How To Keep A Saxophone Reed Wet

Wet reeds perform better than dry reeds. In fact, some saxophone players want to keep their reeds wet even after a performance or rehearsal. But how do they achieve this?

Let's uncover how to keep a saxophone reed wet (using three different methods):

  1. Employ the “David Sanborn approach” by using a plastic jar filled with water to soak the reed intermittently.
  2. You could also use cases with humidity control mechanisms, such as the D'Addario RVCADE04 storage case or Reedjuvinate.
  3. You can likewise immerse the reed in a container partially filled with Listerine.

In this article, we'll discuss each of the methods outlined above to give you the information you need to keep your saxophone reeds working effectively.

Related article:
• Top 11 Benefits Of Learning & Playing Saxophone
• Top 11 Best Saxophone Brands On The Market

The David Sanborn Method

If you love saxophones and jazz music, you've most likely heard of David Sanborn. He is a well-known saxophonist in the smooth jazz scene and perhaps one of its most recognizable names and faces. His playing style is relatively easy to detect, and his skills are recognized even by a handful of hard-bop fans.

He once gave a speech at a Selmer conference in Paris, whereby he disclosed how he could keep his reeds permanently moist. Frankly, this method is a bit convoluted, but it has worked for him and many others.

Without further ado, here's what you should do:

  1. Remove the reeds from the plastic covers.
  2. Grab a plastic jar and fill it with warm water. Dunk the reeds inside the jar for approximately 2 hours.
  3. Place the reeds back in the plastic cover and throw the water out of the jar, leaving just a tiny layer at the bottom. This will allow the jar to retain some moisture.
  4. Place the reeds (in their covers) back into the jar and seal it tightly.
  5. Over the span of three weeks, pull the reeds out of their covers and rub them with your finger, pushing the pulp off. Attach each reed to the mouthpiece and test it, scratching a number on the surface according to a performance rank (with “1” identifying the best performer, naturally).
  6. Every few days, pull the reeds from the covers and lay them with the tip facing downwards in a glass cup fed with just a bit of water at the bottom. Allow them to dry for around 45 minutes. Playtest the reeds again to evaluate whether the initial ranking has changed at all.
  7. The chosen reed would then remain in the saxophone's mouthpiece, sealing the mouthpiece cap with tape to prevent moisture from escaping.
  8. The rest of the reeds would stay idle in the plastic jar, ready to be used. This is an ideal course of action if you have to use your saxophone every day as Sanborn does.

The above was merely a paraphrase of what Sanborn exposed in his speech. However, this was not meant to be a thorough or detailed explanation but, rather, a sort of outline, so it's rational to assume that some details might have been left out.

Although it appears to have a great endorsement, this method is not devoid of apparent hazards. To wit, water draws bacteria and fungi, which can be highly damaging to the reed, the playing experience, and your health.

Before we can keep our reeds wet, we should break them in first. To learn more about this process, check out my article How To Break In A New Saxophone Reed Step-By-Step.

Storage Cases With Humidity Control

Various storage cases sport a humidity control mechanism to ensure that the reeds are always wet and ready to use. We've found two examples on the market that you may want to try out:

1. D'Addario Woodwinds Multi-Instrument Reed Storage Case with Humidity Control Pack

The Rico (link to check the price on Amazon), as it's also called, is a case with a two-way humidity control system that aims to maintain a relative humidity of 72% to keep the reeds from warping, chipping, or cracking.

The “Reed Revitalizer Pack” is placed below the reed slots. The latter are grooved as a way to preserve the reeds' proper shape while they're inside.

Overall, there have been many positive reviews on Amazon. Some people have complained that the hinges on the case can break easily, while others have praised its sturdiness. Another common yet minor criticism is that the reeds require additional wetting before use.

2. Reedjuvinate

The Reedjuvinate system (link to check it out at Reedjuvinate) consists of a leak-proof case tightly screwed together. Inside, you'll find three grooved slots for the reeds and a hole in the center for the sponge.

You would have to employ a homemade solution comprising 50% water and 50% Listerine (or a similar mouthwash) to use this system.

There are two main ways of utilizing this tool:

  • Fill the container with the solution and leave it there in permanent contact with the reeds.
  • Soak the reeds for 10 minutes and pour out the solution, leaving only the Listerine-drenched sponge inside with the reeds. This will reduce the reeds' wetness.

For more information on timing the soaking of saxophone reeds, check out my article How Long Should Saxophone Reeds Soak Before & Between Use?

Some have argued that Listerine damages the reeds, specifically the flavoured variants. So far, there has been no definitive proof provided to back this claim, at least to my knowledge. Rather, Listerine prevents the appearance of mould and bacteria that would usually thrive in aqueous environments.

Just in case, stick to the original Listerine and avoid the ones with sweeteners.

The Listerine Method

In the absence of a specially-designed holder like those described above, some people would have the reeds stored in a waterproof case or container partially filled with Listerine. This is very similar to the Reedjuvinate concept but far more rudimentary, as it would lack the dedicated reed slots bordering a sponge.

This could end up being a viable alternative for those who, for one reason or another, are unable to get their hands on any of the storage cases reviewed above, albeit they should be aware of the added risk of warping.

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement ( or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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