We all know how important a good quality reed is to having a great tone on the saxophone or any woodwind instrument. But when we experience dead saxophone reeds, it can be really upsetting, especially if it happens in the middle of a gig.
I don't know about you, but I start thinking,
I'll never find another good reed like that one…
Every other reed isn't good enough…
Why couldn't that reed just last longer!…
This almost sounds like an article on losing a great relationship ? (Don't worry – it's not!)
How do you know when you have a dead reed?
Some folks don't realize their reed is starting to go on them. They think something is wrong with their embouchre, mouthpiece or horn before they consider that it could be a dying reed.
You know you have a dead reed when:
- it's not as responsive
- sounds stuffy
- you start to squeak a lot
- everything starts to sound flat in pitch and/or certain notes that are normally in tune become out of tune
- certain notes split the sound when they normally sound clear
- you start to notice your normal range getting limited
- your altissimo notes are not responding like they normally do
- the reed loses that “pop” and presence
We all go through this at some point, and that's why it's really important to rotate your reeds so that you don't rely on only one great-sounding reed. I talk about rotating reeds in this article.
Past solution for reviving a dead saxophone reed
In the past, there used to be 1 way to revive a dead reed, but it was risky.
You would use a Reed Trimmer/Clipper to trim the tip of the reed.
You see, if you were not exactly precise, the reed would not only feel really different, but also could sound a lot worse (more squeaking and lack of control over your sound).
You were taking a chance – but on the same token, if your reed was already on the way out, you had nothing to lose.
I'm not saying that using a Reed Trimmer is a bad thing – it takes practice using it so that you can get the precision to clip the right amount of reed off the tip. Many people have (and still have) had success making a reed last longer with this method.
And Reed Clippers are still sold today and used by many woodwind players all over the world.
But there's more solutions that, I feel, are quicker, require less precision, and are less risky…
New solutions to revive dead saxophone reeds
There's a few awesome reed-adjusting tools on the market that can help you quickly adjust and also revive a reed.
ReedGeek is a fairly new tool that is very portable (you can store it in your pocket on gigs), is easy to use, and doesn't require much training. (I would recommend, however, that you watch a few YouTube videos on how to use ReedGeek to adjust your reed before attempting to adjust them for the 1st time.)
Here's how to use ReedGeek to revive a dead reed:
- Allow the weight of the tool to rest on the back of the reed you are trying to revive.
- Use a swiping motion back and forth a few times.
- Wipe off the excess cane shavings from the reed.
Using the ReedGeek on the back of the reed helps to unclog fibers in the cane and get rid of any excess water and/or saliva.
There is also another amazing reed-adjusting tool created by Tom Ridenour. It's the ATG Reed Finishing System.
A few friends have recommended this to me – I do not have it yet, but I intend to purchase one soon because it sounds fantastic.
That being said, I would think the ATG system would act similarly to the ReedGeek in reviving a dead reed. (I will update this article when I try this myself – I wanted to tell you about this option now so you can try it as well.)
The ultimate tip for reviving dead saxophone reeds
This tip I learned from reading a great article by Dr. Tracy Lee Heavener in JazzEd Magazine.
I couldn't believe how easy (and cheap) it was to do, and had to immediately try it.
I was astounded how well it worked.
Here it is:
- Fill up a glass (halfway so it covers the entire reed) with Hydrogen Peroxide.
- Soak the dead reed(s) for 5-10 minutes, making sure you totally submerge them.
- You'll see bubbling – that's okay – the reed is getting cleaned.
- Lightly rinse off the reed with warm water when done.
Your reed will not only be cleaned, but will sound like new.
This is a great solution for players that have to eat quick at a gig and then play. We know how disgusting those reeds (and mouthpieces) get!
Check out this video to see this Ultimate Tip in action…
No one wants a dead saxophone reed, especially in the middle of an important performance. Now, there are a number of ways to revive those reeds and have them last a bit longer, so the “reed love affair” doesn't have to end so soon. ?
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