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Adjusting Your Reeds: Clarinet or Sax

4th February 2021

We all know and understand that reed strengths vary slightly within a pack. This is due to the natural material and internal fibres of the cane. In this blog we check out some non-destructive(!) ways to alter your reeds to get the most from a box…

Step 1: Is The Reed Balanced Left to Right?

Often there can be minor discrepancies in the balance of a reed. This is not due to how they are machined but because of the internal fibres of the material that make one side feel harder or softer.

As shown in the video (1:38) you can blow down each side of the reed individually to test the resistance of each side.

Step 2: Modify If Required

If you feel there is a significant difference you can nudge the reed slightly to the thinner/softer sounding side. Make small adjustments and blow test to see how it’s changed.

Step 3: Check Overall Strength

With the reed now balanced left to right you can assess the overall strength. If it feels generally too soft you can push it up very slightly which will make it play a little harder. Conversely you can come down a little if it’s too hard but there isn’t much space to play with here.

Step 4: If It’s Too Hard

If the reed feels too hard generally and you can’t bring it down anymore without it affecting the response then you can flex the reed against a hard, flat surface to soften it a little. Put it flat on the surface (text side up) and cover the tip with your thumb and lightly ‘flick’ the reed up. BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK THE REED! You do this at your own risk so perhaps try with reeds you’ve ruled out previously.

Alternatively take the mouthpiece off and cover the end with your palm. Then suck on the reed so it closes airtight. This will pull the reed slightly and flex it a little making it soften. Please note: depending on your mouthpiece this may not give complete suction. This is NOT a malfunction of the mouthpiece or reed but can be affected by the cut of the reed and the mouthpiece facing curve or opening.