Reed Adjustments Without Tools

I divided this post up into two parts: creating a bigger opening at the tip and then creating a smaller opening.  A reed with a large opening will tend to play lower in pitch than a reed with a small opening.  For me, a reed with a stronger opening will be easier to play in the low register, whereas a reed with a smaller opening will play better in the upper register in terms of response, intonation, and control.  Be careful with these adjustments because it is unlikely that you will be able to change just the response of the low register without compromising the pitch of the upper register.

To open up a reed and improve low register response

  1. Soak the reed it hot water for at least 30 seconds. You can try putting your reed water in the microwave in a microwave safe container for about 20 seconds to heat up your reed water. Water should be approximately soup hot.
  2. Gently press the corners of the reed inward.  Make sure the reed is soaked in water otherwise it can split.
  3. There should be a small overlap with the blades of the reed where the top blade sits a little to the right.  Shift the overlap so the blades of the reed sit more on top of each other.

To close down a reed and raise the pitch

  1. If you soaked the reed in hot water, it might need to be left to dry out for a few minutes.
  2. Try putting a plaque in (plaque is optional) and squeeze the opening shut with your fingers.  Make sure the reed is soaked otherwise it can split.
  3. Increase the overlap so the top blade sits more to the right.
  4. The reed might be too new and might need to be "broken in."  Break in the reed if it feels out of control with tone or pitch.  To break in a reed, all you need to do is play on it for an hour or more.  Try practicing music with a lot of fast, articulated notes to break your reeds in quicker.

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