Sam Newsome

Sam Newsome
"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

VIDEO FEATURE: Dorota Potrowska/Sam Newsome Quartet - 2017 Sopot Jazz Festival

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ideal Soprano Reeds

I've been playing RW reeds since 2008. So when Roberto asked me to become an endorser, it was great, because I was already playing them anyway. I have numerous credit card statements to prove it! And personally I can’t think of a better endorsement to have.

Endorsing mouthpieces and horns are good. But honestly, I don’t want several horns and mouthpieces. I’ve been playing the same horn for over 20 years and the same mouthpiece close to ten. It would have been longer, but my old mouthpiece fell on the floor and broke. Besides, having unlimited access to horns and mouthpieces would do me more harm than good. I would spend too much time blaming everything on my equipment.

Reeds on the other hand, you can never have too many of them. I might go through a box faster than a cowboy goes through a pack of Marlboros. Hey, if I could play a reed for twenty years, that would be amazing, not to mention cost effective--but back to reality.

I haven’t tried the RW reeds on the other saxes, but I know they’re ideal for the soprano. As you know, everything is magnified on the soprano. Saxophonist Dave Liebman offered some insightful reasons why, in his article The Soprano Saxophone: "A great portion of the soprano's range places it in that area of sound where the pitches are produced by very fast oscillations. (If the A below middle C is 440 cycles, doubling that number for the next A and again for high A above the staff gives you an idea of the speed of vibrations in the soprano range."

So when you have the sound producing such fast oscillations, it’s only natural that you need the micro-sizes that the RW reeds offer to give you just the right consistency and resonance needed throughout the entire range of the instrument.

When I used to play Vandorens--which are great reeds, too--I found they just didn’t give me the same flexibility and power of the RW reeds, especially when it came to playing multi-phonics and in the altissimo register. Until recently, I was playing the RW Soprano, 3 Medium, but came down in size to a RW Soprano, 3 Soft. It offered me a little more control, allowing me to play with less resistance. Back in the old days, I would have had to shave down my reeds. But the micro-sizes have made that practice a thing of the past.

If you ever find yourself on W. 46th Street, between 6th and Broadway, do yourself a favor and stop by Roberto’s Winds .

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