How Often Should You Replace Your Saxophone Reed ?

Recently one of my wonderful Saxophone Nation Members posted a message to me inside the Members Forums here at HowToPlayTheSax.com .

I thought it was a fantastic question that everyone could learn from, so I thought that I’d share it here as a blog post.  It well and truly fits into the overall remit of learning how to play the saxophone !

Hi Matthew

How often should one replace a saxophone reed…….after how many hours or minutes generally ?   Perhaps as a guide how often do you replace yours?

Thanks

John

G’day John

An excellent question !

Unfortunately, the answer is a little on the rhetorical “how long is a piece of string” side….

Saxophone reeds can last a couple of months. They can also be a dud after only a week or two.

The best rule of thumb that I can offer is: if it feels good, if it is easy to play, if it doesn’t squeak and squawk, if it isn’t cracked or broken or fury or gross, if you can control it and get it to do what you want you want it to – then keep using it.

A brand new saxophone reed will be a bit of a challenge for the first couple of uses. This is because it’s stiff….a bit like a brand new pair of shoes that need to be broken in.

Make sure it’s moist (the reed, not your shoes), and give it a total of a couple of hours playing (eg 30 mins today, plus 30 mins tomorrow = one hour playing).

Sometimes you will get a dud reed.  It’s hard to control, it sounds weird, it is a battle to play.

If after two or three total playing hours you are still battling, throw it away and try another one.

Jumping reed sizes will also take a few total playing hours to get your face and embouchure used to it – a bit like increasing your weights at the gym, or running an extra few kilometres/miles during your morning jog than you are used to.

I tend to play most of mine for a good few months.  Other saxophonists change theirs monthly, or even weekly.  It really mostly depends on how much you use each reed.

 

For want of another analogy, saxophone reeds are a bit like tyres on your car.

 

Yes, they are expected to last for 20,000 kms/miles.  But, if you drive from Sydney to Perth, or New York to Los Angeles, or Paris to Moscow and back again all in one week, then probably your tyres will only last a couple of weeks.

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How Often Should You Replace Your Saxophone Reed ?

If you are a little old man who only drives to the shops on Sundays, then your tyres will probably last years.

It’s exactly the same with saxophone reeds.  It does come down to a little bit of personal preference as well.

My logic is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Does this help ?

Thanks,

Matthew

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