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Thread: Reed problems

  1. #1

    Default Reed problems

    I've been trying my hand at the baritone for a couple of years now, long enough to realize that my problem is not likely to vanish any time soon. The problem is that my reeds are extremely prone to squeaking, and I mean seriously squeaking in the sense that they become all but uncontrollable. There's also a very strange feeling of losing the "core" of the sound and having to really struggle to keep the notes together. This concerns all registers.

    I have not had this problem with the alto, and have therefore arrived at the hypothesis that it may be due to the larger size of the baritone reed and the consequent tendency to swell so that in the end the points of contact between the table of the mouthpiece and the reed are all too few and far between.

    Maybe the problem is my embouchure (too tight, too close to the tip), but considering that I don't really have any particular problems in any of the registers, I doubt that is the sole solution. I've also been meticulously following my alto break-in process (a couple of minutes on the first day, another few minutes on the second day, and onwards as usual from there), to no avail. I soak my reeds in water before playing, to get rid of the wrinkles, if for nothing else. I use Rico reedguards for storing reeds, one of these has worked perfectly fine in the case of the alto. I've also tried to shave down reeds that are too hard to begin with, but it's just as much a matter of luck with them.

    Thus, I would appreciate suggestions from more experienced baritonists on how to avoid the issue. Given the price of the reeds, I'd definitely like to get some more hours out of them. Every now and then I come across one that lasts for a few weeks, but they are rare. I'm thinking of going synthetic, but given my conservative nature, I'd still like to give good old cane a chance.

    For the record, I use a stock Vandoren B95 and a Vandoren Optimum ligature (this one, alas, has been dropped and bent back to shape; but the problem was there before the accident).

    Thanks for any help in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    Get yourself a synthetic — Fibracell, Legere, Bari, anything — in the nominal strength you normally use, and see if there is any difference. If your experience is significantly different then that would indicate a reed problem, as you describe. If the problems are still there, then you know it's more of a mouthpiece, ligature, or embouchure thing. You don't have to keep playing the synthetic reed if you don't want to, it's just to introduce a constant into the equation.

    Also, have you looked over this thread?
    Yamaha TS62 - Warburton LA; P. Mauriat 66R - Sakshama FL; Legeres
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  3. #3
    Forum Contributor 2011 Dave C's Avatar
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    Default

    I have no baritone experience at all, so weigh the following accordingly!!

    I'm wondering if you have gone straight from alto to Bari or whether you also play tenor?

    I ask because I was surprised how long it took me to adjust from alto to tenor in terms of correcting my embouchure and playing with more breath support.

    I would think that the transition from alto to bari would be much greater, in which case I suspect you need to look at embouchure, voicing and support first.

    Good luck!
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  4. #4
    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    Quote Originally Posted by fosfonik View Post
    For the record, I use a stock Vandoren B95 and a Vandoren Optimum ligature (this one, alas, has been dropped and bent back to shape; but the problem was there before the accident).

    Thanks for any help in advance!
    You don't actually say what type of reeds you're using.

    I keep a viable Legere in my bari case at all times, just in case cane reeds aren't behaving.

    Your choice of mouthpiece is a bit of a concern. A B95 has the biggest tip on a bari piece that Vandoren makes. The B75 is plenty big and is much easier to control (personal experience).

    FWIW, I use a B75 with #3 Vandoren ZZ reeds or a Legere #3.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Reed problems

    If there is nothing wrong with the mouthpiece maybe the saxophone is leaking.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Reed problems

    Thanks everyone for your considerate replies.

    Shotgun: Yes, I've thought of trying a Legere. Their price here in Finland just diminishes my willingness to experiment! Also, thanks a lot for guiding me to that other thread, foolish of me not to have noticed it. Pete Thomas' picture therein describes more or less exactly my problem.

    Dave C: The step from alto to baritone was not unproblematic. However, with a lot of long tones and overtone practice, it's getting better day by day - as long as the reeds behave themselves, that is. I don't have much tenor experience, but I have played the clarinet and the bass clarinet before. Although different in so many ways, I think the experience with clarinets helped in navigating from alto to baritone. Actually, the most difficult change for me ever was from clarinet to alto saxophone; almost gave it up for good.

    Merlin: That's a relevant point. So far I've tried Vandoren (blue box, one box each of 2.5, 3 and 3.5 I think), Gonzalez (2, 2.75, 3) and the occasional Rico orange box specimen from the local store. While some have been better than others, I've come across the same problems with all (this of course suggests that it's me rather than the reeds). Based on your and Shotgun's advice, I think I'll try a Legere 2.5 next.
    And yes, the B95 is pretty open. Then again, I started on a B35 (and before that played for a while with a B27), and had the same problem. Was your B75 alright straight out of the box or has it been refaced?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Reed problems

    I doubt the horn has any major leaks, because (1) when the reeds behave, it's effortless to play the whole dynamic range from top to bottom, and (2) the problem is present from top f sharp downwards. It could of course be one of the register keys, or even some of the linkages, but I have some experience of playing with a leaking horn, and this problem just feels different. Also, quite often reeds are more or less alright at first, but after ten or fifteen minutes things go awry.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Reed problems

