Making the Most of Your Lesson
How to Practice (letter to Parents and Students)
Study Guide for Solos
Sample Music / Recordings Available
The reed adjustment chart will be a good place to start for those wishing to have reeds that play better. VERY few reeds will play well as they come from the manufacturer. Several books have been written on the subject of reed adjustment, and I can recommend some for those interested. At the very least you should pay attention to the initial conditioning of reeds and the inevitable warping of the table of the reed.
Before playing a reed for the first time it must be conditioned if you wish it to last and play well. Proper conditioning will result in a reed lasting perhaps ten times as long as well as responding much better.
Follow this procedure:
- Soak 4 or 5 reeds for 5 minutes in a glass of water.
- Place the reeds on a piece of glass or Plexiglas with the table down for 24 hours.
- Repeat steps #1 and #2 for a total of 3 cycles (3 days). Then you can start to play the reeds.
Many players use a marking system for their reeds. I personally place my best reeds to the right of the "line" of reeds. As an example, I have perhaps 16 reeds in this "lineup" that I use for practice. I move the best reeds into my reed guard. If a reed starts sounding questionable I simply replace it with the reed at the right of the line. You might use a marking system for your reed guard to accomplish the same thing.
I practice on a reed for 30 minutes at a time. and then I change reeds. This results in two things: 1) the reeds last longer, and 2) my embouchure learns to adjust to differences in reeds. The absolute worst thing you can do is to play one reed continuously until it "wears out". As you play reeds, they gradually get softer. As you play your one and only reed you adjust to the change, and your embouchure gradually relaxes more and more. When you then put on a new reed the idea is that you have to "break in" the new reed. What you are really doing is "breaking in" your embouchure to the new reed.
Always have at least 4 reeds in your reed guard. Change reeds every day. Mark your reed guard with tape or a marker so you can identify the reeds. All reeds will warp, and when they do the response suffers. If you experience "chirping", the reeds is usually warped (if all reeds "chirp" for you, your mouthpiece could be warped). The table must be flattened on a piece of glass or Plexiglas using #320 waterproof (sometimes called "wet or dry") sandpaper. This sandpaper can be purchased in the paint department of most hardware stores. I will try to have on hand a supply of Plexiglas pieces for students. A small piece of glass is also handy for checking on the "flatness" of the reed table. We will cover the procedure in lessons.
A few words regarding the instructions for reed adjustment. Very few players that I know use Dutch Rush to adjust reeds. This was used for a VERY long time - starting with the first use of cane reeds for playing instruments. Most modern players adjust with a reed knife or sandpaper. Until you feel the need, I would forego the use of the reed knife. It is very easy to ruin the reed with a reed knife unless you are skilled.
There is a popular misconception regarding the proper reed strength that states that the more advanced you are, the harder reed you use. This is quite simply incorrect. The reed strength must match the tip opening of the mouthpiece. "Open" facings require more flexibility and softer reeds. "Closed" facings require harder reeds. Most students play medium facing mouthpieces that require reeds from #2 to #3 1/2 reeds. There are always exceptions, so we will cover this in lessons.