After playing your instrument for a couple of months, you start to realize that not every reed in the box works. You think the reed looks okay, but when you use it, it squeaks and squaws on every note OR you need a lung machine to blow enough air to get it to vibrate. It's unfortunate, but in a box of 10 reeds, sometimes you will only get 4 really good reeds.

Before we talk about how to find the good reeds, look at the picture below to see the various parts of the reed.

parts of a reed










Here's three tips to help select reeds that have the potential for being good reeds.

  1. When selecting a good reed, you need to first make sure you see no chips or cracks in the tip of the reed.
  2. If you hold the reed in front of a light, you should see the darker area in heart of the reed in the upside down “U” shape. (See Picture #1 below.) There should be lighter areas at the sides of the heart.
  3. The heel area of the reed should be even on both sides. (See pictures 2 and 3 below.) In picture 2, the heel is fairly even. It is not even in picture 3.

(Picture 1)                                                                   (Picture 2)
photo(1)       photo 2







(Picture 3)
photo 1


Even though there are some problems with these reeds, don't throw them away yet. Still try them out to see if they will work for you. Professionals will take these reeds and adjust them, using special reed knives and other tools.

Here's the steps to a bonus tip to see if the reed seals properly on your mouthpiece:

  1. Attach the mouthpiece to the neck (saxes).
  2. Assemble the reed.
  3. With your right hand, totally cover the bottom of the neck.
  4. With your left pointer or middle finger, lift up the octave key and cover the hole tightly.
  5. Suck on the reed as if you are sucking the air out of the mouthpiece. Do this for 3-5 seconds.
  6. Stop sucking on the reed. You will see that the reed is sticking to the mouthpiece in the closed position.
  7. Count how long the reed stays closed (sealed) on the mouthpiece.
  8. The longer it stays the sealed, the better the fit on your mouthpiece.

Hopefully these tips will help you find good reeds. It's good practice to know the parts of the reed and some of the factors that make up a good reed. This will be important later on when you learn how to adjust reeds yourself.

Action Steps:

  1. Check each reed in your box to see which ones may be good. You may want to put those reeds in the front of the box, or label them with a sticker.
  2. Do the “seal test” on the good reeds.
  3. The reeds that seal the longest, and have the best overall qualities will most likely work well for you.
  4. Report on how well these tips worked for you in the Comments section below.
  5. If you enjoyed this article, please Like it and share it on your social networks. Sign up on my website for more weekly tips and information at http://DonnaSchwartzMusic.com.

‘Til next time, happy reed hunting!