It’s not as if there aren’t enough types available, the choice is well, quite daunting! However, saxophone players are always on the hunt for the perfect reed which will fill them with the confidence to perform freely. Talking to woodwind players about reeds I would say that it’s the single biggest cause for concern and least understood part of their equipment. On several occasions I have seen brilliant players close to tears yielding their saxophone as the problem when after a moment’s conversation we discover that unsuitable reed choice is to blame. We can often solve playing issues by experimenting with reed types and strengths.
Fortunately for me (and hopefully for you) I’ve had the luxury of trying the various reed types and strengths. Personally I favour the Rico Filed Jazz Select on Alto Saxophone, finding they give the right combination of flexibility but with enough stability for the softer strengths that I prefer to play.
Most of our customers have been quite happy using the Filed version of this reed but after the third time this week hearing ‘have you got any UN-Filed Rico Jazz select’ we decided it was time to give them a try.
Visually they differ from the Filed reed in that the cane bark stretches right up to where the cane profile begins and so continues in an arch toward the edge of the reed. On playing the Un-Filed reed I noticed that the quality of the tone was less brittle and smoother than the Filed when playing softly which made me feel initially that its response was duller. This has the effect of subduing the attack of each note played and generally calming the response of the reed. Conversely when pushed, the response becomes familiar, much like the Un-Filed reed with perhaps a little more refinement and less grit. On the face of it, this is a useful combination of qualities which serve to add even more tonal range to this already dynamic reed and in doing so, make it a bit more stable.
Both the Filed and Un-Filed reeds feel quite similar to play as they share the same profile so going from one to the other felt quite natural. I could quite easily use the both types of reed without feeling much difference in the way I play, using perhaps the Filed version in my normal rock/pop gigs and swapping to the Un-Filed for traditional Jazz.
If you would like advise on reeds please contact Philip Evans, Saxophone Specialist at Howarth of London.