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Thread: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Fader's Avatar
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    Default Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    We recently landed some outdoor summer concert series gigs. (as the opening act). In anticipation of high humidity and extreme heat, I decided I'd try to switch to synthetics. I bought a couple of Legeres for both my alto and tenor and have been playing them steadily for two days now - I just can't seem to find the "sweet spot" with these things.....I'm going for the highs and "klunk" - This is obviously unacceptable come showtime - The studio cut seems a bit better than the regular, but I'm still way off my standard.

    Should I stick with it, or call it a loss and go back to cane? (I realize the decision is mine - just interested in the thoughts of those of you using them - or not)

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    If they're not working, then they're not working. I find the one I have to be harder than advertised. You can send them for a swap in strength.
    PB Bare Brass Vintage Tenor - LAW Buzzer/ Morgan 8E
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    Lightbulb Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Try Fibracells, they are much closer to cane soundwise than Legeres IMHO.
    Just take a higher strength than what you're using for cane (be it Premier or regular).
    S: Buffet -- Nicolas Tréfeil refaced unmarked Babbitt; A: Couesnon, Dolnet -- NT refaced Riffault & Meyer 5 replica; T: D&J -- NT modified Riffault; B: Weltklang -- NT refaced Chinese metal mpc

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Go back to and stick with cane. Nothing sounds better-I can hear those fake reeds and pick the player using them out of a section, ducks quacking. Fine for marching band, and lazy people, but not for real work. The issues with cane can be annoying but are surmountable and it's just part of the job.
    "there are two means of refuge from the misery of life-music and cats," Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas View Post
    Go back to and stick with cane. Nothing sounds better
    Had it only been so that "cane" was a regular thing... I have played countless cane reeds, and I must honestly say that I have no idea what cane "sounds like", because the differences between reeds, even from within the same brand, are so great.

    -I can hear those fake reeds and pick the player using them out of a section, ducks quacking. Fine for marching band, and lazy people, but not for real work. The issues with cane can be annoying but are surmountable and it's just part of the job.
    I sound better with Légère synthetics than I do with "regular" cane reeds, because they're flat and consistent, throughout the range of the horn. For me, choosing synthetics is only partially a choice based on my laziness and mostly a choice based on their reliability. And yes, cane is horrendously annoying!

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    Distinguished SOTW Member Bebopalot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    I have found that it takes me more than just two days to get what I want from the Legere's. I start out wanting to throw them away (as far as possible) and end up using them because of their consistency. Keep them and play them once in a while. You might get surprised. Once mine "break in", they are no different than cane (for me). Fibracell's get softer but maintain a very buzzy sound that works only for my darkest mouthpieces.

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    I'm a convert to synthetics and have adapted my expectations accordingly. What hardness and style are you using? What are your mouthpiece specs? I really like Legeres — but AhCheung has a good suggestion as well; Fibracells may work for you if Legeres don't.
    Yamaha TS62 - Warburton LA; P. Mauriat 66R - Sakshama FL; Legeres
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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Thomas, beware of blanket statements calling synthetic reed users "lazy." I've been playing Fibracells on baritone for nine years now and I enjoy the consistency I get from reed to reed. I do not think these reeds sound that much different from cane, and neither do the other musicians I perform with in big bands and small ensembles.

    I also do not like Fibracells on anything except baritone, as I have had no luck getting an acceptable sound using Fibracells on alto, clarinet, or bass clarinet. I have had good success with Legere on bass clarinet, but I had to buy three of them in different strengths to find the best one for me.

    Synthetics are NOT for everyone - with this view I agree - but don't put those of us who prefer to use synthetics in the same boat with the "lazy."

    Matso Limtiaco
    Snohomish WA

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Quote Originally Posted by MPL View Post
    Thomas, beware of blanket statements calling synthetic reed users "lazy."
    Yeah, I thought this was kind of odd; and so unnecessary. I don't put down cane users, "You bunch of moldy figs! Get with the action!" I use Legere's as do many others — jazz, pop, and classical — because they work for me. No, they're not "equivalent" to cane, but "vive le difference!" If you don't like them, fine .... but don't insult the people who use them.
    Yamaha TS62 - Warburton LA; P. Mauriat 66R - Sakshama FL; Legeres
    Vito (Beaugnier) Baritone/HR Berg 105/1/M
    Buffet Greenline Clarinet; Yamaha 221-II Bass Clarinet

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Quote Originally Posted by MPL View Post
    Thomas, beware of blanket statements calling synthetic reed users "lazy." I've been playing Fibracells on baritone for nine years now and I enjoy the consistency I get from reed to reed. I do not think these reeds sound that much different from cane, and neither do the other musicians I perform with in big bands and small ensembles.

