Reeds – Part 7 of 1000

Dear Mr. Friedland,

Thank You for such a quick reply. You are right about how I’ve been going about this whole reed thing, which is why I want to stop doing that and do it correctly. In fact, I have been only going thru the motions since I started playing clarinet without really understanding what I was doing. I realize that now and I’m going to try and learn these things.

Back to the reeds … There was 1 paragraph I wasn’t real clear about so I want to make certain of these things before I start. I don’t mean to sound stupid but I know about as much as someone just beginning I think and want to do exactly as you say and do it right.

Can I use any 5 reeds that I happen to have or do they need to be new? I’m not clear on what part is the butt. Do you mean the thicker end? I’m looking to see if the 1/2 moon wedge shape is even … right? Are you saying that if I drew a line down the middle of the wedge one side should look exactly like the other? Ok, let’s say 3 of the 5 reeds were uneven, do I move to the next step of checking the tip with the remaining 2, and then check the color, or do I go thru more reeds until I have 5? If I thoroughly wet the reeds and then put them out for inspection, won’t this make them warp? I thought that wetting a reed and then not properly storing it caused them to warp. How much of the reed should be put in water and for how long? Am I correct … when I have recognized 3-5 reeds with even butts, tips and good color, let you know and then you will tell me what is next?

Thank you again,


Continuing from part one of “the first five Mountains”, an essay on developing “reed discernment, by Sherman Friedland.

The butt is the bottom of the reed, that part which is furthest away from the tip. This must be reasonably even; if not, or very uneven, the reed may play, however it will always be a worry. Unstable.

Now to continue the story on the 5 reeds: these reeds you have chosen as being the best in, say a series of 15-20 reeds tried, or less, no more. The point is that you are training your ability to actually pick a good reed, or at least a better reed than the others you’ve tried. That’s discernment! That is what this exercise is all about: learning to choose, to narrow down, and then to work upon and finally select a playable (in concert or rehearsal) reed.

They do not just appear, they must be chosen, and you must make the choice.

Leave these 5 on a glass, but prior to leaving them, dry them between the tip of your thumb and index finger, again and again, carefully so that you do no damage. Then … put them away for a day, 24 hours or so until they are all dried out and curl up again when you again soak them in your mouth.

Let them again get straight; they will and try them again, more carefully and for a longer period of time. They may all have changed drastically, or some may have kept their goodness. Wet them all again and try them. If you wind up with all junk or rejects, so be it. You have to start again, the only thing being do NOT throw any of these reeds away, for they must be tried and dried until a bit of stability begins to show it self. This will mean that the reed is beginning to change and become stable, to cure. Throw none away!

How do these reeds look? Do they show a thicker symmetrical center that is eevenly thicker in the middle and then taparing and getting lighter and thinner toward the edges? They should. And if they do you are on the right track. You must keep your patience and you center of concentration. You are learning about the reeds you will eventually choose. They must both look and feel even.

The first test is always how they respond, how they sound, but looking good is also a part of it.

You should still have 5, though you may have switched some for others, and you should have a growing number of rejects, at least so far. Some of the rejects will leave you, some will be chosen again. It’s all a matter of wood and the way it ages, your saliva, and more than anything your patience.


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