Update on 26 July 2015: I recently discovered it is possible to get 10 humidity packs for the price of one! Check it out here. I’m very excited I found this!
“I feel prepared for my recital,” I told my teacher, “I just hope I have a reed that works!”
“You should have at least three good reeds to choose from for a performance,” she responded matter-of-factly.
Three good reeds?! All at once? At the time, I was shocked. I felt I had no control over the quality of my reeds and that all I could do was hope. Now, I regularly have more than three performance-ready reeds on hand. So what changed?
In my last post I wrote about breaking in reeds, which led to my biggest advance down the path to reed mastery. But what do you do once a reed is broken in correctly? How do you make sure your reeds continue to play well? One answer is proper storage. Ideally, a reed case does three things: protects the reed tip, prevents warping, and controls humidity.
Level 1: Protect the Tip
The most basic level of reed storage is protecting the tip of the reed. If the tip chips, you can start drafting another reed eulogy. Luckily, protection is easily found with any case and even the plastic sheath most reeds are packaged in can suffice at this level. Remove the reed from the mouthpiece after each playing session and carefully place it in a case. This is a starting point, but a good case can offer much more!
Level 2: Prevent Warping
While a warped tip doesn’t toll the same death knell as cracking, it is generally a sign that a reed is in (rapid) decline. There are some tricks to flatten a warped reed, but I find a proactive approach to be the most effective. Basic reed cases like the Rico Reed Guard are an inexpensive option that can maintain a flat tip a bit better than the generic packaging.
Level 3: Control Humidity
Here’s where a case can go from passively holding your reeds to actively improving their consistency and longevity. In a case that maintains constant humidity, reeds are always ready to play, rarely warp, and are more dependable from playing session to playing session. Most serious saxophone and clarinet players I know are now using the Rico Multi-Instrument Reed Storage Case. I have a case for each of my saxophones and one for my clarinet. (Clearly I’m a fan!)
Each case contains a humidity pack that helps maintain homeostasis. I use the 72% packs which are intended from “minimal wetting.” With this humidity level, I barely need to moisten both ends of a reed and it is good to go. The Reed Vitalizer packs must be replaced every 45 to 90 days. If the pack feels like it contains a solid rather than a fluid, it is time for a new one. Each pack’s lifespan depends on a number of factors which can include external humidity and temperature, altitude, frequency of case use, and how moist the reeds are when they’re stored.
A note on drying: With the 72% humidity pack, I find I get the best results when I wipe off excess moisture with my fingers before storing. This also prevents any mold from developing.
- Reed storage plays a real and important role in managing your reeds.
- Ideally a case protects from damage, prevents warping, and controls humidity.
- The Rico Multi-Instrument Case is my top recommendation for successful storage.