension occurs when the reed is soaked, so that:

    Blades swollen with water expand into a higher arc
    Tube swollen with water exerts pressure against wires, affecting tip aperture
    To understand more about the hydration process of the bassoon reed, we need to know a few details of the chemistry of Arundo donax. According to Casadonte, different researchers analyzed five different stems of Arundo donax, with the following results: 42-50% cellulose, 20-24% hemicelluloses, and about 10-20% lignin, ash 4%, silica 1-2%.

    Aside from the “free water” stored in a hydrated reed (as described above), a separate quantity of water is bound to the cellulose-hemicellulose-lignin matrix “more or less permanently.” This “bound water,” as Casadonte termed it, comprises 5.98% of the weight of the clarinet reed.

    The amount of bound water varies slightly with changes in atmospheric pressure. As pressure increases, hydration is increased, and vice versa. Casadonte found that swelling due to bound water could reach .75% in the radial dimension, .63% in the tangential dimension, and .4% in the longitudinal dimension.31 (Over its useful life, the reed gradually loses hemicellulose; this loss decreases the amount of bound water that can be stored. This phenomenon is discussed below.)
    Types of Water Retention in Bassoon Reed Cane

    "Free" water is added each time the reed is soaked, increasing tension in the blades
    "Bound" water is always present; the amount decreases as the reed ages

  8. #8

    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Nicole:

    Here's a YouTube video that demonstrates a clear and effective reed break-in method:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRAKij61y_g

    best of luck!
    ~Rick
    Rick Hirsch
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  9. #9
    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2012 dexdex's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    Amazing what you find on youtube... Thanks !
    Sop Yana SC880 - Vandoren V16 S6 - Fiberreed Carbon Classic MH ¦ Alto SA-II - Meyer 7M - Fiberreed Carbon M
    Tenor MkVII - Link STM 8* - Fiberreed Carbon M ¦ Bari SA-II - JJ ESP 7* - Fiberreed Carbon M
    Hear them on The Groove Merchant.

  10. #10

    Default Re: How to wet reed & how often?

    wow guys thank you so much! checking the vid now. best of luck to all you guys! i seriously do not regret picking up the sax haha

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