5 Things You Didn't Know about Saxophone Reeds – Better Sax

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Saxophone Reeds

5 things you didn’t know about saxophone reeds…

Today, I’m going to play through 5 brand new SYOS Arcane reeds and tell you what I think of each one. 

I’m also going to tell you something you probably didn’t know about reeds after every play test.

I’ve already played through a couple boxes of these SYOS Arcane reeds over the course of a few weeks on alto and tenor. 

As with most boxes of reeds I found a range of playability. Some reeds are, of course, better than others, but let’s find out how we do with this box.

For these play-tests, I’m playing on my brand new BetterSax Burnin’ tenor mouthpiece in a 7* tip opening. To hear my comments on each reed, watch the video above, and to learn more about reeds, read on below!

Where do reeds come from?

You may not be aware that many of the brands of reeds out there are actually made in the same places. 

These reeds are made by Rigotti in the Var region of France, not far from where I live. You may have seen my video where I tour their plantation and factory. If you haven’t you should definitely check it out

Rigotti makes their own brand of reeds which I really love playing on. Plus, they also make Boston Sax Shop Reeds, Roberto’s reeds, Lupifaro reeds, now SYOS reeds, and a long list of others many of which you’ve probably never heard of, I know I hadn’t.

Why are reeds inconsistent?

Reeds are a bit of a lottery. I know you already knew that, but here’s why.

Since they come from plants that grow in nature, they are subject to a ton of variables. They especially depend on the weather during the year they were cultivated.

Some years it’s hotter than others, some years it rains a lot more, some years there are more insects whatever.

So like all things that grow in the ground, we have to expect a certain amount of variation. It’s like wine, which is also grown in the south of France, some years are going to produce a better crop than others.

I have heard many people comment that their particular brand of reed used to be great but then something changed. I don’t know exactly what each company is doing with their reed production, but I expect the changes people have noticed in particular reed brands over time, come down to the environment and things that are entirely out of anyone’s control. 

What kind of cane are reeds made out of?

I have a large bamboo tree growing in my back yard. Whenever I see it growing around here, I think it’s the same stuff we make reeds out of. It’s not. Saxophone and clarinet reeds are made out of this plant which is called Arundo Donax, which is native to the south of France. Looks kinda similar to bamboo but not really.

How do you determine reed strength?

The strength of a reed like 2.5 or 3.0 is determined by the resistance of the fibers in the plant, not by the thickness of the reed.

If you take a 1.5 strength reed and a 4.5 strength reed from the same brand, they will be cut and measure identically.

It’s only after they are cut, that the resistance can be measured and a strength label can be given to them.

How long does it take to grow reed cane?

Growing cane that can be properly made into woodwind reeds takes a long time, several years even.

Cane plants grow 20 to 30 feet high in one year, get cut and dried in the sun for another year, and then get stored in the dark for a third year, and sometimes more, before they get turned into saxophone and clarinet reeds.

That’s all for now! Hope you learned something need about reeds!

Now for more interesting saxophone stuff you probably didn’t know, watch this video next. In it, I explain how mouthpiece tip openings work and how to choose the right one.

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

About the Author

As the founder of BetterSax.com Jay’s mission is to help developing saxophone players break away from traditional music learning methods and discover a more efficient, practical and fun way to become a Better Sax player. The BetterSax YouTube channel’s videos have been watched by millions and thousands of students have made meaningful progress on their instrument thanks to BetterSax courses.

Jay Metcalf


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