    I also do not like Fibracells on anything except baritone, as I have had no luck getting an acceptable sound using Fibracells on alto, clarinet, or bass clarinet. I have had good success with Legere on bass clarinet, but I had to buy three of them in different strengths to find the best one for me.

    Synthetics are NOT for everyone - with this view I agree - but don't put those of us who prefer to use synthetics in the same boat with the "lazy."

    Matso Limtiaco
    Snohomish WA
    Interesting, Matso,

    I mainly play bari and haven't had much luck with Fibracells on bari (Lawton 130 open metal on MK VI), but use Fibracells on clarinet, alto, and tenor, with pretty good success. I use a Legere contrabass clarinet on my bass sax, too, and it works for me.

    Al Carter,
    Kirkland, WA

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Fader,

    It took me a couple of months to adjust my chops to Legere reeds before I was completely comfortable with them.

    I, too, started trying Legere because of a scheduled series of outdoor big band jobs several years ago. I knew the heat and humidy would play havac with my reeds...especially, in doubling. So, I gave myself a good amount of time to get used to Legeres and (very importantly) to determine which cut and strength worked best for me on each horn. On clarinet I settled on a #3 Quebec and on tenor a #2.5 regular cut. It seemed to me at the time that a #2.5 regular Legere was fairly comparable to a #3 Alexander Classique. After a lot of sheding I felt ready to use Legeres at the first gig.

    When we played the outdoor gig it was, as I suspected, really hot & humid. Several of my buddies in the sax section were having trouble with their reeds. Whereas, I played away on the Legeres, sounded good, had a big sound, and a smile on my face. Remarkably, NO ONE in the band or audience indicated that there was anything different about my sound or playing. From that point on I was sold on Legere and I've been using them exclusively for the past 3 years.

    There are some tricks or things to know about in getting optimal results with Legere reeds. If you do a search you should be able to find the postings where I've gone into a good amount of detail. However, in a nutshell....

    1.) Placement of the Legere tip against the mouthpiece tip rail is critical. This, just in itself, can make a huge difference in the quality of your sound and playing. After a lot of experimentation I've found that I get the best results with the reed tip directly against the end of the tip rail; however, the reed tip does not extend beyond the tip rail. To do this I put the reed and lig on, press my thumb down on the reed so the reed tip closes down on the tip rail, I made necessary placement adjustments, and tighten the ligature.

    2.) Placement of the ligature. A number of years ago Ralph Morgan recommended to me to place the front edge of the ligature (side toward the mouthpiece tip) against the back edge of the U-shaped cut of the reed. This is a more forward position than what some players use. I experimented with the ligature in different positions with Legere reeds and I discovered that Ralph's advice gives me the best results in terms of tonal clarity and response.

    3.) As it's mentioned in a downloadable manual on the Legere web site, Legere reeds soften a bit after about an hour of heavy playing. Thus, Guy Legere recommends that Legere reeds be used in rotation. I normally have around 4 reeds in my reed case and swap reeds after an hour or so during a break. I've become used to this and don't think of it as being a big deal. After a reed is given a period of rest (I haven't firgued it out exactly...most likely several hours) it returns to its original strength. The 1 hour is only a rule-of-thumb. Once I went for 2 hours on a Legere tenor reed before noticing a change in my sound and response.

    4.) Legere reeds can sound absolutely terrible with some ligatures & mouthpiece facings and remarkably well on others. By pure trial & error I've found ligatures and mouthpieces that work exceptionally well with Legere reeds and for me as a player. For example, in my experience FL and floating rail ligatures do not seal Legere reeds correctly. It's blown my mind at times when I've tested a mouthpiece and my Legere reed sounded really, really bad. Then, I put the same reed on another mouthpiece and the sound is drop-dead gorgeous. (This has nothing to do with matching reed strength and a particular mouthpiece. Rather, there's something subtle going on between the Legere reed and the mouthpiece facing.)

    These are the main things that come to mind right now. See if you can find the posting where I went into more detail about things I've discovered about Legere reeds.