    Quote Originally Posted by fosfonik View Post
    I doubt the horn has any major leaks, because (1) when the reeds behave, it's effortless to play the whole dynamic range from top to bottom, and (2) the problem is present from top f sharp downwards. It could of course be one of the register keys, or even some of the linkages, but I have some experience of playing with a leaking horn, and this problem just feels different. Also, quite often reeds are more or less alright at first, but after ten or fifteen minutes things go awry.
    I had same problem and it was caused by leaking pad i didnt see. Any case is different. good luck

  9. #9
    Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor Merlin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    Quote Originally Posted by fosfonik View Post
    Merlin: That's a relevant point. So far I've tried Vandoren (blue box, one box each of 2.5, 3 and 3.5 I think), Gonzalez (2, 2.75, 3) and the occasional Rico orange box specimen from the local store. While some have been better than others, I've come across the same problems with all (this of course suggests that it's me rather than the reeds). Based on your and Shotgun's advice, I think I'll try a Legere 2.5 next.
    And yes, the B95 is pretty open. Then again, I started on a B35 (and before that played for a while with a B27), and had the same problem. Was your B75 alright straight out of the box or has it been refaced?
    My B75 pieces have the stock facings. I've done a bit of chamber work on them.

    I think you're going heavy on the reeds on the B95. I also think blue box Vandorens or other classical type cut reeds don't work well on those pieces.

    The other variable is the way bari reeds warp. They tend to lift at the edges. There are a couple of ways of dealing with this.

    The one I used to use was keeping the reed on the piece all the time and soaking the m/p and reed together. I never broke the seal 'til I trashed the reed.

    You could also try perma-soaking a reed. Leave it in water for several days. The reed will warp, then restabilize as it saturates.

    Sometimes just using a resurfacer or file will flatten the table of the reed making it playable again.

    The best squeak cure for me when things went this way was the Legere. Don't go to heavy on the strength.
    Last edited by Merlin; 02-27-2012 at 10:17 PM. Reason: spelling

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    What reed do you use?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Reed problems

    Merlin, thanks a lot for the tips. I'll definitely try both leaving the reed on the mouthpiece (although this is something my erstwhile teacher specifically told not to do ) and perma-soaking one. I have sometimes sanded or filed reeds back to shape after they've swelled inordinately, but more often than not I've only been able to give them ten to fifteen minutes worth of an afterlife before losing them for good.

    The warping is, I believe, the issue here. After a while my reeds look more like a sketch for a canoe than anything level. If that's something we baritonists just have to live with, I'll proceed to experiment on synthetic next.

    And yes, Vandoren 3 and 3.5 are way beyond my embouchure for the B95. I always shave them down quite a bit. 2.5 was alright, though, but maybe one out of five yielded any extended playing time.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    Don't play baritone, but wanted to comment on synthetics. In my experience, I've found that most synthetics do not mirror their cane strength numbers. The synthetics that I've used have played a lot stronger than comparable cane reeds, regardless of brand, cut, or strength.

    For example, I use 2 to 2 1/2 in Vandoren cane on soprano, but 1 1/2 with Fibracell Primeres AND I don't use the same mouthpieces when I switch to synthetics. Synthetics for me require a smaller tip-opening and even then I must experiment.

    In reading the OP, I'm guessing the mouthpiece itself may be a factor in the squeaking - poor facing? DAVE
    Dave

  13. #13
    Non Resident SOTW Eccentric & 2012 Forum Contributor Jazzaferri's Avatar
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    I don't play synthetics but my Coach uses them for Tenor and Alto. He likes the Legere Signatures. At our session yesterday he was commenting on being able to play well on a range of strengths and get his sound which in cane he finds that one reed strength works best.

    I tried one on alto for the first time yesterday and although the sound was a tad bright for me I found it to be a really nice reed. It was a signature 2 1/2 or 2 3/4. He couldn't remember which and worn off either way on Bari I think that might well be the best way
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed

  14. #14

    Default Re: Reed problems

    Bumping my own thread just in case I can help fellows with the same sort of problem I had in the spring. I've still to try the Legere, mainly because they're not available locally but also because the problem now seems to be a thing of the past.

    Merlin suggested soaking the reeds for 24 hours. I haven't followed that advice to the letter, but I have kept my reeds extremely wet (in comparison to my treatment of alto reeds, anyway). In practical terms, this means that I have soaked them from one to several hours most days. As a result, I have been able to use the same three Gonzales reeds for several months now, and three to four hour practice sessions are not a problem at all. It doesn't even seem to be particularly fatal if the reeds dry as long as one takes care of wetting them thoroughly before the next session.

    This discovery has been a source of tremendous joy, as I can now go to the rehearsal room confident that the time I can shed on the bari is solely up to my own stamina. Thanks to everyone for your valuable input.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Reed problems

    I now rarely have problems with squeaking on Bari. I attribute that to 1) I had my piece refaced by Eric G at The Mouthpiece Guys (110 tip) 2) I use Rico Royal reeds, and 3) the table of every reed gets leveled using the Van Doren etched glass "Reed Resurfacer" after the first soak. If I do have an issue it's usually uneven shoulders of the reed and trimming down the higher shoulder usually cures it. I have to say that Bari reeds , IMO, are the biggest pain and require a lot more patience. After messing with more expensive brands I realized that the Rico Royals worked just as well, didn't require any more (and often less) work and are a lot cheaper. Ligatures don't seem to have much effect on this issue, but I usually use a Rovner EVO 5, if that matters. I tried a few synthetics, don't like them, so far.

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