In this video, I talk about perfect reed placement and explain how to avoid some squawks & squeaks on the saxophone. Reed placement is one of the most important things when it comes to putting your saxophone together. If you get it right, your sax will be easy to play, if you get it wrong you will have all kinds of problems. Here are a few things to think about when putting your reed on your mouthpiece.
- You should see a thin black line of mouthpiece above the tip of your reed.
- If the space between the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece is to large, it will be very hard to play and you’ll get and airy sound.
- If the reed is above the tip of the mouthpiece you will get tons and tons of squeaks.
- The reed needs to be perfectly centered on the mouthpiece. If it’s not the air will not go into the sax correctly.
- The ligature needs to be in the correct place on the sax. If it is to far up, or to far back it will drastically effect your saxophone sound.
The video above will demonstrate the correct way to put your reed on the sax perfectly every time.
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PERFECT SAX REED PLACEMENT – video transcription
0:00:07.2 Scott: What’s up, everybody?
0:00:08.1 Scott P: My name is Scott paddock, and today we are gonna talk about perfect reed placement.
0:00:18.3 Scott: In my lessons, 99% of the time when there is a problem with the sound, it is either a bad reed or the reed is not placed correctly on the mouthpiece.
0:00:28.1 Scott P: And this is a super easy fix when it comes to placing the reed on the mouthpiece. So today, I am gonna go in depth on perfect reed placement. Today’s video is sponsored by Legere. I play a Legere signature 2.25 and I’ll be using that reed on all of my examples today, because some people do play cane reads, I will also give you some of the extra steps that you’ll need to take if you are playing on a cane reed, but I would like to send a thank you to Legere reads for sponsoring my videos for the month of December.
0:00:58.6 Scott: Okay, so let’s dive into perfect reed placement. It’s actually really simple. The short version is, you wanna see a thin black line at the tip of the top of your mouthpiece, so what that means is, when you have your mouthpiece out, you wanna a thin black line, my mouthpiece is blue and black and all different kinds of colors it is a Barkley Brazil pop custom 7 blue, and if anyone is wondering… And I’m using a BG duo silver ligature. But for reed placement, it’s super important that your reed is in the center of the mouthpiece and that you have a thin black line at the tip of your mouthpiece, what that means is where the reed hits the mouthpiece, you should see a very small sliver of black up at the top, so you should see just a very small sliver of the mouthpiece. If you see a lot of the mouthpiece, it’s gonna be way harder to blow, and if you see no mouthpiece ’cause the reed is up too high, you’re gonna squawk and squeak a lot, so I’m gonna go a little bit more in depth into that, but your perfect reed placement is dead center with the very tip of the mouthpiece showing above the reed, so an example of what the reed sounds like in the right spot…
0:02:08.7 Scott: I’m gonna play a G scale tongued, so when I do this with the reed in the wrong spot, you can easily compare it, so this is what your scale should sound like if you reed is in the right spot. So it’s just a really full, really easy sound, the tongue is nice and clean, there are no problems, so if you are squawking and squeaking, there is a very good chance that you are making one of the big mistakes when it comes to reed placement, and that is putting your reed too high up on the mouthpiece, so if your reed goes above the tip of the mouthpiece, when your tongue the reed, it does not close properly up against the tip, and that causes the air not to go into the mouthpiece correctly and catch it. Right at the right time. So you’re gonna get all kinds of crazy squawks and squeaks.
0:02:56.5 Scott P: So I am going to put my reed in the wrong place, it’s gonna be painful to play that way, but I’m gonna do it so you can hear the difference in my tone when the reed is slightly above the mouthpiece as opposed to seeing a thin black line above the reed… Okay, so if you look at this, you can see that there is a little bit of reed protruding above the tip of mine, if the video isn’t clear, I’ll put some pictures up so you can see it more clearly from the back, you can definitely see the reeds sticking up above the top of the mouthpiece, you do not want that, it’s gonna cause squawks and squeaks, I don’t know if I’ll squawk doing it, but if my students have their reed here, you can guarantee there’s gonna be all kinds of squawks and squeaks.
0:03:39.8 Scott: So here is what it sounds like if your reed is too high on the mouthpiece.
