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Jazz Sax Lessons: Eric's Reed Tips

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Okay, here are some ideas for
you for how to deal with our
nemesis the reed, [SOUND].
So in the basic section I
talked about different ways to
work with the reed in terms
of where to sand it, and
what points do you want to leave alone,
what parts you want to,
you know, that are sort of available to
sand without messing them up irreparably.
And what I talked about was
just as a recap making sure
that you stay away from
the hard of the reed.
Because in my experience,
no matter what size the reed is,
you want that hard,
you need that resistance.
And then the tip of the reed also,
it's already quite thin.
And one or two swipes and
it's gonna get, to me anyway,
my experience is that any
dealing with the very, very,
very tip of the reed,
is that it's going to get too soft.
If you, even were to use a little
sandpaper on it a little bit.
So you can deal with the rails,
the sides of the reed in here,
and also the points, these two sides
here and here, away from the middle,
or the heart, and down about that
far from the tip of the reed.
So those are the areas where you
can kind of take some sandpaper.
Also in that lesson in the basics
session too, we took our reed and
showed it to you through the light and you
could see the fibers, and the thickness of
the reed on one side or the other,
and you could kind of tell from that
what side you might want to take
a little bit of wood off of.
Again, what you're doing in that regard,
just do a little teeny bit at a time,
because you can't put it back on.
You can always take it off,
can't put it back on.
So and then I wanna mention, too, that I
didn't mention before is that I, just so
you know, I never clip the tip
of my reeds, I used to.
I used to clip the tips of my
reeds before even trying them.
If I did that now I would get nothing but
I don't know how in the world I managed to
get a sound by doing that, but I did for
whatever reason I just needed not
the reed to be a higher strength number,
but I just needed it to be thicker on
the tip, and that's what felt right.
In my opinion, and
the opinion of a lot of people,
reeds over the years have
just changed in varying ways.
But that could be,
I don't know one general thing
about the nature of the cane.
Anyway, what I wanna talk to you
though about, is one thing you
can do if a reed,
if you like it a lot, but
it's starting to get a bit on
the older side, but you still like it.
You still wanna work it, or if it's
new and it feels a little bit softer,
be aware that you can adjust
the resistance of the feel of the reed
by where it is on the mouthpiece
either high or low.
These adjustments are very slight,
so it's not like your
reed is going to be hanging off an inch
above the top of your mouthpiece.
And certainly not down so
far where you can see the.
Chamber or anything, but if I for
instance feel like the reed feels good,
getting a little bit soft or it's
just a little bit soft to begin with but
I want to play it, even if it's brand new.
I'll take my reed and
bring it up a little bit, so
if you can get a close in shot
of this amazing action here.
If you can see where it is now,
if you're able to see that,
you can see that there's a little bit of
mouth piece, the tip of the mouth piece is
visible beyond the tip of the reed meaning
that the reed is a bit down this way.
So that must mean that this
reed might feel a little bit.
Soft, which is why I've got it down
that way, excuse me, it feels hard.
So if the reed does feel soft
you wanna bring it that way.
Okay, so I've gotta bring it
up a little bit like that.
It's microscopic, I couldn't even
give you a millimeter count but
it's just a little bit.
So I'll screw it back on.
I like to screw the back screw
by the way of my ligature.
If you got a ligature with two screws,
I like to screw the back one on first.
It just sets the reed
better in my experience.
And I've had years of experience.
So when I play this reed now it's going to
feel a little bit harder because the reed
is up the mouthpiece a bit.
voila it does.
So if that were to feel a little bit hard
or if the reed feels hard or whatever,
then I'm gonna bring it down
the mouthpiece that way.
So and I would do that,
if I'm having trouble with
my low notes coming out,
if I'm having trouble with my articulation
and the reed just feels a little hard,
it's not allowing me to,
you know, articulate smoothly.
So I'm going to bring it down a little
tiny bit, but if you can measure that,
that's even a lot.
You know, I mean we're talking
just a tiny weeny bit were you can
see a little bit of the top
of the mouth piece.
Yeah right there.
So now,
I don't know if you can hear
the difference,
the feeling of the difference is enormous.
So that's low for me.
That makes this reed feel too soft,
so I'm gonna bring it back here.
General default for
where to put the reed up or down is so
that the tip of the reed, and
the tip of the mouthpiece are right even.
Some people,I don't experiment with this
sometimes, but I do sometimes like to
offset the reed either a little bit to one
side or a little bit to the other side.
And that has to do wiith the balance
of the reed, every reed is different.
And unfortunately, it's not like
a guitar string, or a base string,
where you're dealing with
a completely man made thing.
Every reed company will tell you,
and for good reason that they
cut their reeds so
incredibly precisely that
the original cuts that you're
getting are really, really exact.
But, we're dealing with
a natural piece of wood,
every one is gonna be entirely different.
So to compensate for
that difference in each reed,
it might help to push
the reed to one side.
Bend it that way a little bit, and I'm
talking a little teeny bit, because if you
have it too far, like I have it right now
it's probably not even barely visible,
but it's off definitely you can feel it.
Where it's off this way
a little teeny bit.
It adjusts, it's a slight difference, but
anyway it adjusts the balance of
the reed in relation to the mouthpiece.
When you do that be just be careful
because now you're creating an edge
On one side and
it might cut your bottom lip.
Not cut it, but I mean you know,
make it uncomfortable, could cut it.
It does feel, it feels funny but you know,
interestingly it doesn't play badly and
it might even play better.
Now it is a little bit stuffy.
