What reeds are you playing on these days? Lately, I’ve been trying a few different brands. Today, I’m going to test out the new Lupifaro Evo Reeds and see how they play for me.
Let’s talk about what to look for when choosing reeds.
When I was buying my first reeds way back when, my choices consisted of what was for sale in the store. If my local music store didn’t have a particular brand, it essentially didn’t exist for me. Now with the internet, it’s easy to order any brand of reed out there and have it delivered in a few days. So why not explore different brands of reeds to find out what works best for us.
Lupifaro Evo Reeds
Today I’m looking at these new reeds from Lupifaro, a company known for their saxophones. They’ve had reeds available in the past, but now they’ve released a new cut called the “Evo” reed. I’ve gone through a couple boxes of the Lupifaro Evo Reeds on alto and tenor and every one has been a winner. I haven’t had one dud and I’ve done minimal adjustments with my ReedGeek outside of flattening the table.
Go to the Lupifaro Reeds website and use the coupon code BETTERSAX, you’ll receive 10% off.
They’re made by my friends over at the Rigotti Reed Factory in the south of France. Meaning, we know the cane is top quality, only the best ones make it through their selection process.
Check out my video where I visit Rigottis’s cane fields and reed production factory check it out and see for yourself what goes into making these excellent reeds.
What to Look for in Your Reeds
For me the most important thing is consistency. When reeds are consistent, it’s a lot easier to determine if a brand or cut works for you, since even a box of 5 reeds will give you the story.
If you are buying reeds and finding that inside a box there are large fluctuations between them, you’re going to end up playing on the few that work well for you and discarding the rest.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask that 80% or more of the reeds in a box play very well. I’ve gone through a couple boxes of these Lupifaro Evo Reeds on alto and tenor and every one has been a winner. I haven’t had one dud and I’ve done minimal adjustments with my reed geek outside of flattening the table.
Once you’ve got consistent reeds, it becomes a lot easier to figure out which cut and style fits your mouthpiece setup and the sound you’re looking for.
I find the rigotti reeds to be very consistent. This goes for all the specialty cuts they produce for other brands like Lupifaro.
The reeds in a box cannot ever be identical of course since it’s an organic product, but they can be close in strength, resistance, playability, and how long they last.
Side note… Even synthetic reeds vary to some degree from one to the next.
So here are a few variables that make one cut of reed different from another.
Making Different Cuts of Reeds
A lot of people are not aware that different brands of reeds are actually physically different.
First of all, the cane is grown in different locations around the world.
The cane is trimmed to different specifications which give different results when you play them. Sometimes they are thicker at the tip for example, and sometimes they have more in the heart of the reed. There are infinite variations possible.
The thing is, you can’t really tell by looking at them. The differences are generally too subtle to see with your eyes.
At the Rigotti factory they make the different cuts of reed with a machine that follows a template. The same way a key copying machine makes keys. They put the reed template in place and then exact copies are cut one by one.
The strength of the reed is determined afterward by testing its flexibility using another type of machine.
So while they may look the same, every cut is different. Or at least they are supposed to be…
One common variation is what we call a filed cut or a French cut or double cut. It’s where an extra strip of bark is removed just below the vamp area of the reed. Removing this material tends to make a reed a bit less resistant than the Traditional or American cut or single cut or unfiled cut. Lot’s of names for the same thing.
Choosing the Right Cut and Strength of Reed
With so much choice and so many variables at play, how do we know what to choose? In the old days it was easy, there were only a couple of brands to choose. Lots of great music was made with those reeds.
For example, Vandoren has 7 different cuts of alto sax reeds for sale, while D’addario offers 8 different cuts.
Some are labeled “jazz” or “classical” but that’s mainly marketing if you ask me. There are lot’s of jazz musicians playing on what are considered “classical” reeds and sounding “jazzy” or whatever label you want to put on it.
If you’re going for a homogeneous classical sound with the intention of not sticking out as an individual, then it makes sense to play the same mouthpiece and reed combination as everyone else.
However, outside of that mindset you are free to hone in on your unique voice. Finding a reed cut that works best with your preferred mouthpiece can help.
So you’re going to have to experiment.
Experimenting with Different Brands of Reeds
Right now I’m experimenting with these Lupifaro Evo reeds.
The packaging is clever. It will fit more easily in some cases with limited storage space.
Let me play something for you on this 3.5 reed. I’m going to play the same thing on the same reed but on 3 different mouthpieces that are very different. Check out the video around 06:18 to hear the play test.
For me this reed goes well with one of these mouthpieces a lot better than the other 2. I find it to be a good match for this Meyer 6 100 year anniversary piece. However, on the Selmer C*, it’s too edgy. On that mouthpiece I would want a more pure sound with less buzz and I would want a harder reed. At least a 4. On the Durga it played fine, but for me this cut of reed feels best with a traditional jazz setup.
These reeds are more of a woody, or classic feel. It feels like they are going for an old school vibe. Think old Rico Orange box, but very consistent from one to the next and with more selective cane.
I like these reeds a lot and they are very versatile, but it really depends on your personal preference and the mouthpiece you are playing on.
So while I would tend to use these reeds on a more traditional jazz setup because of the particular type of resistance they offer, someone else might want to do the exact opposite. The only way to know is to try out different cuts and strengths with your mouthpieces and find out what works best for you.
We are all individuals and there is no one size fits all solution.
Find What Works for YOU
Once I was talking to the great Michael Brecker about mouthpieces and he told me he played on very soft reeds. I know other great players who have to special order the hardest reeds they can find and then clip them to make them even harder.
Remember, the setup that your teacher or favorite sax player plays may not be right for you. You may not even be able to get a sound out of it.
For most people a middle of the road setup is the way to go – so some sort of medium tip opening with a medium strength reed. But don’t be afraid to experiment with different tip openings and reeds.
I certainly used to be the sort of player who stuck with one setup. There is a lot of benefits from doing this.
If you have the same setup every day, you can really get deeply and intimately familiar with that which is going to help you play in tune and get a consistent tone in all registers of the horn.
A lot of players don’t like to try new things since they don’t want to mess with the sound and control they’ve worked so hard to establish – and they are right to do this.
But, since I’ve been trying so many different mouthpieces, reeds and horns all the time, I’ve learned a lot about my own playing. Developing the flexibility to play on a range of different setups has helped me to sound better on the setups I’m most comfortable with while opening my ears up to other sound possibilities I never produced before.
Have you ever played on the Lupifaro Reeds? Let me know in the comments below what you think of these reeds.
Interested in more information on reeds? Check out my review on the best box of reeds I’ve ever played.