Tuesday 9 February 2010

A Guide to Understanding the Music Industries Today - Theo Smith

First, I would like to let you know the music industries are the largest they have ever been. Contrary to the doom and gloom predicted by the press, it is only the plastic jewel cases for CDs that are declining in numbers and some very public copyright lawsuits that reflect some archaic business structures in the industries.

Secondly, it might be good news to you that now is the easiest time to enter the music industries as an artist as due to new technologies introduced at exponential rates over the last decade, we have a plethora of mediums through which to present our art.

We have seen some apocalyptic predictions for the recording industry, with articles such as this BBC speculation, ‘Rock Profits and Boogie Woogie Blues’, which suggests that the ‘music industry’ will never be as it was in 1996. This is a misrepresentation of the truth and a misunderstanding of the distinction between ‘music industry’ and ‘recording industry'.

The Recording Industry

The recording industry has seen a change in economic structure from Oligopolistic competition (The 4 big labels) into monopolistic competition, where there are many, much more equal, lower turnover recording labels, studios and artists. This means that the barriers to entry (that elusive record deal we all used to strive for) are lowered and the audience (consumer) decides based on exposure. The music industry is an exception to typical economic structures as there are no substitute goods – if you like one band and another band that you don’t like is cheaper to buy, you will not buy the lower priced band instead. We have seen that audiences instead find cheaper ways of attaining the same product such as the well publicised Napster or more recently Pirate Bay. It is the development of the artist’s fan base that is key in creating any income stream and the consideration of the economics of abundance – use the .mp3s and illegal downloads purely as a marketing sunk cost in the development of a fanbase in order that brand recognition can focus your audience on scarce resources you can then charge for: live events, merch, publishing, etc. More about income streams for artists can be found at Dave Kusek’s Income Streams for Musicians.

Startups and Early Career Development for Artists
There is no longer a lottery as to who will be the next big name, instead it is much more of a focus on the individual musician and their business prowess. The age of the rock star throwing things through hotel windows has finished, in order to survive in the industry today you need a strong marketing mind, good pr outlets, a concrete internet presence and the following formula represents the effective combination of required skills:

In summary, the music industry today has a lower barrier to entry, but is still focussed on the artist’s fan base. Because of new technologies such as social networking, mobile devices and other internet portals, along with the traditional marketing and PR techniques, artists are given a more equal chance of beginning their careers and a much more quantifiable way of measuring their impact through page views, fans and interactions. The new chart shows for each country’s top 40 are shifting from the amount of CDs bought (or even the much reduced .mp3 industry’s statistics) towards who makes the largest impact online which is reflected in live performances long term.

The Recording industry has declined whilst it reforms, but all other areas of music industries are increasing and taking over the focus of success for an artist in today’s climate.

Theo Smith
Theo Smith is an occasional contractor of Wood, Wind & Reed and studio musician currently studying Music Industry Management at the University of East London focusing on how the industry is changing and the development of new talent to embrace its ever-changing structures.

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Wood, Wind & Reed or any other employees thereof. Wood, Wind & Reed is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the bloggers.

106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Reeds Direct

As a Wood, Wind & Reed customer you may not be aware of our offshoot company Reeds Direct.

Reeds Direct has been supplying customers worldwide since 1997. From the outset it has been a dedicated reed supply enterprise operating as an extension of Wood, Wind & Reed.

The ethos behind Reeds Direct Cambridge is to make the purchase and regular supply of single reeds easy for our customers. From the outset RDC has traded under the byline 'The Easy Way to Buy Clarinet and Saxophone Reeds'. To ensure this level of service, a commitment was made to stock good quantities of all regularly requested reed brands in their full range of popular strengths. Dedicated free phone order lines and full time staff members make sure that all orders received before 3pm are supplied and sent out in Royal Mail 1st class post the same day. A dedicated website with easy to use online ordering facility was introduced in 1999.

To add further interest for our customers the range of reeds on offer from RDC has been expanded to include almost all of the world's greatest name products - in all normally requested strengths. Cane reeds from France, Germany, Austria, USA, Belgium, Argentina, Spain, Australia, Italy, Canada and South Africa both major brands and boutique hand made products can be found in our selection including the best of the exciting synthetic reed brands now available.

