How to Prepare a Reed for a Saxophone

The basic component in single reed instruments is obvious, the reed. This article will help the reader understand the basic principles for reed preparation for the saxophone.

Saxophone step 1

Select your Reed. There are several manufactures of reeds and several different kinds that can be used. The first kind is the cane reeds. It provides the richest color and tone when used in performance. This reed is the choice of all professional musicians. Synthetic reeds are also available on the market. They may include plastic and synthetic cane reeds. There are many different manufactures with a wide varieties of techniques on how they produce these reeds. It is up to the reader to discover which reeds work best and perform to their specification for each situation.
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Saxophone Step 2

Sand the Reed. When a reed is purchased it will occasionally come in a rough factory condition. This is not the case for higher quality reeds, which do not require sanding. For a reed to have a good seal and placement on the mouthpiece the table will need to be sanded lightly on fine grain sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges. 400 grit or better sandpaper should suffice. It is a matter of choice to some to smooth the vamp on the reed. This can be done with a smooth motion from the shoulder to tip with paper.
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Saxophone Step 3

Prepare the reed. These more advanced preparations will involve the sanding or trimming of the vamp and tip of the reed. These more advanced preparations can be accomplished using reed rush which is pictured below. All the sanding and trimming done to the vamp will require further reading and are more complex, thus I will leave it out of this basic preparation article. Trimming however may be done to stiffen the reed and can be done a bit more easily than vamp sanding. To trim the tip of a reed you will need a reed trimmer. They can be purchased at any music store.
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Saxophone Step 4

Soak the reed for a few minutes. This time can depend on the condition of the reed. You will want to avoid letting the reed soak for too long for it will then become water logged. This will negatively affect the performance of the reed. Once the reed is soaked for the proper length of time it can then be placed on the mouthpiece and set for playing.
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Saxophone Step 5

Store it properly. It is best to always have at least a few reeds that you can circulate as you play. This will allow for extended life span for the reed. As you play on the other reeds the previously used ones will have a chance to dry. There are many different kinds of reed cases that you can use and this will depends on your level of investment. Reed cases can vary on size and shape, some may only hold one and be made of plastic, however, the better reed cases will hold many and be made of glass. These glass cases are the choice of professionals, allowing a smooth flat surface for the reed to dry on preventing warping.