How to Make Your Reeds Play Better
Ever had a reed that was just a bit off? Maybe too hard, or too soft?
Umm…what are you. CRAZY?! Of course we all have! In fact, most of the reeds we play fall into varying degrees of suckage.
However, there are things you can do to make your reeds work better for you, thereby yielding additional value from your pricey box o’cane.
In a nutshell, this video demonstrates how positioning your ligature towards the back of your mouthpiece makes the reed feel softer and easy-blowing, while placing the reed towards the front of the mouthpiece generates the opposite effect.
November 9, 2010 @ 9:24 am
Nice! Excellent explanation of an old trick of the trade.
By the way, some of your REED-ers (bad pun, I know) may enjoy my short series of making-your-reeds-last-longer vids on YT. I don’t want to publicize without your consent, so let me know if you’d like me to send you the link.
November 9, 2010 @ 9:27 am
Yes Rick, please do publicize, I’d love that!
So glad you liked the video as well.
All the best,
February 13, 2011 @ 8:03 pm
Nice tip! I discovered this on a live show one day. I saw ligature positioning as something that affected my tone more so than the playability of the reed.
When closer to the reed my sound was brighter, when farther away from the reed, my sound was darker.
Great website. This is what I was hoping to do with my own blog but this is defintely it.
Lastly, while on the topic of reeds. I use the Hartman Fiber-reeds exclusively. Yes the tone is different but not in a bad way. For me they make so much sense because there is no warm up time and I hate breaking in reeds and soaking them to play. 2 cents.
February 13, 2011 @ 9:10 pm
Hey there Raymond,
Yeah, it’s also been my experience that the ligature position definitely can affect the tone quality as well as the level of reed resistance.
Truth be told, I’ve never heard of Hartman Fiber reeds. If you’d like to have your name and website listed here, you can always review these reeds using the form here: [Sorry(!), but this web page has disappeared since the original publication of this comment]
In any event, I’m so so glad you enjoy the site and do hope that you develop your own blog to where you want it – we need more saxophone bloggers out there!
November 19, 2011 @ 1:48 pm
There are some good articles on breaking in and modifying reeds linked from the Saxophone Journal website, and some tips for modifying reeds on saxgourmet.com. Get on top of that and you don’t have to shell out for premium reeds to get what you want. If you’re like me, you’ll ruin some on the learning curve but save in the long run by using less expensive reeds, such as La Voz, and rejecting fewer reeds.
November 19, 2011 @ 5:59 pm
Hmm, I ‘d love to see those articles at some point. In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of success using the Reed Geek Universal reed tool. You can see the results I got in my video review here: https://www.bestsaxophonewebsiteever.com//review-of-the-reed-geek-reed-adjusting-tool. Thanks for weighing in!
February 10, 2013 @ 11:04 am
Doren: Nice stuff. Looking at pictures and videos of Dexter Gordon you can see that at times he has his lig at the back of the mpc. This trick works and I’ve used it myself.
What really works is the reed drilling trick. Google Bootman’s Reed Drilling. His name is Richard and he’s an Aussie. His trick makes any reed vibrate more. They also end up looking and playing a bit like the old Charpman reeds which are no longer made. Go to Bootman’s site and you can see some pictures of the old Charpman reeds.
February 10, 2013 @ 4:35 pm
Hmm, is site seems to be down, but it sounds like an interesting trick from what I’ve read on the saxontheweb.com forum. I’d love to give it a try one of these days. Thanks for sharing!
February 10, 2013 @ 5:15 pm
Okay 1st get your hand drill and put a 1/4″ bit in it. Take your reed in your other hand.
Take the drill bit and make a slight indentation in the center of the reed just above the U-shaped bark right where the vamp ends. (This is near the area where you would shave bark off if you were going that route).
Carefully drill into the reed. Be careful not to drill through the reed. I can do this by holding the reed in 1 hand and the drill in the other. You may have to put SLIGHT PRESSURE on the DRILL to make the beveled out indentation in the reed.
Okay now the fun part. Put the reed on and play it. You should notice that the reed will vibrate more and will usually have more edge. It may be freer blowing.
Now you still may have to move the reed slightly below the tip of the mpc if the reed still feels to hard.
Okay here is my honest feeling. I play Rico 2.5’s on tenor w/a 60’s vintage metal Otto Link 8* mpc coupled w/a Silver Selmer ligature. Bootman drills all his reeds before he plays them. I do not. I play them 1st, wait a day or 2 and then adjust if needed. NOT every REED needs this process. Sometimes I will do nothing but just play the reed in if it seems close to what I want, moving the reed down a bit from the tip of the mpc. Sometimes I will drill it. Sometimes I will drill it and shave the bark off and shave a bit of near the end of the reed right before the stock ends. All of this stuff works but it takes some practice.
Sometimes but not to often I will adjust the lig up or down like in your video.
Anyway try it. I was doubtful at 1st too but Bootman’s trick worked. Since then I use it as I need it. It’s another in my Bag of Tricks to quote Felix the Cat.
Let me know what you think. Oh btw – I have done this on Rico/LaVoz tenor and alto reeds and on Fibra Cell reeds. However I have never done this on a clarinet reed. I would suspect that I would use a much smaller bit if I did, maybe a 1/16th or 1/32nd drill bit.
February 12, 2013 @ 8:26 pm
Holy crap, Larry, I think you just wrote a blog post (which you’re welcome to do for the site whenever/if you like)! I don’t currently own a power drill, but if/when I get one, it would be a blast to give this a try. I’m just happy that it’s up here for the sake of the other readers. Thanks!
February 13, 2013 @ 10:47 am
Well I just wanted to pass on Bootman’s stuff. He uses fancy gear, has a drill press, special tables etc. (He has photos of his shop on his web site). I am not fancy. I use a Craftsman rechargable hand drill w/a 1/4 inch drill bit for tenor and alto reeds.
The crazy thing is it works!! Bootman does not know the science behind it and neither do I. All I know it is similar to the way Charpen reeds were made. actually have a few. A lot of jazz players used Charpen at 1 time. Unfortunately they could not compete against the other reed companies or for some other reason went out of business. Maybe someone out there knows the story.