The Reeds Direct catalogue is a great way to learn more about the wide range of products we carry and much more besides. In it you'll find product information, a strength comparison chart, tips on reed care and guidance on which reeds might suit your mouthpiece and playing style.

Email Reeds Direct at shop@reeds-direct.co.uk to request a copy.

106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Tuesday 24 November 2009

ACE Foundation - Clarinet and Sax day with James Rae

Wood, Wind and Reed are pleased to be a part of the ACE Foundation's Clarinet and Sax day at Sawston Village College on the 28th February. The day will focus on masterclasses and mini ensembles. Guest performances from saxophonists Josh Isons and Alex Merritt and a special appearance from James Rae. The day will conclude with a concert involving all the participants.
We will be there with music, accessories and other items.

For application information please contact the ACE Foundation: 
E-mail: ace@acefoundation.org.uk - Tel. 01223 499 707.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Friday 16 October 2009

Wood, Wind and Reed at the Royal Northern College of Music

We will be attending the BASBWE / Royal Northern College of Music event on the 24th and 25th October. Our stand will be featuring Legere reeds and Dryer Swabs amongst other things, but we will also be able to take orders for any other items you may want. We hope to see you there. Click here for more details of the event.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Synthetic Reeds: a 21st Century Overview – Thomas Dryer-Beers

In addition to our offer on Legere Reeds, here is an article written by staff member Thomas Dryer-Beers specifically about synthetic reeds.


Whenever two or more single reed players chat in rehearsal or on a gig, one subject is bound to arise…we all know the moan, I’m pretty sure we all have thought the thought at least once:-

If we can send a man to the moon/store an encyclopedia on a CD/split the atom? Why can’t we produce a consistently good reed for the clarinet or saxophone?

Cane reed manufacturers have been working hard for decades to address this problem with better sourcing of cane, more controlled growing conditions, better cutting machinery, more sophisticated strength-grading technology, new profile designs, even better packaging. Their efforts have led to the creation of a greater range of products of a generally higher quality than ever before. But still the complaint is heard! The exceptional cane reed remains the stuff of legend, every player’s dream; and undeniably rewarding.

Now competition for your single reed custom is increasing from manufacturers who do not reluy upon the natural product at all. The products they make utilise new technologies, engineering and materials to produce reeds that will last longer, be by their very nature more consistent in strength, and are less affected by atmospheric conditions.

A potted history of synthetic reeds can be found on the MIRI website (www.fibracell.com). It provides some background on Arnold Brilhart and Steve Broadus whose combined efforts led to the creation of Fibercane reeds in the 1960s, to many players the product name which most immediately comes to mind whenever ‘plastic reeds’ are mentioned.

Much development has taken place since these original Fibercane products came to market. The new synthetic reed brands have added a wider range of sound options for the user. Each has its devoted proponents and, to be fair, each also has its detractors. The following selected guide is intended to bring players up to date.

For the first time in history a real choice is now available – between the consistency, reliability and respectability in performance of the new synthetics, and the variability and relatively eccentric performance of the traditional cane reed.

Just as with traditional reeds, when speaking of sound qualities and aspects of a reed’s performance, words alone often fail to fully illustrate the point being made. I have attempted to allow for some relative comparisons by using the following concepts:

RRI – Relative Response Index on a scale from 1-10. 1 being the Bari plastic reed and 10 being a traditional cane reed.

SR – Suitability Rating from 1-3. This relates roughly to the design underlying the reed profile and concept and equates with the tonal range from 1 = brilliant, 2 = centred/mellow, 3 = dark/rich or if it helps to illustrate some possible performance applications read the SR as: 1 = jazz/pop/rock, 2 = versatile styles, 3 = classical

OF – Overall Finish 1 = fair, 1.5 = good, 3 = excellent.

