Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Let's Talk Bamboo

Cut for You

     Guitars have strings which need replacing. It's kind of a big deal, and a bit of a pain. I know many guitar players, and I know that string replacement isn't exactly fun for everyone. For saxophones there are no strings, but what does need the most replacing is the reed of the instrument. I recommend to the average young student to get cheap-cut reeds, usually the standard Rico reed will do because their inexpensive; a starting instrumentalist shouldn't waste money on good quality reeds. However, more advanced players have a few more options to sift through while buying reeds. There are different cuts which are simply the thickness of the reeds, which allow for buzzier lows or clearer highs depending on the cut. Usually, these cuts are measured in numbers in a very simple way. The thinnest I have ever seen for the saxophone in person is a 1.5 cut. The thickest I have seen is a 5. To put this in perspective, the most widely accepted and universal cut for a saxophone reed is 2.5- a cut that I use on both alto sax and soprano sax. It's perfect for most people because it allows for steady playing with modest embouchure work over the entire range of playing: from down at the Bb range through the upper altissimo area. Ultimately, choose what works best: the cut for you.

Don't Get Fooled

     Buying a brand of reed isn't as simple as you might think. Going off of peer recommendations is a sound idea, however do be sure to go off of multiple recommendations. Music is like politics: there are millions of opinions, and none of them are right- nor wrong. You must ask everyone you can and assimilate as much data as possible in order to form your own conclusion, because what works for others may not work for you. Eventually you'll find out things that aren't written in comments or ratings about a product. For example: I found myself quite loving the Vandoran V16's as recommended by my idol- a professional alto player with whom I play often. They're great, and there's no way around that. However, I eventually tried the Vandoran V12's, which are designed more for a smooth concert sound (thus my reason for purchasing them). Now, what these reeds did to surprise me was this: they played jazz - particularly in the altissimo range - better than the jazzy V16's. Did I strike gold here? Well in short- no. They did play better, but they cost the same as the V16's, with the downside being that they broke much easier if used this 'unintended' way. A reed like that is too expensive and, honestly, too nice to be shredding on the upper registers. Therefore I recommend getting two kinds of reed. One should be a solid reed for practice only, and the other a great reed that works for you in your gigs and performances. Does this cost a lot? Of course. But they end up lasting at least twice as long.
     Finally, when looking online or in a store for reeds, do your research before hand. A lot of sites (including the ones I love) list something like this:
Listed Price: $40.98
Our Price: $23.98
You Save: $17.00!
     After learning the market, you'll know that this is a bit of a silly lie to make their price seem spectacular. It's not a horrible crime as, like I said before, many of the sites I love to shop on do this. Just don't get tricked by something that looks great. Keep in mind that a good price for great reeds is in the lower twenty dollar range for a box of ten (just about two bucks a reed [in the US]). Whatever you do, don't get fooled.

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