Synthetic v. Cane Saxophone Reeds?
A little over 2 years ago I made a video comparing Legere Signature synthetic reeds to cane reeds.
Back then, YouTube had this feature where you could vote on screen. Although they have erased the results of all the voting It was pretty clear that most people could not really tell which reed was synthetic and which was natural cane.
Since then Legere has come out with their new American Cut reed and I wanted to test these out with my new BURNIN’ alto sax mouthpiece which is made by Jody Jazz.
Play Testing Legere American Cut Reeds
I’m going to play something for you on a few different reeds, then I want you to give your honest reactions in the comments before you find out what they are.
and I’ll give you my thoughts on these at the end.
Play Test Example 1
Let’s kick it off straight away with example 1, flip to the video around 01:32 for this example. Keep in mind that one of these examples will be a cane reed. Can you guess which one?
Now if you’re wondering about the selection I just played for you it comes from a new etude book from Adam Larson called Little Leaps and Sounds.
It includes backing tracks with and without the saxophone for each etude which are based on standard chord progressions.
Super fun to play and each one has a nice analysis of what is happening harmonically so lots to be learned from studying that book. Thank you Adam for sending that my way.
Play Test Example 2
Let’s move on to example number 2, you can hear it around 02:33.
Now I know what you are thinking… that saxophone looks and sounds very nice what is it. Well it is the Better Sax alto saxophone. You can find out more information about that here.
Play Test Example 3
Let’s listen to example number 3, you can hear the final reed around 03:40.
Alright time to comment below with your reactions to those 3 clips. Do you have a guess as to which one of the 3 was a cane reed?
There’s a quick little mash up to make it easier, at 04:27
American Cut Legere
So I like the American Cut Legere a little more than the signature cut. It’s not that I think it’s a better reed, it’s just more suited to my style of playing maybe.
The first clip was one of the 2.25 Legere American cut reeds on a 7 tip opening BetterSax Burnin mouthpiece. This pairing feels comfortable for me, I can play in tune and all the notes across the range speak easily.
In my experience, when you switch from cane to synthetic, you need to give yourself some time to get used to them so I’ve been playing on these American cut reeds everyday for a week now in preparation for this video.
For some reason when I play on these reeds they take a bit of a toll on my lips which are already pretty sensitive. After practicing with them I have 2 deep red marks on my lips.
I find that I need to play on a 1/4 to a 1/2 strength softer on these to be comfortable.
Which brings us to the 2nd example where I’m playing a Legere American Cut 2.5
Now this reed was a bit too hard for me on this tip opening, but I wanted to show you the difference between a 1/4 strength on these.
This one would be a better match if I was playing the 5 or 6 tip opening.
In that clip, you can see and hear me forcing a bit and fighting the resistance of the reed but you can also hear the darker sound I get.
Rigotti Gold Cane Reeds
The last clip was an old dried out cane reed that I’ve had for a while. It’s a Rigotti Gold 2.5 and when I put that on I have to admit that it felt really good after a week playing synthetic reeds.
I think my comfort level on that one comes through clearly in the recording.
And that is what I think everyone needs to think about when choosing between synthetic and cane reeds. Your own personal comfort level. Some people are more comfortable on synthetic reeds. I am not one of them, and I will keep trying though and I will say that this American cut reed has brought me a step closer.
I was feeling pretty good about this 2.25 reed all week and more than a few times I thought I could play on this every day no problem.
Interested in more videos on reeds? Check out “Why are reeds so expensive? A tour of the Rigotti Reed Factory.”
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3 thoughts on “New Legere American Cut Reeds… are they better?”
Tried the signature and saved a lot of time I normally need to feel good with a reed. Played all month then lost it see through is probably not the best colour ?. I found an old 2.5 rico royal and loved it! So the jury is still out for me too. Going to order the American cut and give it a go.
Jay – I am (slowly) working my way through your PSBE classes. “Oh, Susanna” and I are becoming good buddies! I hope to “graduate” to your big time lessons sometime soon. So, to my question – I sent away for three of the Legere reeds. A Signature 2, American Cut 1.5 and American Cut 1.75. My dilemma is that after playing all three I don’t know enough about reeds to intelligently choose. The 1.5 is really easy to play in the middle of the range, but gets pretty wonky on low stuff (I’m playing a tenor). I ruled that one out. Then, the 1.75 plays better from (my) top (high D or E) to Bb bottom. It still feels a little “loose.” Then the Signature 2 plays best, but starts to feel a little stuffy. So, is a little stuffy better than too loose? Any help would be so appreciated as I have only 30 days to choose a winner and exchange the others. Andy Andrews in Hawaii.
Andy, the synthetic reeds do soften up after a while like cane reeds, so if you’re going to play the same reed for a while, it may be better to have it start ever so slightly harder than the ideal.