With musicians continued frustration around the consistency of cane reeds from brand to brand, there have been more reed tools hitting the market designed to help address this common issue. In the past, I had tried sand paper, reed rush, and a reed knife to try and correct various reeds that either played too hard or were not sealing well with my mouthpiece. Recently, I was contacted by Marti Giaimo regarding his A.L.E Reed Balancer tool. I will be providing a product overview as well as my overall thoughts.
The A.L.E. reed balancer is a small and lightweight piece of steel with a slight rough edge at the tip which can be used to improve the performance and play-ability of natural woodwind reeds. The reed balancer is easy to transport, safe, and designed for beginners, intermediate, and professional players. Each reed balancer comes with a lifetime guarantee on materials and workmanship and can be used on single and double reeds. I have included directions on how to use this tool as well as the link to a video demonstration by Marti Giaimo below.
“Place the Reed Balancer at a 45 degree angle. Resurface the back of the reed (clarinet or saxophone), by starting at the heel of the reed. Drag the Reed Balancer across the reed, in the direction of the grain, usually, two or three passes is sufficient to flatten the back of the reed so it will “sit” properly on the bed of the mouthpiece. Play the reed. If one of the rails of the reed doesn’t “speak” as freely as the other, take the Reed Balancer and drag it across the intended corner edge as follows. If it is the right trail, drag the Reed Balancer once or twice, in a North-Easterly direction, avoiding the “heart” (center) of the reed. If it is the left rail drag the Reed Balancer in a North-Westerly direction, once or twice, avoiding the “heart” (center) of the reed.”
A.L.E Reed Balancer Demonstration Video
I have been using the original ReedGeek Classic tool to work on all of my reeds and decided to compare it to the A.L.E Reed Balancer as a point of reference. The A.L.E Reed Balancer is a very simple and lightweight tool which I used to flatten the back of my reed so it sat flat on the table and sealed with my mouthpiece. I found this tool is most effective by the recommended 45 degree angle when removing cane from the top and bottom of the reed. In comparison to my ReedGeek Classic, the A.L.E Reed Balancer was best used to remove some cane off the back and front of the reed. When it came to focusing on the left and right corner of the reed so to not effect the heart, The ReedGeek Classic had various features built into the tool which made it easier to use. In my opinion, I see the A.L.E. Reed Balancer as a great tool for students who want to begin working on their reeds and simply flatten the bottom and take some cane off the top. The A.L.E Reed Balancer would also work for intermediate and professional musicians but I believe the ReedGeek Classic allows you to balance the reed even further from multiple angles without taking too much cane off the reed. Overall, the A.L.E. reed balancer does remove cane off the reed easily and is especially safe to use. I believe with any of these tools, becoming educated on the various ways to remove cane and practicing with the tool will best help you understand what steps you need to take to make your reeds play better. I would like to thank Marti Giaimo for allowing me to test out his A.L.E. Reed Balancer tool.
What tool or routine do you use to best improve your reeds?