Do You Need a Fancy Reed Case?
After over 20 years of using the “El Cheapo” LaVoz/Rico Reedgard which retails for $4.49 for the tenor version, I decided it was time to store my reeds like a big boy. So I went out to my friendly local music store, Baxter Northup and picked up a shiny new Rico Multi-Instrument Reed Vitalizer Case which retails at $19.99.
The Fancy One
The Rico Multi-Instrument Reed Vitalizer Case was pretty to look at and came with a nifty Reed Vitalizer Pack. The Reed Vitalizer Pack is a small packet resembling a handy wipe packet that you’d get at a barbecue restaurant and its purpose is to provide the proper level of humidity to best preserve the quality of your reeds.
Right off the bat, the Rico Multi-Instrument Reed Vitalizer Case poses a challenge, as it’s very easy to damage your reeds by accidentally bumping the tip of your reed on the plastic string that fastens the reed inside the case, so you definitely have to be careful when putting your reeds back in the case. I’ve actually damaged a few reeds this way.
On top of that, once you get the reeds past that pesky plastic string fastener, it’s easy for the reeds to slide to the either side of the track and get smushed up into the railing as you’re sliding the reed back in the case. I’ve made this mistake before as well – which leads me to believe that this is a reed case with a bit of a learning curve.
Worst of all, I found that despite its humidifying technology, reeds stored in this case tend to warp more frequently than those in my El Cheapo Reedgard. This may be due to the fact that the reeds in the Reed Vitalizer case sit on a ridged surface instead of a flat one as in the Reed Guard. In fact, I just now tried taking two severly warped reeds and placing one in the Reed Vitalizer Case and the other in the Reed Guard. After 5 minutes, the winner was clearly the Reed Guard, as that reed was much flatter than its counterpart in the Reed Vitalizer Case. I’ve had the same general result over the past few months as well, so it looks like I’ll be retiring my fancy case for the time-being.
As for me, I’d much rather spend $20 on four Reedgards that work great than spend the same amount of money on a single Reed Vitalizer Case which does a not-so-great job. For once, the El Cheapo triumphs over the fancy!
Check out both for yourself:
So please do chime in, as I’d love to know what you guys’ experiences have been with reed storage
(sounds so sexy when I put it that way, no?)
April 25, 2011 @ 7:41 am
I’m a proponent of keeping things simple. I’ve tried different reed storage methods over the years: vandoren “blue” cases w/ dessicant tube, cheapo la voz thingies, cheapo la voz thingies in a ziploc with a moist sponge, yada yada yada.
A few years ago I switched to the cheapo Vito/LeBlanc 4-reed holders. These have worked better than any other method.
1. they hold 4 reeds, but they’re small enough to fit in my flight case.
2. they do have the ridgies, which I believe help the reed dry out more evenly, minimizing warpage
3. they’re cheap.
For what it’s worth, I explain my $.02 on these in one of my YT vids on breaking in reeds.
Low tech is often best tech.
good stuff, big D!
April 25, 2011 @ 10:25 am
I’ve had one of these for the last couple of years, it has worked fine for me. Never damaged a reed when using it. Reeds store ready to use for me. More than happy with it.
April 25, 2011 @ 12:18 pm
I’ve never had a problem with damaging a reed in the Rico case. What I did have a problem with is mold. It’s already very humid where I live and this case just allowed mold to grow even without a reedvitalizer pack. I don’t have problems with other enclosed cases like the ones made by Protec. I think maybe the Rico case just gets a better seal, not allowing any air in or out. I drilled some holes in the outer shell to allow air to get in. Since then, no moldy reeds. Now it’s basically like a cheapo reed guard except that it holds 8 reeds and it has an outer shell.
April 25, 2011 @ 7:17 pm
I have both the vandoren bluebox for alto and the rico reedguard for tenor reeds, and while I never actually close the vandoren because it is too hard to get open again, one problem I do have with the rico is keeping track of the reed order.
with the vandoren, the reeds are held in the same orientation front and back, they are reversed on each side of the rico; with the vandoren, I only insert 3 reeds so I know that I can rotate my reeds by always shifting the current reed into the right-most spot and taking one out to play from the left-most spot; with the rico I have struggled to device an algorithm by which my brain can mnemonically recall which reed is the next in rotation. Any suggestions? Besides being organized, I mean ;)
As for the quality of the keeping of the reeds, I have jammed reeds in too far on the vandoren and lost them, and never on the rico which is self-limited, and I have to confess I have noticed no differences whatsoever in the quality of the job they do.
April 25, 2011 @ 8:49 pm
@Rick I’ll have to check out the Vito/LeBlanc reed holders, never seen those, but yes, simple is the best in my experience as well.
@Derek and Clayton You must not be as clumsy as me! Glad that the rico reed case is working for y’all!
@Mr. G I use all 4 slots on the reedgard, but I’ve got a small piece of tape on the slot reserved for the best reed. That way I know that the side with the piece of tape is for reeds 1 and 2 (left and right respectively) and the reeds on the side without the tape are 3 and 4.
Thanks for sharing your experiences guys!
April 26, 2011 @ 6:40 am
The reeds that you tested in the Rico case–were they already broken in, and had been previously stored in the LaVoz cases? If so, I wonder if you would get less warpage storing them in the Rico from day one. For me, preventing warpage doesn’t seem to really depend on maintaining some specific humidity level, but on keeping the humidity fairly stable. I haven’t tried the Rico case, but I have found that a humidified case does seem to keep reeds stable and flat. If I moved some from a non-humidified case to a humidified one, I would expect them to warp.
