The crash of the US Dolar causes reed crisis!

Do you play Vandoren, Rigotti or any other European made reeds? If you do you may be shocked the next time you order reeds. I play Rigotti Golds myself and this month I ordered seven boxes (5 alto and 2 tenor) from Roberto's in NYC. I didn't bother to ask what my total was because I thought that I already knew how much they would be, which I figured to be about $150. When called back to check to see if they'd been sent yet I remembered to ask about the price. My total was $250. HOLY SHIT! The alto reeds had gone up 50%, from $20 a box to $30 a box and the tenor reeds had gone up from $32 a box to $45 a box. Gulp. The dollar was at an all-time low to the Euro a few weeks ago- $1.59 to 1 Euro. It was bounced back slightly just recently to $1.55, but that's still pretty pathetic.

There is also such a strong demand for Rigotti reeds that every supplier usually runs out weeks before each new shipment arrives, but I do think that the biggest factor is the exchange rate. This means that all the European instrument makers have also been jacking up their prices. In fact, Selmer just bump their prices up almost 15%. Those Chinese horns may be starting to look a little better to some people.

Even if the dollar bounces back in the near future the reed companies will never drop their prices to reflect the stronger dollar. We're F$cked. I'm now going to totally reassess how I deal with bad reeds. No longer will I be able to afford to luxury of going through a box of reeds, picked out the good one and giving the rest to my students. I'm going to have to break out that infernal reed rush, reed knife and reed clipper. It really frustrates me to try to get shitty reeds to work. So few of these reeds ever turn out to be playable for me, they usually work right away or they never do. I'm just not patient enough to polish these exorbitantly expensive turds of reeds until they play. Will only wealthy saxophonists have good sounds in the future?!

I suggest that if you play European reeds you stock on as many of them as you can afford and sock them away. Find a supplier who hasn't sold out of the stock that they bought at the lower prices if you can. I know that Woodwind & Brasswind is out of the strengths that I play (if they did I certainly wouldn't be telling you about this), so see if they still have your reeds and snatch them up while you can still afford to throw away shitty reeds.

If the dollar drops any more I just might be cutting into some of the bamboo on the side of my house. At least I'll be able to feel confident that everyone else will also be sounding like crap.

Here are some pages about working on reeds:
Pete Thomas
Charles Socci
Col Loughnan
Ray Reed
Adjusting the single reed DVD
SOTW forum on reeds

Something that I've found useful for chosing and adjusting reeds is a funny little tool called the Reed-O-Meter. It measures reed strengths and is probably similar to the tool that reed manufacturers to sort reeds by strength. Once you have determined which reed strength you require, the Reed-O-Meter will aid in the consistent selection of reeds of exactly that strength.You can order the Reed-O-Meter from WWBW.

There is a company called the French American reed company that will custom make reeds to your exact specs in any quantity. I can't imagine the custom reeds would be cheap.

They say:
"For a number of years we have worked with some of the biggest names in music to produce custom made reeds. These tailor made reeds can be produced with specific profiles and cane treatments. In the past this was a very manual process. Now with the help of new software tools the process is much more efficient. Access to a mass produced yet consistent custom reed has never been easier. Please contact us to discuss your plans."


peter said...

Hi David
Prices on reeds are outrageous.
Here in Denmark I pay 34 $ for a box of 10 Rico Royal alto reeds.
It's been like that for years now:-(


David Carlos Valdez said...

Americans are just a bunch of big whiners I guess. We're also bitching and moaning over here because gas is almost $4 a gallon and you guys have been paying more than that for a long time already.

chicken little said...

The French American reed company is the same company that makes the Reed-O-Meter. I used to play on their Maccaferri reeds. These were the same as the Dave Guardala reeds only they weren't 30 bucks a box fifteen years ago! Anyway, Mrs. Maccaferri used to hook me up with reeds and stuff. She's now retired (and possibly passed) and her daughter runs the business. She's moved it from Westchester County (just north of NYC) to Jackson, TN. I think that they changed from French to God knows what kind of cane for their reeds. She also raised the prices.

JasonMescia said...

I've been wanting to try out Rigotti Golds. Are the 3 Mediums about the same thickness of 3 JAVA's? I'm sure there are a billion different factors that will affect how they blow but I'm trying to get somewhere in the ballpark.

JasonMescia said...

I've been wanting to try out Rigotti Golds. Are the 3 Mediums about the same thickness of 3 JAVA's? I'm sure there are a billion different factors that will affect how they blow but I'm trying to get somewhere in the ballpark.

David Carlos Valdez said...

On alto I used to play Java 3.5, but with Rigotti reeds I now use a 3.5 strong.

Anonymous said...

i'm positive i spend more on reeds than you do, and i'm playing mostly soprano. maybe they don't last as long. i took your advice and moved to a 3; so high notes are much better. i'm using brancher jazz 3, as brancher is what aebersold's been playing. i also like rigotti gold, wwbw jazz, but they're never in stock. rico jazz filed select not to bad. but many reeds will not last one tune. so i average may be a box of reeds per day because i play 2 to 5 hours a day.

David Carlos Valdez said...

You win Wen. I've never known anyone who's gone through an entire box or reeds a day!

If WWBW is out of Riggotti you can usually find them at Roberto's Winds or Muncy Winds. Just Google them for the phone numbers.

Could it be your mouthpiece? My buddy thinks that Charles Bay makes some of the best soprano pieces out there. He usually only makes clarinet pieces, but he will custom make soprano pieces. I've tried them and they're really good.