Silverstein ALTA Select reeds

Relatively recently, Silverstein released their ALTA reeds for saxophone.  I got on as a beta tester and was greaty impressed with the quality and ciststency of the reeds in the test pack (5 reeds).  I thought these could very well be the reeds that brought me back to playing cane instead of Legere Signatures. Around December 2017, the reeds were released to the public.  Out of a pack of ten, they ALL played at least reaonably well, and more than one or two were amazing.  A couple months later, I bought a second box to see if the consistency was holding up.  This pack was even better! 


I officially declared myself a cane player again in February-ish 2018, after 6 years of playing Legere exclussively.


These reeds are amazing.  They sound and feel great to play.   Low notes respond wonderfully, altissimo is extremely easy.  I got a box for my high school student  ahead of her solo competition.  I noticed a marked improvement in her tone and articulation.  She was having problems getting the high F#  but after switching to the  Silverstein reeds, She's consistently getting the F#, where she is unable to do so on Vandorens.

Some brands of reeds, They start out strong but after half an hour or so start to feel mushy and dull in response.  I can stick a Silverstein on when I start teaching, and by the end of the day it still feels crisp and vibrant.


The amazing thing about Silverstein is that they offer a replacement policy. Send back any unplayable reed, and they'll replace it.  I've not had to do this because even the "lowest scoring" reeds are better than nearly any cane reed I've ever played.  I'm actually still using reeds from the first box and haven't even started to tap into the reeds I broke in from the second box. At this rate, two boxes will easily last me a full year.


Hydra method

To make sure I'm never without reeds, I have adopted what I call the "hydra method" of replacing reeds.

The hydra was a mythical serpent monster with many heads. If one head was cut off, two more grew in its place.

When a reed gives up the ghost and has to be sent off to greener pastures, I replace it with two more. This way, I'm never to the point that I run out of healthy, usable reeds and can keep rotating them and not get the in the habit of always playing the same reed.


The Silverstein ligature


Since the original post, I have been playing Silverstein ligatures exclusively and became an endorsing artist.  I decided to leave my original post as is so visitors could see my honest original opinions and not think I was only singing its praises because I was an endorser.


Not long ago, on Facebook, you couldn't go five minutes without seeing a post from Silverstein Works promoting their Silverstein ligature.  I admit, their posts seemed to be alot of marketing hype. But then I saw they had a "Trial for Pros" program.  Register and they'd send you a ligature to try  for two weeks.  I decided, "what the heck, I'll give a try just to see what it's all about."

 Steve Neff has a very detailed review on his blog including pictures.  I refer you to his post because he is much better at writing reviews than I, and my experience with the Silverstein parallels his

 As a clarinetist, I played a string ligature made by Sounds of Woodwinds in the past and liked it pretty well.  I had two of them that ended up breaking in one form or another.  These ligatures were platic screw mounts with a thin nylon string.  Perhaps due to their age, or previous use, the plastic was a bit brittle and on one, the threads stripped, and the other, the screw mount flat out shattered.

The Silverstein has all metal hardware, so not much fear of of the issues I had  with the vintage SOW ligatures.

 From one source, I learned that the string is some kind of Kevlar reinforced woven construction.  Considerably thicker than the old SoW ligature string and more rigid.

The first few times I tried to use the Silverstein, I wasn't terribly impressed.  It was a decent ligature.  It did what a ligature was supposed to do; hold the reed to the mouthpiece.  The one I received was, I thought, a little small for my mouthpiece, and I was having difficulty getting it low enough on the reed so as to not close off the tip opening. I gave up trying to get better results with it for a while.  Then a few weeks later, I forgot my Vandoren Optimum on my stand.  Luckily, I had the Silverstein in my case.  I went ahead and gave it another chance.  Perhaps it had gotten broken in, but it seemed to fit better and my tone was noticably freer and more vibrant/responsive. 


I will admit that, initially, I was  not sure that it was such an improvement that I would say, "shut up and take my money."

