Hot Tips for Playing Single Reed Instruments

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Saxophone By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Saxophone
Last updated: 20/07/2013
Tags: clarinet, reeds, saxophone, woodwind

Greetings to all woodwind players! I'd like to share with you a little known fact about single reeds which i learnt from Tony Coe, the great Jazz Saxophonist.

It is mostly known that reeds need to be moist before being played and are best when moistened at both ends. There are small holes at the thicker end and moisture can be evenly dispersed throughout the reed if this end is sucked. Also this helps air to clear any blockages within the reed. A lesser known and very useful fact indeed is the flicking action which helps the reed to vibrate freely.The following is what I learnt from Tony and has improved the performance of all my reeds as well as extending the life of each reed. 

Take a reed and put the tip at right angles to the mouthpiece half-way across the lay. Gently rest the tip of your thumb on the tip of the reed only covering a fraction of the reed. Then very gently flick the other end of the reed towards you and away from the mouthpiece so that the reed gently springs like a diving board. It must NOT be flicked against the edge of the mouthpiece as this can break the reed across the middle. If this is done with the utmost care it will loosen the fibres inside the reed and help them to vibrate more freely thereby creating a much fuller and freer sound.

I hope this useful titbit of information helps all Sax and Clarinet players out there. Nobody else I've ever met seems to have heard of this technique but it has been invaluable to me and I always try to share it with as many players as possible!


Kate White Clarinet Teacher (York)

About The Author

I am a Clarinet, Saxophone, Piano and Music Theory tutor with 25 years' experience. I teach all ages, levels and musical styles in the York area.




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