First look for a good reed, with fibers evenly spaced
and extending all the way to the tip of the reed.
Tools include: a good reed knife, silicon carbide
wet-or-dry 400-600 sandpaper, and a small rectangular piece of glass or
plexiglass--a perfectly flat surface on which to work.
When scraping, test the reed frequently on the
mouthpiece to avoid taking off too much cane.
*Avoid working on the center, or heart, of the reed.
Avoid working on the extreme tip of the reed; work on
the small area directly behind the tip.
Avoid clipping the reed unless it is extremely soft.
If the reed is too bright or soft in all registers, move
it a bit above the tip of the mouthpiece.
Unevenly cut reeds should be scraped on the thick side.
Reeds which repond well at forte but not well at piano
are too stiff at the tip. Work on the area immediately behind the
If squeaks are present, one side of the reed is probably
too heavy or too light (unbalanced).
If the reed is bright in the upper register and dark in
the lower, scrape the sides near the back of the vamp (face of the
If the reed is dark in the top register but bright in
the lower, scrape at the edges about halfway down its length.
If the reed is dark in all registers, scrape off a small
amount behind the tip or at the middle and back of the vamp (reed face),
where the bark ends.
Saliva entering the reed at the mouthpiece window
will cause the grain to rise, and the reed will vibrate
sluggishly. Sand the table with the grain, but do not include
the extreme tip. After sanding, polish the reed on course or
regular paper to seal the fibers.
Generally, scraping can be used to adjust trouble in
any register of the saxophone. If the trouble is in the low
register, work on the back of the reed. If the trouble is
higher, work towards the tip.
The balance of the reed is all important. the
back surface of the reed must always be flat and smooth. Be
sure to scrape or lightly sand the underside of the reed (table) to
remove any swelling or unevenness.
The unpredictability of reeds makes it difficult to
recommend the use of one reed brand over another. The best
results, however, are usually achieved by purchasing standard brands
with established reputations. The follow reeds--again, not a
comprehensive list--are acceptable brands from which to choose:
||Selmer, Omega, Vandoren, Olivieri, The Saxophone
Shop Reed, Prestini, Hemke Premium
||Rico, Roy Maier, La Voz, Symmetricut, Brilhart,
Rico Royal, Charpen
||Bari, Brilhart Fibercane, Ricoplex, Functional
Form, Fibracell (excellent)
||Rico Plasticover (cane reed covered with
Most reed manufacturers are supplied by the leading
producers of cane, which are located in Southern France and Eastern
Spain. Due to the great demand for the product, however, other
regions with suitable climates also produce a high quality cane:
Russia (Caucasus region), Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy, North Africa,
Chile, Mexico and California. The climate must be cold enough to
render the plant dormant for a winter harvest. Tropical
climates, therefore, are unsuitable for musical reed cane.
Curing of the cane consists of three basic stages: drying,
sunning, and seasoning. The entire process yielding salable cane
tubes takes one to two years. The tubes are then slit into reed
blanks and, finally, made into reeds.