Reactions to these reeds are as individual as each player and depend on the mouthpiece used in the trial, the sound and blowing concepts preferred by the individual, and the sustainability of the reed for the intended use. The comments offered below are mine and should be viewed in this light. As a player myself, and in the course of both my work in a retail shop and during the preparation of this overview, I have come to know the potential of each of the brands for my customers and myself. I would encourage every interested player to make a considered purchase (or several) and judge for themselves by trying some of these new synthetic reeds. Happy playing!

Designed using a sophisticated composite of stiffened Kevlar fibres suspended in a lightweight resin formulation. Every effort has been made to make Fibracell products resemble cane even down to colouration of the material. Their website (www.fibracell.com) has extensive information.

Available for Bb clarinet and bass clarinet. Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone in strengths soft, med.soft, med.,med.hard, hard.

TD-B Comments:
The Fibracell reed does perform remarkably like cane, responding and achieving a very respectable sound. The resistance achieved by the design and profile is very similar to a cane product and the overall feel is very satisfactory. The appearance is that of an unfiled, American-cut reed. Fibracell offers long-lasting stable performance. Alterations to the reed bank are not recommended.

RRI 8 - SI 2/3 – OF 1.5

Hahn Synthetic
Utilises a sophisticated cellular structure that seeks to replicate the function of the cane fibres using a hollow fibre foam resin compound.

Available for Bb clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax in strengths 1.5 – 4

TD-B Comments:
The Hahn reed offers a tone quality of substance and resonance with a balanced resistance. Long lasting with very little degradation in performance over time. The reeds are white in colour with a black rubber pad below where the ligature makes contact for increased freedom of vibration.

RRI 7 – SI 2/3 – OF 1.6

The familiar clear plastic reed which has been available for decades. The design of the reed is of machined plastic but the structure of the compound used does allow for some moisture absorption. The reed profile and tip can be altered with sandpaper to change its strength.
Variants – Bari * (star) made from Avilar
Available for Bb and bass clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax in strengths soft, medium and hard.

TD-B Comments:
Very responsive and free blowing by intention. The sound is powerful and energetic, clear with many powerful overtones present. The Avilar material used in the Bari* range offers a slightly richer and deeper sound quality, and is also very free blowing. Beloved choice of many hard-blowing saxophonists.

RRI 1 – SI 1 – OF 1.25

Plasticover (Rico)
While not a synthetic reed in the sence of all the other reeds reviewed here, Plasticover deserves a mention as it manages to achieve much of the longevity of performance associated with synthetic reeds through the use of a plastic based coatig over a traditional cane reed.

Available for Eb, Bb, alto and bass clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone sax in strengths 1-5

TD-B Comments:
The Plasticover reed from Rico is familiar to many players as a ‘hybrid’ of cane and synthetic reeds. The basic performance is similar to Rico Royal reeds but the coating helps preserve and protect the cane. The coating deadens the reed response and the feel to the embouchure, but the extra effort required by the player and the added rigidity from the coating, combine to create a ‘snappy’ edge to the sound.

RRI 4 – SI 1/2 – OF 1.7

Made of a completely new material and utilising state of the art computerised cutting technology, Légère reeds were introduced at the International Clarinetfest in 1998 to wide acclaim. The Légère reed stakes its reputation upon its ‘war and woody’ sound. Each individual reed is serial numbered demonstrating the emphasis placed upon quality control. Thirty-day satisfaction trial is available.

Available for Eb, Bb and bass and contra bass clarinet, alto, tenor, soprano, and baritone sax in strengths 2, 2.25, 2.5, 2.75, 3, 3.25...- 5.

(Variants for Bb Clarinet only – Légère Quebec Cut – The blank is slightly wider and the cut offers slightly increased resistance creating a tonal character slightly more rounded and centred. Légère Signature – Designed with input from international artist/performers including Barnaby Robson and Larry Combs. This reed promises to meet the most exacting playing standards with increased depth and warmth of sound. Variants for Alto and Tenor Sax only – Légère Studio Cut – this reed is designed for use with a jazz mouthpiece. It is more flexible than the standard Légère reeds which makes it ideal for players desiring a freer response. Just like the standard reeds but ‘livelier’.)

