How Saxophone Reeds Are Made and Broken In

Nathan Cepelinski
2 min readMay 1, 2023

Nathan Cepelinski is a freelance saxophonist, composer, and producer with two decades of professional musician experience. Having mastered the tenor, alto, and soprano saxes, Nathan Cepelinski has extensive knowledge of playing techniques.

One of the essentials in creating the sax’s uniquely emotive sound is the reed, which vibrates when air is forced between it and the mouthpiece, creating a distinct tone. The reed is traditionally made from cane, a tall grass originally from the Mediterranean, with a look and strength similar to bamboo (but softer). The cane is dried for two years before it is sectioned, sanded, and shaped into conical reeds. The final shaving of the reed’s tip is extremely precise, requiring diamond-cut blades.

When breaking a new reed in, soak it in warm water for a few minutes, then place it on glass or another glossy surface, rubbing the finger down along the sloping back to get the fiber compact. From here, play and test the reed for a few minutes each day, allowing the reed to find its proper fit, given the mouthpiece framework and the player’s embouchure (the way the mouth applies pressure to the mouthpiece. However, do not let the reed stay in the water for more than five minutes, as it will get waterlogged and compromised, delivering subpar vibrations for the remainder of its lifetime.

--

--

Nathan Cepelinski

Musician and Online Course Developer Nathan Cepelinski