Reed Manufacturing

Santy Runyon Discusses Reeds

Part 3:
Reed Manufacturing

It might be good to understand a little about how reeds are made. A gentleman by the name of Roy Maier and another named Tony Ciccone, both from Chicago, started the reed company presently known as the “Rico Company”. Tony dropped out of the picture, which left Roy as sole owner. Roy brought reeds to me at the Chicago Theatre, for me to test. They were then called Symmetricut reeds. Maybe I didn’t spell it right. The reeds were very good. Jimmy Dorsey heard me playing them and inquired about them. I gave him a couple and he liked them also. Maurie Berlin owned the Chicago Musical Instrument Company at that time, and to my knowledge he was the first distributor of Roy Maier’s Rico reeds. I arranged for Jimmy Dorsey to give an endorsement on the reed for the Chicago Instrument Company.

Years later, because I knew Roy that well, I was able to go through the Rico factory, and observed the process in making the reeds. The vamp on the reed is extremely thin at the tip. First cut (leaving the reed the longest and the thinnest) makes the 1-1/2 (the softest). It is then cut a little shorter for a #2. Then it is cut shorter again for a 2-1/2. As the reed is cut shorter and shorter, it becomes thicker and thicker, and as it becomes thicker and thicker, it also becomes harder and harder to attack the low notes.

Band directors all over the country tell the students to use 3-1/2 reeds, many times not knowing whether the mouthpiece that the student is using is close, medium, or open. If the mouthpiece is close, the 3-1/2 reed will probably work O. K., but that still doesn’t eliminate the fact that the reed is perhaps pretty thick at the tip. A 2-1/2 reed on a medium facing mouthpiece would produce better results for the average student.

Here is a kid with an open mouthpiece–he doesn’t know that it’s too open for him, and it’s possible that his band director doesn’t know it either. He is told to go and buy a 3-1/2 reed. What is he going to do now? If the band director knows mouthpieces, and has gauges (and a number of them are that well equipped) the kid is in good shape. The problem can be taken care of.

Roy Maier died a few years ago. