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  1. #1

    Default Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Hi there,
    I did a google search for break in procedure for saxophone reed (I have a tenor sax) and came up with two different procedures:
    1- http://www.tsmp.org/band/saxophone/utley_new_reeds.html
    which doesn't include soaking in the water (just wetting with saliva) and playing duration is only one minute, then you put it back to dry out and play the next day for 4 times in a row.
    2- http://voices.yahoo.com/breaking-sax...63.html?cat=33
    that recommend soaking the reed in the water but recommends playing for 2 to 4 minutes. It has the same 4 times approach before finishing the break in process.

    Do I need to really soak them in the water? How about pressing on the reed from bottom to the tip after soaking? Is it that sensitive that if it is more than 1 or 2 minutes playing, it would wreck the reed? The other difference is not playing very low notes or very high notes recommended in the second source but not in the first one. Is it too much vibration frequency or domain that has to be avoided? I imagine blowing hard could damage the new reed but didn't know about the very low or high notes.

    Is there any other typical online source that sax players use for the break in procedure?

    Does it make a difference which mouthpiece opening you use or what reed strength or model you use? For instance harder reed takes longer time to break in, etc?

    How about the sanding procedure? Is there any online source for that?

    Thanks a lot.

  2. #2
    Allen Halstead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    hate to sound snippy or derogatory ... but i grew up without "online" knowledge ... a lot of teacher input and a lot of trial and error .... for me the best reed break-in is:
    1) Open box
    2) Remove reed from box
    3) Unwrap reed
    4) place in mouth while you walk around putting horns together, cleaning studio, or call your agent regarding the next gig
    5) put on mouthpiece
    6) wail away ....

    if needed (and i RARELY do this part) use a little rush or sand paper to remove some material on the heavy side ...

    7) be very careful with reed ... they are so darn expensive

    No need to get overly concerned with the "online" sources and discrepancies you find ... as Nike says ..."Just do it!"
    Tenor ..1973 Selmer Mark VI #211xxx .... RPC .115B ... Vandoren M/O lig ...
    Alto ...Yanagisawa A991 #320XXX....RPC .090B ... Vandoren M/O lig ....
    Sop.... CB Vintage Reborn .... RPC .080...... Brancher gold Lig ....

  3. #3
    Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2010 magical pig's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed


  4. #4
    Forum Contributor 2013 ricanna's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Hi arya,

    You can find most of the answers from the "Reeds" subsection in this forum. http://forum.saxontheweb.net/forumdisplay.php?43-Reeds

    There're many methods and procedures to break-in a reed. Player A may massage the reed after soaking for 15 minutes and scrape and play only G1 to G2, while player B would just pull new reed straight from box, slap on the mpc and go wail. It's quite a personal thing I think. You'd probably get as many procedures as there are people answering your questions.

    But in general sense, IMO:
    a) Do what you feel comfortable with. If you think soaking is good, go for it. If you're worried too high/low notes will damage the reed, then don't do it.
    b) Cane Reeds' quality vary a lot. Even within the same batch of the finest brand, there are some variance between each reed. If you start to follow certain procedure, stick with it on more reeds before you draw your conclusion whether such procedure works or not.
    Ricanna is only a sequence of letters I randomly picked as an "internet ID". I have no idea it is a valid female name. Just for clarification, I am male.

  5. #5
    Distinguished SOTW member/Official SOTW Sister bandmommy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    There are CRAPLOADS of online sources that show you how to adjust reeds. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are your friends.
    My break in is: Put reed in mouth while putting horn together. Play.
    If it has issues take it off and hit the problem areas with sand paper. Play.
    I don't 'baby' my reeds. The first time on the mouthpiece they get the full range of the horn at all volumes for the entire practice session.
    I'm too damned old to be farting around with swapping reeds every 5 minutes.
    Old reed players are like fine wine. They only get better with age. Tom Hagen

    Play the Music, not the instrument.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Here's mine:

    Take reed out of box
    Insert into mouth for less than 1 minute
    Put on mouthpiece
    Blow

  7. #7
    SOTW Administrator hakukani's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    I agree with Allen and Saxy.

    If I wanted to play with reeds, I would have stayed with oboe.
    Sound guy theory of relativity: E=mc^2 (+or- 3dB)
    Sax player theory of relativity: E=mc^2 (+or- .010" at the tip)
    "Free jazz is the vegemite of the musical world. It's an acquired taste."-J. Jacques

  8. #8

    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    I find the following works for me, but it will depend on your set-up if it is correct for you . ..

    ` I use Vandoren V-16 Size 3 on Alto, tenor, and Soprano.
    ` I use 400 grit sandpaper and place the reed on the sandpaper on a piece of glass I had cut at the glass store.
    ` I leave the tip on the glass (about half a pinky nail length).
    ` I then sand the reed until the label is removed from the back of the reed.
    ` I then sand the reed from the top of the reed (bark) to the tip. I do this LIGHTLY. This is only to remove any microscopic burrs.
    ` I then wet the reed in my mouth while assembling the horn and play the following:
    LOW Bb, C, B, C, C#, C, B, Bb as fast as possible
    then a chromatic scale from Bb to E Altissimo or higher if I am having a good day.
    ` I then play a pivot scale off an octave c that descends chromatically to a low Bb.

    This warms the horn, vibrates the reed and magnifies any issues. I also place the tip on the TABLE of the mouthpiece Perpendicular with my thumb squeezing the tip to the table and LIGHTLY tap the bark of the reed very carefully and then pull the reed out to create a flat and even tip.

    The end result is a well playing reed that should play in tune and balanced. If you still have trouble, try rubbing the reed WHILE ON THE MOUTHPIECE AND ON THE HORN with you thumb from the Bark to the tip back and forth really fast. i.e. similar how you rub the glue off with friction that is left on your body when removing a bandage. You do the same to the reed here back and forth. This warms the reed and once again will help it play balanced and with good intonation.

    Hope it helps.
    Yanisigawa Curve Sop - Selmer S80 & Bay Lig., Yamaha Alto 875 Custom with Silver Plate G3 Neck - Selmer Soloist C# & Van. Opt. Lig., Jupiter Silver Plate 989SG Ten - Meyer 6 & Van. Opt. Lig., 1950's Martin Bari - Yamaha 5c, Bose T1 ToneMatch Pre, & Beyer and Sennheiser Mics / www.RhythmRockets.net / www.KrestonSmith.com / http://www.BartlettMusicStore.com

  9. #9
    Indistinguishable Resident Buescher Bigot and 2014 Forum Contributor maddenma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    I see a very long thread repeat in our future.....
    1926 Buescher True Tone Series III Gold Plated Soprano -- Morgan Vintage 6
    1936 Buescher Custom Built Bare Brass Baritone -- Strathon 8*
    1938 Buescher Aristocrat "Custom Built" Gold Plated Baritone -- Strathon 8*
    1939 Buescher Aristocrat Silver Plated Series I Alto -- Ishimori Traditional Jazz 7, TW Durga 8
    1947 Buescher 400 B-11 "Top Hat & Cane" Bare Brass Tenor -- TW Durga 8
    1949 Buescher Aristocrat "Big B" Lacquer Alto -- Ishimori Traditional Jazz 7
    1949 Buescher Aristocrat Gold Plated "Big B" Tenor -- TW Durga 8
    1980-something Yamaha YBS-61 Baritone -- Strathon 8*



    Nothing works so well in gathering information as a display of ignorance. I've been learning a lot lately.


  10. #10
    Allen Halstead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Quote Originally Posted by bandmommy View Post
    I don't 'baby' my reeds. The first time on the mouthpiece they get the full range of the horn at all volumes for the entire practice session.
    I'm too damned old to be farting around with swapping reeds every 5 minutes.
    +1 +1 +1 !!!

    Except I may not be "too damned old...." I am just oldER.... Like mommy says "Play"...you should listen to Mommy .... I have a boat load of reeds right now left over from my Equinox and Phil-tone Meyer experimental days. I center my playiing around Vandoren java 3's ..... but when i get low on reeds, and to poor to buy some new ones I use whatever 2.5 or 3.5 may be around ...play the gig, get paid and buy some new reeds ...
    Tenor ..1973 Selmer Mark VI #211xxx .... RPC .115B ... Vandoren M/O lig ...
    Alto ...Yanagisawa A991 #320XXX....RPC .090B ... Vandoren M/O lig ....
    Sop.... CB Vintage Reborn .... RPC .080...... Brancher gold Lig ....

  11. #11
    Distinguished SOTW Member Agent27's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    I wish I could not "baby" my reeds, but if I didn't break them then they'd never last a gig. A classical alto reed right out of the box may not last 30 minutes for me. I think it might have something to do with the humidity in the area. Reeds seem to work better and last longer for me when I go further inland. Oh well.

    First, I don't soak my reeds in water. I think constantly wetting and drying reeds has a negative effect because it makes the fibers of the reed swell and contract repeatedly. The solution is to not get them overly wet. Keeping them wet all the time works too. Believe it or not, if you waterlog a reed, it plays fine, but letting it dry out will cause havoc. But if you keep it wet in a bottle somewhere it'll continue to play fine as long as you never let it dry out. The other method is easier though.

    Anyway, I just soak it in my mouth for a minute or so. Saliva is more corrosive that water but the reed won't get as wet which is what I prefer. I want a moist reed but not a soaked one.

    First day I play a minute. 2nd day I play 2 minutes. 3rd-6th day I play 4 minutes. I play long tones. The first 3 days I start around middle Bb and go down chromatically as far as I can before time runs out, giving each note a full breath. On the 3rd day, if I reach low Bb before 4 minutes is up, I just stop. On days 4-6 I go up chromatically. Day 4 starting on Low D, Day 5 starting on Low G, and Day 6 starting on middle C. I usually get through somewhere between and octave and an octave + 5th before time runs out. The first few days I play mezzo piano and then move more into mezzo forte and forte.

    Sometimes I'll adjust my reeds if they need it after the first 2 or 3 days and sometimes I'll wait until after the 6th day. Depends on how I feel. If a reed doesn't play very well at all, I'll do it sooner and if it still doesn't play well after adjustments then I'll throw it out.

    And that's pretty much it. More intensive than some, less than others.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    pop the brand new reed into the mouth. put on the mouthpiece and blow. if this brings too much resistance, I will just put on another of the weaker strength and repeat wetting the reed in my mouthpiece before the next gig/practice.
    Music - His gift, my duty, our fellowship 3Jn2
    Yanagisawa A992 Alto, Yamaha YAS-62 Alto & YTS-62 Tenor, Selmer Paris Series II Soprano Sax

  13. #13
    Distinguished SOTW Member RandyJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    I'm not going to tell you how to condition or break in a reed. I'll tell you there are several sources for you to go to for some ideas. The old Larry Teal Art of Saxophone is one also I believe most of the major reed manufactures give recommendations on their websites.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    (1) Moisten reed. (2) Affix reed to mouthpiece. (3) Blow.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Well, I appreciate your responses but I am still in the same situation. Too many diverse responses. I found the same situation with older thread about the same subject. I guess I was hoping to get response from the ones that tried With and Without break in for the same reed model, mouthpiece, etc. and tell me the experience they had to compare the consistency, life, etc. and trying to find a middle ground, something that perhaps prolongs the consistency and life of a reed without too much calculation and steps 1 to 20.
    I contacted Rico and they just said play it only for 5 to 10 minutes for the first few times and then you should be good after that.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Quote Originally Posted by bandmommy View Post
    I'm too damned old to be farting...
    Depends?
    Go for The Tone,

    g



    "When you are doing well, don't forget to do good." - Sichan Siv.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    From Alexander Reeds:

    http://www.superial.com/mainten_breakin.html

    Breaking In A New Reed

    We suggest that you break the reeds in by first soaking them for about 2-4 minutes in lukewarm to warm water, and making sure that the whole vamp, and not just the tip alone, gets wet (a reed that is too dry or only wet at the very tip might tend to squeak). Some players, especially in dry weather, prefer a little more soaking time and a some others like immersing the whole reed in the water. Then again, if you soak it for too long, it may end up becoming waterlogged, so try a balanced approach. And make sure you wet the reed each succeeding time you play thereafter, though you may find that as it gets broken in, less soaking time will be necessary.

    After the soaking is operation is done, place the reed you want to prepare on glass or a similar flat surface and massage it (starting from the back of the vamp slope) with your finger or fingers several strokes forward towards the tip, in order to help close off the fiber ends and stabilize the cane.

    Then comes the break-in secret, which is certainly no original idea of mine, but a time tested practice for reed longevity:

    Break in the reeds you prepare by only playing them at no louder than mp-m and for the first day only a few minutes and maybe 5-10 minutes the second day.

    By breaking them in at mezzo or softer and for not too long in the first couple of days, the reeds should last longer and be more stable for full bore playing later. Playing them all out in fortissimo from the first 2 days might overstress the tips.

    The exception to the break in is: If the new reed you try feels a good bit too hard, you can skip the break in period and just play in normally from the first day.

    A tendency of these reeds is to harden a little after a few days of playing, so you may find a slightly softer reed that will end up being perfect in a few days after break in. If you find a reed that is too hard even if you skip the break in.
    Go for The Tone,

    g



    "When you are doing well, don't forget to do good." - Sichan Siv.

  18. #18
    Distinguished SOTW Member LateNiteSax's Avatar
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    YES I likes it! All this reed prep procedure is lunacy. Thats 220 wetordry sandpaper by the way. Heres a serious time saving tip.... Place a few dry reeds, new or old, in a small bowl in about 1" of water, in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. This saves you 3-5 minutes of soaking, and helps force water INTO the reed which helps with warping on the flat and tip.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Halstead View Post
    hate to sound snippy or derogatory ... but i grew up without "online" knowledge ... a lot of teacher input and a lot of trial and error .... for me the best reed break-in is:
    1) Open box
    2) Remove reed from box
    3) Unwrap reed
    4) place in mouth while you walk around putting horns together, cleaning studio, or call your agent regarding the next gig
    5) put on mouthpiece
    6) wail away ....

    if needed (and i RARELY do this part) use a little rush or sand paper to remove some material on the heavy side ...

    7) be very careful with reed ... they are so darn expensive

    No need to get overly concerned with the "online" sources and discrepancies you find ... as Nike says ..."Just do it!"
    "We sax players need to stick together and save the world." Sonny Rollins, 1993 after a show.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Quote Originally Posted by LateNiteSax View Post
    Heres a serious time saving tip.... Place a few dry reeds, new or old, in a small bowl in about 1" of water, in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
    How's that any different from using warm tap water? Baddabing - just saved another 15 seconds!

    Seriously tho', are you claiming that the microwave does something beyond heating the water?
    Go for The Tone,

    g



    "When you are doing well, don't forget to do good." - Sichan Siv.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Break In Procedure for Saxophone Reed

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr G View Post
    How's that any different from using warm tap water? Baddabing - just saved another 15 seconds!

    Seriously tho', are you claiming that the microwave does something beyond heating the water?
    It makes the reeds softer and easier to chew. But I personally prefer mine sauteed with a bit of olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. They're much tastier that way.
    "We don't determine music, the music determines us; We only follow it to the end of our life: then it goes on without us." -- Steve Lacy


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