TD-B Comments:
The sound of the Légère reed is uncannily close to that of cane. The resistance and response are also very close. No moisture is absorbed so the reed can truly be played dry. The reed ‘warms up’ to body temperature so strength choice is an important issue. The reeds are offered in quarter strengths reflecting the degree of accuracy available in the manufacturing. Choice of the correct strength is vital as it is recommended that no alterations be made to the reed profile.

RRI 9 – SI 3 – OF 2


We hope this article has been of some use to you and would like to remind you of the offer on Légère reeds as outlined in the entry below.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Saturday 26 September 2009

A special promotion for Clarinet & Sax players from Reeds Direct Cambridge

 Peace of mind in a reed – who would have thought it?
Gain more time for practice and worry less
Freedom from reed frustration

Clarinet and Saxophone players - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play for hours and have your reed perform consistently well throughout the session? Have you ever wished your good reed would go on and on for months at a time? Do you dislike the fuss required to prepare your cane reeds? Have you ever wished you could pick up your instrument after minutes or hours of interruption and just play without having to spend time wetting the reed…again?

Well the answer to your problems is here, it's time to try

Legere Synthetic Reeds
Reeds Direct Cambridge

  • Genuine cane like performance from 21st century technology
  • Sound quality so good you’ll be amazed it is a synthetic product
  • Soaking not required before playing
  • No ‘woody’ taste or irritation from wood fibres on the lip – non allergenic
  • Long lasting performance – outlasts cane many times over
  • Quarter strength grading available to accurately meet your specific needs
  • Exchange policy to help get the right strength. Who else offers that?
For players who have yet to experience Legere,
Reeds Direct Cambridge have an offer for you

Order a Legere reed of your choice, try it for up to 14 days, if it is not right for you
return it for a full refund against your choice of traditional cane product. What could be fairer?

The standard Legere exchange policy for strength swapping remains in place.

Order now online 
or telephone
0800 0969 440

This is an introductory offer to players new to Legere (limit one per customer). Offer expires December 31st, 2009. Not to be missed – tell your friends and colleagues.

 Legere reeds are available for Clarinets Eb through Contra Bass and Saxophones Soprano through Baritone – see here for strength chart comparison

New for Bb clarinet – Legere Signature range – an evolutionary refinement for players requiring stronger reeds – available from strength 3 – 4.25

Jazz Saxophone players make sure you ask for Legere Studio Cut reeds – these are designed for greater flexibility and vibrancy to suit more open, shorter facing length jazz style mouthpieces

Legere reeds – clearly the best alternative to cane

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Friday 25 September 2009

Reeds Direct Brochure

It's here! Call us at Wood, Wind and Reed on 01223 500442 or Reeds Direct Cambridge on 0800 0969 440 to get your copy.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Saturday 19 September 2009

Secondhand Instruments available at Wood, Wind and Reed

Below are some professional level secondhand instruments available from Wood, Wind and Reed.
Please call us for more details or come in and try them.

Bach Strad ML37 - some small dents and lacquer wear - £1,125
Taylor 'Chicago' Model (unlacquered) - good condition - £1,295

Besson Sovereign (medium bore) Lacquer finish - as new - £950

Getzen slide and valve trombone - very good condition - £475

Soprano Saxophone:
Yamaha YSS475 - little used in very good condition - £975
Selmer S80 Series III - 2 crooks, High G key - excellent condition - £1,750

Alto Saxophone:
Yamaha YAS62 - very good condition - £1,250
King Super 20 - silver crook, original case - good condition - £1,850

Leblanc Esprit - in double case - £825
Buffet BC20 (the immediate predecessor of the R13) - good professional model, lovely character instrument - some plating wear - £995
Yamaha YCLCSV Custom Professional - very good condition - £1,195