Currently I use non-humidified cases, since I live in a very humid climate, and, like Clayton, have had problems with mold, but I did prefer humidified cases when I lived in dryer places.
April 26, 2011 @ 7:00 am
To answer your question, for my quickie test, one of the reeds was actually broken in and one wasn’t, so perhaps that made my results a bit less accurate. But that wasn’t really the true test, as the true test had been my overall experience over the past few months with a variety of reeds, both broken in and not.
I get what you’re saying about the reeds with the steadiest humidity level faring better, but for some reason, that just has n’t been my experience living here in L.A. where the climate is pretty dry.
July 22, 2011 @ 9:46 am
First off, I’d like to say that if your system of keeping reeds is working — stick with it. Anything involving reeds is highly personal and depending on what reeds people use, how they use them, and what environmental variables are at play different things will work for different people.
That said, Rico Vitalizer has worked very well for me these last 6 months. I live in Wisconsin where the months from September through May are highly volatile humidity-wise. (Spring and Fall bounce in and out of high humidity while winter is bone-dry)
(Miami Saxophone Quartet visited Wisconsin a few winters ago and they talked more about how fast their reeds kept drying out on stage than about their music.)
A key to minimizing warpage and increasing consistency and longevity of reeds is to make sure they they dry gradually and uniformly, (and on a flat surface). Here in Wisconsin (and other dry climates) this product may be a better buy than in those with dewy sweet air all year round.
With every new product there are benefits and draw-backs. For me, my reeds have gone from “much-fuss” to “no-fuss” literally over-night, (a huge benefit), while I have encountered no new problems, (minimal draw-backs). So, for me — it’s a winner. (I also enjoy the fact that it holds 8 reeds of ANY type — which helps me out on gig nights when I double on up to 4 instruments)
I recommend the Vitalizer for people that 1) are having frustrations with their current method/reed case, 2) live in dry climates, and 3) won’t lose their shirt on a $20 experiment.
Best of luck, everybody!
July 22, 2011 @ 10:40 am
Man, so much great stuff in one comment! Here in Los Angeles, the climate is consistently dry without the ups and downs of humidity found in places like the midwest and the east coast, so I can see how this can be a different ballgame depending on where you live.
In the end, with ANYTHING music-equipment related, the key is to try different things and see what works best for *you*, since it’s all so personal.
A worthwhile $20 experiment indeed…
March 22, 2012 @ 3:26 pm
Here is what I do and it works for me. It is a cheap solution that I learned at the Saxophone Symposium up at George Mason University a few yrs back. Btw The Sax Symps is held at GMU but sponsored by the Wash DC Navy Band.
Okay I use a plain old plastic Rico/LaVoz Redd Guard. I use the one that holds 4 reeds. I soak my reeds in a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 mouth wash like Crest or Listerine. The solution is in an old sealable pill bottle that doesn’t leak. First shake the solution up, soak reeds for about 30 – 60 seconds. Put the reed on your reed guard sealing the reed by rubbing your thumb over the vamp toward the tip but not hitting the tip. Put the reed on the mpc, play your gig, practice etc.
Afterward, take the reed off, wipe off any excess moisture. Soak the reed in the solution again, rub with your thumb or index finger again. Put the reed in the reed guard. NOW here is the most IMPORTANT PART. Store the reedguard with your reed in a plastic zip lock baggie. I put the 73% Rico Vitalizer in the baggie. NOW THIS IS ALSO IMPORTANT. DO NOT close the baggie all the way, leave it open a bit, maybe a 1/4 – 1/2 inch. This lets AIR in. The mouthwash kills germs and helps prevent that yucky mold from growing. The baggie lets your reeds stay on the moist side, the Rico Reed Vitalizer helps w/that. Leving the baggie open also help prevent the mold from growing.
I learned this from Scott Silva, he is a former tenor player in the Navy Jazz Commodores and now a staff arranger for the Navy Band in Wash DC. I hope this helps, at least try it.
March 22, 2012 @ 8:37 pm
Yeah, this is similar to Ricky Sweum’s technique of leaving the reeds in a reed case totally submerged in Listerine 24/7. He’s done it for the last few years, and he’s had reeds that have lasted for *years* using this method.
Review: Rico reed cases | Bret Pimentel, woodwinds
April 8, 2013 @ 5:26 am
[…] Doron at bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com reviewed the single reed case recently, and complained of a problem breaking saxophone reed tips against the rubber band that secures the reeds in place. While I haven’t broken any yet, I did come close a couple of times. I also find that the case’s latch slightly blocks access to the two center reed slots unless you lift the reed tray. […]
December 28, 2013 @ 9:32 am
I’ve been keeping reeds in a little tupperware box, in a reed guard, with some vodka in the box. The reeds stay wet, and do seem to last very well. I am now a believer in *not8 allowing reeds to dry out.
It seems you don’t need much vodka, they don’t really need to be submerged, just as long as there is some vodka splashing around in there. the problem is more the tupperware box, the size is not really ideal.
I am gonna try a ziplock bag with some cotton wool soaked in vodka, see how that does.
December 28, 2013 @ 11:21 am
You don’t say where you live. If you are on the East Coast go back to my post and try my method. It works. You don’t want your reeds dry and you don’t want them overly moist. However you want them just a bit moist when storing them.
Good luck with it,
September 1, 2022 @ 6:55 pm
I store my sax reeds in my cigar humidifier at 68 to 70 percent humidity. Works great.
September 4, 2022 @ 8:53 am
That sounds like a great idea. I’ve been digging my Reedjuvinate case, it’s totally changed that game for me, no more worrying about warped reeds and reeds last 3 or more months. Pretty awesome as well. :)