    I invested a lot of time and effort into making Legere reeds work for me. If it was a cane reed I don't think I would have done that. I would tossed the particular cane reed aside and went on to something else. But, when I first tried Legere reeds I saw their potential. Given that most of my playing involves doubling, I had been dreaming of a synthetic reed that I'd like as well as my favorite cane reeds. But, until I tried Legere every synthetic reed I played went into the trash can.

    As with ANY piece of musical equipment, one's choice of reeds is entirely relative and comes down to what works well for us as individual players.

    Roger
    1936 G.H. Huller alto saxophone, Ralph Morgan 6C mouthpiece, #3 1/2 Legere Signature reeds, Theo Wanne ligature
    1969 Couesnon Monopole Bb clarinet, Walter Grabner K14 mouthpiece, #3 Legere (old) Quebec, Klassik string ligature
    Yamaha bass clarinet, Walter Grabner LB mouthpiece, #3 1/2 Legere standard tenor, Optimum ligature
    Yamaha flute, diMedici alto flute

    Visit my website and listen to my originals: http://www.rogeraldridge.com

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009 warp x's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Great post man, thanks!

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Quote Originally Posted by shotgun View Post
    I'm a convert to synthetics and have adapted my expectations accordingly. What hardness and style are you using? What are your mouthpiece specs? I really like Legeres — but AhCheung has a good suggestion as well; Fibracells may work for you if Legeres don't.

    ya mon....I'm using a Plastic Larry Teal Selmer mpc on the tenor (Sa80) and Meyer #7 Metal mpc on the alto..(Jupiter 869sg) I've got the studio cut 2.5 on both - I at least liked them better than the reg cut 2.5's. I had a practice today and just didn't feel comfortable enough to play the synthetics - After 2 days working with them, going back to the cane was awesome - My high notes flat out screamed (wich is what was causing problems with the Legeres)

    I'm going to give the legeres a couple of days longer though....I'd like to be able to go synthetic. And so what about being "lazy" - Why walk when you can drive? With two saxes, a wind controller, and a guitar on stage I can go a half hour before I pick up a given horn and I need them both to respond consistantly and instantly. Frequently the first note is the wialer at the front of a solo - not exactly the best time for a "squawk"...

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Thanks to SOTW, I've been going through a period of reed GAS. My long-time cane reed is/was Rico Select Jazz. I tried VanDorens of all types and some others. Then I tried synthetics. I started a thread here called Fibracell vs. Legere vs. Bari vs. Plasticover. I liked the Fibracell Premier the first time I tried it, but I had trouble with my high controlled squeal. Then I tried Bari and that was similar. Then I tried Legere Studio Cut. I didn't like it at all at first, but what they say about breaking them in proved to be true - after I worked with it for a while, I really liked it. Now for the latest chapter: I got some Plasticovers. When I practiced with one, I liked it right away. It was cane. My squeal would pop out under control. I gigged with it Friday night and really liked it. I may come around full circle and try my Rico Jazz again, but for the next gig I'll stick with the Plasticover. So it goes.

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    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2008 Mope's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    You can scrape Legeres with a razor blade to play beautifully on just about any mouthpiece. If you like a softer reed with a warm tone, these can't be beat. Trim the sides to fit your rails perfectly, and shave the sides nice and thin for low notes like butter. Scrape the top as you would a cane reed. Don't sand. Leave the flat bottom alone and don't mess up the tip. Work slowly and keep testing. When you are happy with it, you will stay happy for a long time.
    The worst-case scenario here is worse than anything you can imagine.

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Thanks- I'll give it a go...

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    PLasticovers are fairly similar to cane, you should try them.

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    You Legere users - your comments are making me want to try my Legere again. I have a Legere 2 for my soprano, and it generally seems very buzzy to me, but some of you are saying that you get a very nice sound from them. Could it be that mine is too soft for me, and that's why it's buzzy? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Lately, I've been using Fibracells, but I've been wondering if the ones I have are too soft, so I just ordered some slightly harder ones. Wondering if I should do the same with Legere.

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Kermit,

    It would be helpful to know what your mouthpiece is and its tip opening size. That said, it may be that a #2 is too soft for your set up....thus the buzz. None of my Legere reeds buzz. All have a really beautiful dark, full sound.

    Also, what kind of ligature are you using?

