Reeds & Mouthpieces Part 2

So, how can one “magic” reed work where dozens from the same box have been complete duds?

Well, the fact is that the “magic” reed is truly the “inconsistent” one and the rest were quite consistent. The problem, my friends, is not in your reeds but in your mouthpiece. That “magic” reed just happened to be able to mask one or more of the mouthpiece issues that were causing all the trouble. A reed that is not uniform in all respects actually can conform to a poorly faced mouthpiece sometimes and- bam- it plays.

How often have you been told to “play a stronger reed” or “play a lighter reed” as the solution to a serious playing problem? Yes, sometimes that change can mask a mouthpiece problem but the problem is still there and it manifests itself in some other way at some point, especially when you put on a new reed.

It happens all the time and I hear it again and again from players around the world.

Now, let me get back to “integrity” when it comes to reed response. This, folks, is the whole ballgame on soprano. Until we have complete integrity in the way a reed vibrates, we are dealing with “workarounds” when playing. Actually, a good embouchure, which we all know is important, is ALL ABOUT promoting the integrity of the vibrating reed. That is what it does!

But on an unbalanced soprano mouthpiece, it’s another story altogether.

Perhaps we have to adjust the airstream a certain way to get one particular note to speak well; perhaps we must shift our embouchure this way or that to “free up” a tone or two, or to get a certain part of the range to speak well or to have the same resonance as the rest of the horn. And maybe we have to do this in the middle of some tricky passages, in tempo and in tune. And maybe, sometimes, we don’t get it done and we’re, well, not too happy, and neither is the conductor or our section mates. That’s how “the soprano is a beast” myth started in the first place, I think.

If you’re dealing with issues like this, don’t blame the reed “du jour” or the horn. It’s the mouthpiece. Once that is balanced and properly set up, those other things just disappear and they do not return.

You’re left with making music- the thing you started out to do in the first place.