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.
This is a super simple tool to use, and Tom gives easy-to-follow instructions to quickly adjust reeds and make them last longer.
You can use the ATG system to also revive a dead reed.
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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I have put my oboe reeds in a sonic jewelry cleaner. They come out clean, fresh and a bit more vibrant so I can get a more use out of them. Might want to try it with sax or clarinet reeds as well!
What a great idea, and I know you know what you’re talking about because you’re a great oboist! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Donna ,Hi from Murray Middleman . I had the pleasure of meeting you at Prlando’s Winds in So.ElMonte .
Nice tip on the
Hydrogen Peroxide on the reed .
I enjoyed your video .sounding very good .
Take care Murray
Interesting. Do you use water in the sonic cleaner? I play all the reeds but oboe is my main. Oboe reeds last the least length of time. How much more life do you get? 20% 30%
I’m a sax teacher from Tokyo. I’d like to try this reviving way.
I have quick question about strength of Hydrogen Peroxide. How much concentration of the liquid you used this time? 5%, 30% or something like….
In Japan, around 5% Hydrogen Peroxide is available in Drag stores. But much strong one, 30% or something is hard to get.
How much strength Dr. Tracy Lee Heavener recommended in the article?
And how much did you use in the video?
Thanx and regards,
Thanks for your question. I just use the grocery store brand, which is 3%. The article didn’t mention a particular strength. I used the 3% in the video, and it works great, so I think your 5% will be fine.
Just remember, there’s only so much we can extend the life of the reed, so I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than twice (which depending on how long you have used the reed may be too much).
Give it a shot. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how effective this is.
Okay, got it. I’ll try it.
Thanx a lot!
hi donna , have you tried this more than once on the same reed? if so is there an approximate limit to putting new life into dead reeds,
Yes I have tried it more than once. It really isn’t as effective more than once unless you have a well-balanced reed to begin with.
thankyou for your quick response,i have ordered the peroxide so will deff try that on some tired reeds.
Thanks for post this awesome!. I’m a long time reader
but ive never commented till now.
Thanks again for the awesome post.
does this method only work on wooden reeds or also with the fibrecell reeds?
Thanks and regards Tanja
I have not tried this on Fibracell reeds. If your reed is dead anyway, you have nothing to lose by testing it.