    Roger
    1936 G.H. Huller alto saxophone, Ralph Morgan 6C mouthpiece, #3 1/2 Legere Signature reeds, Theo Wanne ligature
    1969 Couesnon Monopole Bb clarinet, Walter Grabner K14 mouthpiece, #3 Legere (old) Quebec, Klassik string ligature
    Yamaha bass clarinet, Walter Grabner LB mouthpiece, #3 1/2 Legere standard tenor, Optimum ligature
    Yamaha flute, diMedici alto flute

    Visit my website and listen to my originals: http://www.rogeraldridge.com

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    Default Re: Dissapointed in Synthetic Reeds (sadly)

    Here is my history on Synthetic Reeds:

    I bought a Guardala MB I handmade back in 1995. No matter what I did, the only reeds that worked for me were the Guardala MB Reeds or Fibercells. I was just learning to play the tenor and was involved in the University Jazz Ensemble. I had been an Alto player since 5th grade before that. I digress...Anyways, so I played the Guardala for 10 years happily with the Fibercells. Then I started feeling, well really HEARING, that I wasn't liking the setup as the sound I was getting wasn't what I was after anymore. So I started my quest to find what I wanted in sound. It was in my head, but it wasn't coming out. I consider myself a professional student and performer of the sax. Not jazz musician, not a classical musician, not a - any one style - type player. I prefer to consider myself my own style with influences from around the music world and gravitate towards what I consider to be me :-) I am one to practice hours upon hours a day - warm up, scales, patterns, transcriptions, listening, sight reading, teaching...etc...

    Anyways, I go through as many different types of reeds, Synthetics that I haven't tried, all the major cane reeds and ones that are less known, Ligatures, you name it, more than not, I tried it. I was just seeing if they, number one, work; and number two get me closer to where I want to get to. And over two years of doing this, it just didn't work for me. I had, for me, came to the realization that I had out grown the Guardala and what the sound this mouthpiece represents.

    (there is a point to this story and it does pertain to synthetics)

    So I start concentrating on post on this website about different mouthpiece and after months of reading and researching and talking to over 10 different mouthpiece makers, I picked one. A little over a month later it arrives. I do the same thing I had done in the past; work my tail end off using reeds suggested by the maker of my mouthpiece and some others just to see what works and doesn't and what gets me to the sound in my head. Cane was working great for a while and then after 10 months I was back to squeak-a-dee-squeak-squeak. I am playing great running through all my my stuff playing charts and lead lines and improvising and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, squeak...then I think, ok that was weird, but keep on going and then all of a sudden, out of the blue...squeak. So know I am getting a little freaked...why is this happening...I can't have this happening when i am out playing on a gig. So, after this start happening all the time, I go back to Synthetic reeds, and they are working great, but my sound seems narrower, not as spread, but that's ok, a little more focused sound is fine with me. The mouthpiece I now have is, in my opinion, 10 times better then the Guardala I had. So I play a summer with synthetics and I am just not liking the sound anymore. It sounds fake to me; overly buzzy, the true tone of the sound is hidden, the harmonics are squandered.

    So I go back to my Cane reeds and the squeaks start up again. I talk to the maker of my mouthpiece and asked what reeds I am using and I tell him it doesn't matter because no matter what reed brand I am using, it happens just the same. Then he asks me what ligature I am using, I give him the same answer, no matter what ligature I am using, I still get these out of the blue squeaks. He suggest sending it back an he'll check the rails and the table.

    So I am getting ready to send it to him and an idea pops into my head. A lot of you would have though of this a while ago, and I don't know why I didn't, probable because the mouthpiece maker suggested that I should have to go any higher then a 2 1/2 for his mouthpiece. But I tried a 3...and oh my ... a miracle in more ways then one. The sound I have been searching for for 2 years! Harmonics where they should be, nice spread of the sound, altissimo to die for (for me, anyways). I mean, this is theeee sound that I have always wanted, and just by going up a half a step.

    It has put all the synthetic reeds I have played to shame. I keep them in a glass of tap water and let them soak for a bit and just leave them in there as I rotate them over the hours that I play.

    I am happy!

    -Zach
    Sop: Selmer SA 80 Serie III - Black Laq. - Barone Vintage Mouthpiece

    Alto: Selmer SA 80 Serie II (1985) - Barone NY mthpc - Barone Neck

    Alto: Buescher Big B - Barone NY mthpc - Barone Neck

    Tenor: Keilwerth SX90R Black Nickel Laq - Barone Hollywood 7* (Guardala MB - retired)

    Winslow Ligatures on all (sometimes an original Harrison)

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