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Friday 18 September 2009

How to Test an Instrument

  • Play all instruments with a mouthpiece and reed that you know well. Too many variables make attempting comparisons a nonsense.
  • Take along or have in mind some music you are familiar with of the type you wish to play - be prepared.
  • If you know the technique of over-blowing octaves and twelfths use this to see whether the isntrument is 'in tune with itself'. Alternatively find a reliable 'fixed pitch' source and carefully tune to it. You can get a very poor feeling from an instrument if you do not get the mouthpiece correctly positioned on the crook for proper tuning. Be wary of relying on electronic tuners. All saxophones are acoustic compromises. When you use a tuner you are generally learning more about yourself and how you play than about any individual instrument.
  • Test a range of volumes. Instruments reveal more of their tonal colour when blown loudly but you will want to know that you can sustain the sound softly as well.
  • Other than checking for finger fluency and comfort, fast notes don't inform you nearly as well as sustained tones. A point worth remembering is that spring tensions or keys can be adjusted if they are too strong or too weak. Never reject an instrument because a spring feels odd.
  • Test the response at the high and low extremes of the range but don't expect miracles - especially when tonguing. It takes a while to really get to know a new instrument and you may need to make some adjustments (for the better - this is known as 'progress'!). If you select a sax that plays just like your old instrument you have to wonder whether the purchase was worthwhile.
  • Compare alternative fingerings, e.g. sever Bb, C, F# options to see if the instrument has been well set-up. This can be an indication of good preparation by the seller.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442

Choosing a Saxophone - Thomas Dryer Beers

Choosing a saxophone, either to begin one's studies, to indulge a long nurtured wish to play or to invest at the professional level in 'an instrument for life' has in many ways never been easier. The quality of the various models available is generally high at all price levels - the differences between similarly priced saxophones are not huge and even the variation between starter instruments and top of the range models is relatively small. This means that in many ways it is difficult to make a truly bad investment as long as one is aware of a few important points.

Saxophones seem to be offered from all corners of the world these days. Gone are the times when the only choice seemed to be to buy French or American. Very successful instruments are now also being manufactured in Japan, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, the numerous workshops of Taiwan and in recent years China, and one can become overwhelmed indeed! Added to this there is increasing globalisation of parts manufacture, assembly and sourcing of the accessories that come supplied with an instrument.

Improving designs and standards of manufacture in student saxophones and fierce competition in professional pricing have meant that the notion of an intermediate instrument, in anything other than price, is almost completely gone. Many models that were considered to be of professional standard 30-50 years ago would no longer be recommended by teachers as adequate for learning. Many once rather expensive student models have been supplanted by better-designed and less expensive new models.

In order to form an unbiased opinion of the performance of an instrument (indeed even models by the same maker) each saxophone should be evaluated on its own merits, not necessarily by its name or past history. Responsible music shops undertake just such evaluations on a continuing basis in order to be able to offer their customers the best of all the available models. This helps to ensure that as much as possible, your choice of saxophone will be of the correct standard to do the job for which it is being purchased.

Beginner Level Choice
Since so many makes of student instruments have borrowed (even directly copied) features of dominant professional instruments, it is now possible to experience the feel of many top name saxophones in some budget priced models. Some recent models have borrowed keywork design, others body tube proportions, and others attempt to reproduce the weight or mass in the brass alloy used.

So, how can a new player begin to select their sax? A good way to start perhaps, is by conversing with knowledgeable sax playing colleagues, teacher to be, school etc. Then select a recommended specialist shop in which you can have confidence. A definite plus will be a shop with in-house repair technicians as their contribution is vital in ensuring a good experience.

When you visit you should explain your situation and ask to view recommended models within an affordable price range. Having been provided with a selection of instruments to hold, or better yet to play, however inexpertly, players will almost always to be able to identify something that will help them form preferences and eventually lead them to a selection. All the many contributing factors which make up the instrument contribute to a 'feel' and players will often separate themselves broadly into two categories - those who, particularly at the earliest stages, wish to experience playing as easily as possible, and those who are looking for something more than just ease of blowing in the character of sound. I should quickly say that such a comparison test will be most useful if the same mouthpiece and reed are used across all the instruments tried. More on that later.

