Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reed Revival - Make Them Last Longer

Let's face it, the cost of reeds is getting pretty dear, and will probably continue to go higher in the future. If your gigs aren't paying you more, then you'll need to make those reeds last longer. You're already using a reed-saver to store the used one's in (aren't you?), but that's not enough. Enter the reed-trimmer.

Reed-trimmers have been around since Charlie Parker jammed in his first Kansas City club, and the design and operation is basically the same as when they were first made. You simply take your reed with the chip on the end, that you would have normally thrown away, place it under the clamp, adjust the position so that the flawed tip is beyond the blade edge, then press down or lift up, depending on the design of the trimmer, and clip the end smooth.

Obviously, with the reed trimmed, it's going to be a little shorter and therefore a tiny bit stiffer. Some players have chops to blow right past this difference. For those of you who want it the way it was, take your reed rush (which you'll buy when you pick up the trimmer) and a piece of 1000 grit sandpaper, lay the reed on a piece of wood, flat side down, and gently (very gently) make a few strokes with the sandpaper, rubbing from the thick part toward the tip. Once you feel you have the thickness you want, rub the reed rush over it, again from the heart toward the tip, to make the surface smooth and ready to play. That's all there is to it.

The cost of the reed-trimmer, reed rush and a sheet of sandpaper, is about the same as a box of reeds. So, after you trim your first box, the reed-trimmer has paid for itself. There's simply no reason for a clarinet or sax player to not have this kit in the case or gig bag.


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