I have since changed that viewpoint.

As I have been becoming more familiar with the ligature, I continue to find new qualities I like, that I've never seen in other ligatures.  For instance; just the other night,  in my community  band rehearsal, I could feel the reed's vibrations on my lip better than ever before.  It's hard to explain. It was some kind of tactile feedback that was comforting.  Even though the band as a whole is sometmes too loud to really hear myself, I could tell I was in tune and that my sound was blending in by the way the reed felt.  Soft low note attacks were less work, and the notes in the palm key range were fuller and easier to keep in tune.


Also, the folks at Silverstein Works are excellent. There was a SNAFU in the shipping of my ligature and it seemed to be lost in the  postal system. Most businesses would have just said "give it some time and see if it shows up." and expect the matter to eventually be resolved by the carrier or plain forgotten about  But these folks were eager to see that I received my ligature and rushed a replacement.  I gather that this is a relatively small company very intent on providing the best customer service possible.  communication was always prompt and direct.  Even since getting the ligature and trying it out, the director has been in regular contact checking up on how it has been working for me and seeing if there was anything I needed changed/improved upon

 I can't tell from a quick look at their website if their trial program is still active.  But I certainly wouldn't hesitate in suggesting you try it out if it is.


SaxHolder harness from Jazz Lab

I've recently started using the SaxHolder made by JazzLab

info here.


Unlike a conventional neck strap, the harness takes the weight off the neck and distributes throughout the shoulder area.  I still like the Gel strap I mentioned in an earlier post as the "best neck strap evar." but even it was causing me some strain. When I played standing up, the weight of my sax puling down on the sides of my neck seemed to  cause an air leak into one or the other ofmy ears that was greatly distracting. With the SaxHolder, I haven't noticed the leak,  I suppose due to no pressure on my neck.The SaxHolder is very portable. As can be seen in the pictures on the website, it folds up easily and can  be carried in my music bag.  My only complaint so far, is that the cord adjustment slider isn't terribly smooth acting.  The slider on the Gel strap  moves so easily that a minor adjustment in length is very simple.  I may see if there is a way to have the cord and adjustment slider from the gel strap retrofitted to the SaxHolder.


I had Joe from Just Joe's Music send me a cord and clip  that he uses on his gel strap and replaced the SaxHolder's cord.  It's now just how I want it.  very freely moving slider and it only took a slight drilling with a 5/32" bit to enlarge the holes for the new cord.


disability does not mean inability

Before my stroke in 2008, I had been teaching privately for ten years.  Around october of 2009, A school I had been teaching at for those ten years managed to scrape together three students for me, considering it was a bit late in the school year and tey had already basically replaced me after my stroke and weren't sure I'd ever be teaching again.  After the first lesson, one student's mother came in to meet me.  I could tell from her mannerism that she was uncomfortable with my handicap.  So it was no surprise when, the next day, I received a call from the band director saying  she needed to talk to me.  Sure enough, That student's mom pulled their kid out of lessons, despite repeated assurances from the director that they had full  confidence in me as a teacher, based on my track record with students over the years at their school.  Of the two remaining students, one turned out to be rather flaky and missed half their lessons.  The other turned out to be one of the best students I ever had.  He never missed a lesson, and was always prepared unless there was a very valid excuse.  That student stuck with me through his transition into high school and through his freshman year.  Sadly, after going through a hellish year of missing school for marching band and debate competitions and having some weeks where he was pulling all-nighters just to keep up on school work, he made the tough decision that band had to be sacrificed.  After losing this last student, it was next to impossible to get my foot in the door at any schools to start rebuilding my private teaching studio that I had lost with my stroke.  The two years that I taught my last student were without an instrument that I could play, yet I was still an effective teacher.  Many famous teachers in history taught without ever picking up their instruments in lessons (either because they chose not to teach by playing, or because of health reasons preventing them from doing so). My new mission, with my one-handed saxophone, is to spread the word that a disability does NOT  equal inability.