Any good quality beginner model is likely to see a young player through at least grades five to six. If they are keen to continue to play then their investment in a good student instrument will then have prepared the way for a smooth transition to a professional instrument when the time is right. As a result, I feel that a new player's early preferences for sound and feel can be indulged largely without adverse consequences. What really matters is that the instrument selected be well made and that a suitable, good quality mouthpiece is obtained. It is now possible to invest well at the beginning, upgrade a quality student instrument with a 'professional' mouthpiece and later purchase a 'top-grade' pro model after a few years of experience (perhaps around grade seven to eight level) with neither your learning opportunities or your bank balance suffering inordinately. I feel that this development should be very encouraging to players and might inspire greater confidence in parents with children eager to learn.

What Constitutes Good Value?
Ask a good repairer and they will confirm that even the best pads, properly seated, will not perform well if there is motion in the fit of the keywork or poor regulation. It is worth checking closely how much long key rods (such as those used for the G key, high E and bell B and Bb) are able to 'move about' when pushed sideways. Similarly, check how much lateral travel short keys like side Bb, high F and palm D experience under stress. As the fit of these keys is dependent upon both the quality of materials and good construction standards (contributing to additional expense for the manufacturer) many cheaper instruments will not pass this 'fitness' test. Such an instrument will probably have other manufacturer related problems and will be likely to become unreliable and expensive to maintain in the future. If regulations, particularly those which govern the articulated G# key, the left hand C correspondence and the related closure of the bis Bb key are not correctly set, then the finest instrument will perform little better than the worst. If an instrument is soundly made and well set-up it will be much more likely to play satisfactorily for longer and, when maintenance work is required (as it surely will be in time) the job will go much better.

Professional Level Choice
This brings me to the vexed topic of professional models. How does one choose with confidence? In the broadest terms a musician selects a saxophone at this level as a 'tool of the trade'. Does it do what he/she wants it to do? Will it be respected in musical circles? Does it fit the image of what an instrument should be? All of these points are valid ones but for me the bottom line is much simpler.

Does this instrument inspire you to want to practise and play? If so, then you are surely on to a winner. Remember also - if they all seem so good that you cannot choose between them, then you cannot truly consider any choice a mistake.

Every person's experience is bound to be different. Some find the right saxophone early on and then continue to use it out of preference throughout their lifetime. Others find that their changing tastes, the introduction of new products, a change of circumstance, professional opportunities, etc. will dictate that many different saxes be purchased during the course of a career. As long as you are being well served by your instrument you should feel good!

Before closing it is worth mentioning something regarding the increasing diversity of metals being used for saxophone bodies and the many finishes which now proliferate. In my personal opinion these are largely a diversion from the real essence of an instrument. Each reputable manufacturer attempts to create an identity for their products. Each seeks to create a consistency in the feel, intonation, resistance, appearance and tonal colour to unify their models. In general, such identity is achieved through the acoustic design of instruments, through some specific keywork features and very importantly, via the body tube mass/alloy used. Cosmetic finishes on the standard brass tubing e.g. silver plate, enamel of any colour or lacquer have a proportionally minute effect when compared with the more important structural elements.
Different metals such as bronze, silver or nickel do make more of a difference, as the instrument will actually resonate with different frequencies given prominence by the vibrating metal. Even this is moderated by the fact that, unlike brass instruments, the tube of the sax is not fully engaged at all times in vibration. Patently it has holes in it and with the dampening effect of lots of leather pads affecting every note differently the overall contribution of these various materials is diminished. If looks are very important to you then by all means select from the range of options available with the knowledge that not much benefit comes from the finishes, and the confidence that not much loss occurs either. I'll always go with what really plays for me.
One of my teachers once gave me some very wise advice whilst encouraging me to consider the benefits I might gain from changing my own well-loved instrument for another. He implored me to 'learn to love the saxophone not a saxophone'.
These words have proved themselves invaluable numerous times during my own musical career and never has this advice seemed more appropriate than during the preparation of this article.

     It is worth considering that you are most likely to choose a sax that suits your own level of ability (as long as finances permit). Therefore, as every individual is unique, not all players will find themselves choosing the same model. What matters most is that the saxophone selected is one that will provide you with the greatest encouragement and inspiration for your musical future.

WOOD, WIND & REED. 106 Russell Street. Cambridge.
01223 500442