Seven Days to Reed Heaven

by Ed Joffe

Day 1: Remove the reeds from their container soon after purchasing them and put them in a pouch with a Rico Reed Vitalizer pack with 84% humidity.

Day 2: When you’re ready to begin the process of preparing the reeds to play, remove the reeds from the pouch and lay them on a flat surface, belly up, for one hour. Do not play them or wet them. This will allow the reeds to become acclimated to the temperature and humidity of the room. Put them back in the reed pouch but this time with a 73% humidity pack.

Day 3: The next day, submerge the tips of the reeds into luke-warm water, making sure that the entire cut of the reed is wet. Be careful not to let the tips of the reeds touch any surface. Leave them in the water for no more than one minute. The reeds that are most porous may show that the water has reached the butt-end of the reed before the minute is up. When that occurs or when the minute is up, remove the reeds from the water and then briefly submerge the back ends of the reeds that had not been wet previously. Remove the reeds from the water and rub the excess moisture into the cut of the reed with your finger or a dull-edged metal object. This burnishing process will help seal the pores of the reeds. Wipe all remaining water from the reeds and lay them on their belly-side while allowing them to dry. Put them in a reed pouch with a 58% humidity pack.

Day 4: Repeat procedure #3 but this time play each of the reeds briefly—for no more than a couple of minutes—before allowing them to dry. (Always wipe off the excess moisture before allowing the reeds to dry.) Put them in a reed pouch with a 58% humidity pack.

Day 5: Repeat step #4 but after allowing the reeds to dry, lightly rub the flat side (back end) of each reed over a glossy-white paper as much as 100 times. Be careful not to rub the tip end of the reed on the paper. This will help seal the flat side of the reed that lies on the mouthpiece table and side rails. The residue of the paper’s fibers fills in the spaces between the fibers of the reed. Play each reed for five minutes this day. Start to separate the reeds that are too hard, too soft, playable, etc.

Day 6: Repeat the wetting and burnishing processes. Now, begin to work on balancing the sides of the reeds, adjusting the tip response, sizing the reed to the mouthpiece table, etc. Play the reeds that you’ve chosen to concentrate on for 15 minutes before allowing them to dry and store.

Day 7: Repeat step #6 and play each of the reeds that you have selected for 30 minutes before allowing them to dry and store.

*This process does not guarantee that each reed will ultimately be a good one or even that all of the reeds will play. Rather, it enhances the chances that the reeds that are possibilities for performance will last longer and be more consistent during their lifetime.