I am going to bring it back and
put it over to my right, this way.
A little teeny bit.
Again a very slight diferrence here.
Tighten that back up.
Back Screw frist.
Did you notice that.
Wow, it sounds way brighter.
That's amazing actually.
That's a good place for this reed.
So yeah so check that out.
So yeah,
that feels better actually.
So, again, every reed is gonna
be different and it's gonna be.
So it's worth that experiment.
Again, all four of these different
positions, up, down, side,
side are Really slight.
So, I'm going to compare that now to just
straight on even side to side, okay.
So, here we go.
Almost the same, and
it's more comfortable for
me to have it down the middle.
But I tell ya, if this reed felt as stuffy
down the middle as it did off to the left,
and it felt as open as
it did to the right,
I would definitely slant
it off to the right.
I know I've said this a hundred times,
but very slightly that.
So I'm gonna talk about
ligatures in another lesson, but
just so you've got a little idea.
In the same way that it's
good to experiment up and
down with the reed, you wanna do
the same thing with your ligature.
So there's no set place,
that's why I'm not in favor of mouthpieces
that have ligatures that
aren't adjustable, because
the adjustment exactly where the ligature
is on the mouthpiece is a huge difference.
The closer to the tip of
the mouthpiece that ligature is set,
the slightly closer, more closed the reed
is to the tip of the mouthpiece.
And it's gonna make the reed feel softer.
It's gonna make the tip opening smaller,
it's gonna make the whole thing feel
more close or easier to play, really.
But then if you feel like the reed is
too soft or the mouthpiece is too close,
then we bring the ligature
down [SOUND] that way.
And that opens up the tip opening,
not visibly but it does.
And it will make a softer
reed feel a little harder.
So there you go.
So there are some ideas on how you can
adjust your reed, in terms of position.
Another thing I want to mention,
too, is about keeping it wet.
I'm, again in the basic reed
lesson I did discuss this too,
but I'm a firm believer not everybody.
But, hey, you're at my school.
So, [LAUGH] my school, my rules, man.
When you're thinking about how to keep
the reed lasting as long as it can,
my opinion,
my tip is that once a reed gets wet,
keep it wet, okay?
You don't have to keep it drenched but
keep it wet.
So I'll run through my little
bit with you whenever I'm done
with the gig or whatever.
So in order to keep my reed wet,
I wanna keep it clean.
But [LAUGH] as should you.
So you finished your practice routines.
You finished your gig, whatever.
I take my ligature off.
Take the reed off.
I clean it off on the edge of
my mouthpiece very lightly.
It's not gonna be dirty on the top part,
only on the inside chamber, flat side.
I put it back, then, very carefully,
because we don't wanna break our reed.
We definitely don't wanna
break our reed on camera.
There we go, okay, so,
back on the mouthpiece it goes,
back screw first.
Then I always put my cap back on.
Man, probably the most
important thing in this lesson
is to make sure that you always put your
mouthpiece cap back on your mouthpiece.
I can't tell you how many times I put my
horn on the stand, and something will
hit the reed, or will hit my mouthpiece
cap, because I put my cap back on.
And had the cap not been on,
my reed would have been broken, or worse,
could have hit the mouthpiece you know.
So put that back on, as always, and
then when I'm putting my horn away,
I'll take I'll take this whole thing off,
my neck off, and leave this all set.
And wrap this up in my little towel,
put it in my bell and
put the horn in the case.
And the whole thing is now together.
And because it's sort of
wrapped not airtight but close,
the reed acts as its own humidifier and
so it'll stay wet.
I can, you know, I travel a ton in
different humidities, and things.
And if I wake up the next morning,
get up and do a warm up or
whatever, take the horn out of the case,
put it all back together and
I take off my mouthpiece cap and
the reed still looks like that.
It still looks moist and
it still feels moist and
still feels just like it did when
I put it away the day before.
So if you're gonna do that but
it's gonna be longer than a day or
so before you're gonna play, I mean,
you don't wanna start creating a biology
experiment in your case or anything.
But I'm not opposed,
at all to like getting a little piece
of anything, paper towel or whatever,
and making it a little moist and
putting it in my case, and kind of creates
a little moisture inside your case, and
then it'll last for a little longer.
It's kinda good to keep the horn,
you don't want it to turn green,
but it's good to keep, you don't
want the pads to dry out terribly.
That's if you're gonna, you know,
not play for a long long time.
So doing that is a good idea.
Another thing I might do,
is take my mouthpiece, or
the mouthpiece and neck,
put that in a plastic ziplock bag,
and then put a not a super
wet piece of paper towel.
But just moisten it a little,
teeny bit, wring it out,
put it in a plastic bag and
that'll keep it moist.
If I'm traveling and
I'm traveling all day and
I'm not going to be playing until
the next day, I do that and it works.
If you go a couple of days, or
rather longer than a couple of days,
then no it doesn't work as well and
you get kinda the slime factor
happening which we don't want to have.
So there you go,
try to keep your reed wet.
You can try a reed humidifier,
there's a lot things in the market.
I don't have great luck with those things
but it's not like I've tried every one.
So perhaps there's some product out
there that is good that I'm unaware of.
But this is kinda the low-tech,
sure-fire way to keep your reed
in good playing condition.
And there you go, okay.
So now you know all kinds of different
ways to deal with our enemy.
Our sworn enemy, the reeds,
their expensive, their temperamental.
Only one plays out of a box sometimes!
But by doing these tips it does,
hedge the bets for us, and
it'll help you get the most out
of the reeds that you have.
There you go.
Good luck.