0:03:51.6 Scott P: So I didn’t squawk, but my tone was definitely muffled, it wasn’t nearly as clean, especially when I tongue, because the air is getting cut off in a weird way, the reed is not cutting off the air correctly. What normally happens is when you tongue your tongue comes up and closes off the reed, so if you do that and your reed is slightly below the tip of the reed, it does it perfectly, but if you do it here, you are closing off the reed before it hits the mouthpiece and it just causes the air to act crazy and make your saxophone sound just weird, it doesn’t sound good. A more common problem than the reed being too high on the mouthpiece is the reed being too low on the mouthpiece, which gives you a thick black line, so that looks like this. And what that does is it allows more air into the mouthpiece, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, obviously, you want a lot of air going to the mouthpiece, but we want controlled air, and the bigger that air is, the less control you’re gonna have over it, so you wanna see that thin black line, it’s gonna give you a ton of control over your tone, and is gonna let you tongue really easily, when you have that thicker black line, you don’t have nearly as much control, you’re gonna lose the center of your sound, your sound is not gonna have a fat round sound to it.
0:05:11.3 Scott P: This is what that sounds like. That is why you can’t have a giant black line the air does not like it. Yeah, there is no center to this pitch at all, this is flat and nasty sounding, not flat as in out of tune, but flat as the sound is not round now, it doesn’t have a full body to it, now, the third problem that we run into is the reed not being centered, so that means you’re gonna have some extra space on the left-hand side or the right-hand side of the reed and that just completely screws with your sound, so here is an example of what that looks like and what it sounds like…
0:06:08.6 Scott: So if you notice, the reed is shifted this way, which is my right, that’s probably your left because the camera does everything backwards and it’s leaving this whole area uncovered, which just destroys your airflow. The air has no idea what to do because it’s not being evenly separated throughout the reed…
0:06:29.4 Scott P: So let’s take a listen to it. I don’t know how this is gonna react, so I don’t know if it’s picking it up on this microphone, but it just sounds fuzzy and buzzy, there’s no center to the tone, and it just… It feels terrible, it feels like the air can’t get through the saxophone.
0:07:03.7 Scott: And it’s flat as in pitch also, so perfect reed placement is having a thin black line at the very tip of your reed.
0:07:14.3 Scott P: So if you have that thin black line, It’s gonna give you the best sound no matter what reed you have on. As far as a ligature placement, this is also pretty important, you wanna have it back on the barrel part of the ligature, this part… If you’re using a Meyer 5 or something like that, they actually have a line on them, so you wanna have the ligature below the line, but you don’t want your ligature up too far like that because then the reed doesn’t vibrate correctly, and if you have it back too far, then you have too much of the reed vibrating, so you wanna have it right in the center of… I don’t know what this is called, but I call it the barrel part, so you will have it right in the center of the barrel, so that’s pretty much it. If you’re using a synthetic reed, you don’t really have to worry about anything else, but if you’re using a cane reed, there are several other things you have to worry about, first, is the reed good or bad, and the reed could sound bad, just ’cause it’s a bad reed it has nothing to do with the way you’re playing it or where you have it placed on the mouthpiece, it could just be a bad reed, assuming that you do have a good reed, there are a couple of things that you need to do first, you need to make sure that you are wetting the reed, if you don’t wet the reed, you will not get a good sound, so you wanna wet the reed, both the front and the back so this, the front, get it soppy wet and then flip it around and wet the back also.
0:08:40.5 Scott P: And get that soppy. Now, a lot of people don’t realize you’re supposed to wet the back, but that’s actually the most important part, ’cause it forms a seal with the face of the mouthpiece, so always wet the front and back of your cane reeds if you have a synthetic reed or Legere signature reed, you can skip that step because they don’t need to… You don’t need to wet them for them to work perfectly, the worst advice that a non-woodwind band director will give to students is when you get a new box of reed, play through all of them, find the best one and save it for the concert that is the worst advice. Because once you get it wet cane reeds dry out, the tip of the reed will get warped, that’s what those little curvy lines are on the tip of a reed, so if you get that reed wet and it dries out, you can almost guarantee that your reed is gonna warp and once your reed warps… It will never sound the same. You can get it flat by getting it wet and pressing it down and doing all this work on the reed, but it’s never gonna sound as good as it does out of the box getting wet and playing, so you never want your cane reads to dry out or you are gonna end up having warped reeds that do not sound good, and that is pretty much it for perfect reed placement.
0:09:44.3 Scott P: You want your reed dead center on your mouthpiece, and you wanna be able to see a thin black line of the mouthpiece above the tip of the reed, that’s how your reed is gonna sound the best. If you’re using a Legere signature, just slap it on and play and you’ll be good to go, if you’re using a cane reed, Make sure you wet the front and the back and that you keep that reed wet, Do not let it dry out, don’t let it warp.
I’d like to give another shout-out to Legere for sponsoring my videos for the month of December. I really appreciate the support.
Thank you for taking the time to check out this video, if you now know what perfect reed placement is, I’d really appreciate it if you subscribe to my channel, give me a thumbs up and share it with your friends. Thanks a lot.