3/25/08

The deepest pit of reed hell


I've found myself in a deep dark part of reed hell recently. It's a place that makes you want to just burn your twenty dollar bills, rather than to play any more terrible reeds. I would rather jab these bad reeds into my eye sockets than to actually play one of them on an entire gig. These bamboo things may look like saxophone reeds, but they're really Satan's fingernail clippings. Each time I put one of these hellish shards onto my mouthpiece and blow I hear the mournful wailing of condemned souls and the howls of the hounds of hell. I must have been a mass murderer or Spanish inquisitor in a past life to deserve such reeds in this life.

For the last couple of years I've been playing Riggotti Gold reeds on both alto and tenor. For a while there I felt like my reed demons had been banished from my life. All was well, I was happy, life was good to me. Suddenly the bottom dropped out and all of my tenor reeds stopped working. Each box of reeds seemed to get worse and worse, until it started seeming like I might be better off just using old tongue depressors or even dried cat turds instead of reeds. The sound would be the same and I would have a lot more spending money on hand.

The last eight to ten boxes of Riggotti tenor reeds that I bought have all sucked ass. Not just run of the mill ass, but dirty stinky crusty ass. After each order of these reeds that I go through without finding anything that plays, I usually go to the local music store and buy a box or two of name brand reeds, hoping against all odds that one of them will work. Once in a while I find one that kind of sounds passable, the rest always suck.

The reeds I've recently tried have been Rico Jazz Select, Vandoren Java,V16s, and ZZs, Rico Royal, Hemke, La Voz and regular Ricos. After wasting about $150 on my last order of Riggottis I decided to start searching out reeds that I have not yet tried. I got $177 worth of reeds in the mail yesterday and played through all of them in about one hour, not a single good reed. I tried Ponzel (squwAAck), Brancher (brAAck), Rico Concert (fweep), and Australian reeds (these were so bad they they would have been really funny had they not cost so much). It would be a hell of a lot cheaper if I were to just start smoking crack and just settled for shitty reeds!!!

I can't even write about this anymore because it makes me too sad.

Just take me now Satan, oh terrible lord of darkness.

12 comments:

Owen Summers said...

David,

I regularly read your blog, but don't usually post. I hear you on the reed issues. Since moving to Texas from New York it's been an absolute nightmare. Have you tried Roberto's house brand? It's Rigotti cane, but they are a little different cut than the Rigotti Golds and seem to be a little more consistent.

Best.

Owen

David Carlos Valdez said...

It's always good to hear from regular readers for the first time. I actually have a few boxes of Roberto's reeds coming to me in the mail right now. I remember trying them on alto and they just didn't have enough heart, but I don't remember ever trying them on tenor so I got a few boxes. Roberto's, Ishimori and Francois Louis reeds all use the same cane. They all play really different though.

David Carlos Valdez said...

It's always good to hear from regular readers for the first time. I actually have a few boxes of Roberto's reeds coming to me in the mail right now. I remember trying them on alto and they just didn't have enough heart, but I don't remember ever trying them on tenor so I got a few boxes. Roberto's, Ishimori and Francois Louis reeds all use the same cane. They all play really different though.

The Dissonance said...

I'm liking the Vandoran ZZ's right now but for orchestra gigs I use synthetic reeds prefering the Plasticover. However when I try to sound like a bassoon on a bari sax I'll use the Legere.

I used to be really picky about reeds but now I regularly play six saxes (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, bari and bass) and it would seem that I'm getting less and less picky. But then I don't have that killer sound like you do.

MonksDream said...

At least it causes you to post the illustrations from Dante's Inferno!!

Mrs. Kluga and Mr. Whalen said...

also a long time reader of your blogness, I actually was at Berzerklee with you, perhaps even in a class or two with you...anyways, I've been digging the v16's for a while, and while not all play well, I can usually get a few out of the box. What's nice is they have a little of the woodiness left in the sound as opposed to say a Rico Jazz select or something which for a while were ok (a few years ago), but are also very in-your-facey. I dig the west coast kind of sound, so v16s work nicely for me, the zz's I found were a little hollow in the center of the tone. Ive also heard those Queen reeds from Robertos were good, not sure about now though?

Jakub said...

...I use V16s when playing my metal mpc and Hemke when playing hr. It's been working for several months now. I also tried Javas and ZZ's, but they simply didn't feel THAT well. What's bad about Hemke is that they usually die too soon. Maybe I should drink less coffee on gigs...

TomasTrulsson said...

I recently took a lesson with a masterclarinetplayer and we talked alot about reeds. He is a performing artist for vandoren btw. He said that we should see reeds as a not finished product, the reeds needs a little work and care and its really not that hard getting almost every reed to work perfectly.
I have also noticed that every year when its getting warmer and it is more humidity in the air , its harder to get the reeds to work for me.

Another fact :-) our reeds is not made out of bamboo, its a type of grass (Arundo donax).

I only play Marca reeds and lovin it. Marca, by the way, is also the maker of the alexander reeds. :)

Hope you get out of your reed hell

Tomas

Tom T said...

David -

I know - what's happened to Rigotti Golds is really depressing. Have you tried the Ridenour Reed Finishing System? It works for me.

Thanks for the excellent blog.

Tom T.

David Carlos Valdez said...

That looks interesting, but I'd want to know more before I spend $80 on it. Is it just a book or some sort of tools also?

Ben said...

Sorry to dig up and old post, but. . . First off, I just found your blog last night, and it looks amazing, so kudos. Second of all I listened to a clip of your playing and you have a great sound, man!

I need some follow up on this reed discussion, please. I have played on rico jazz select for a million years. They suck now (maybe they always did). The roberto's reeds play great for me but I can't afford $50 every time I need a box of reeds ($41 + shipping), so I was thinking of trying the rigotti Gold or Regal Queens (I understand they are from the same cane).

So my questions are these - Did the rigotti gold ever improve? Have you tried queens? How did the roberto's work out for you? And even though the cane is similar how do the Rigotti and Queens (if you played the queens) compare to the robertos? I would really appriciate any response. Thanks.

David Carlos Valdez said...

For me the cut on the Golds is way better than on the Roberto's. So I'm still using Riggottis on alto and tenor and they are working quite well, as far as reeds can possibly go anyways.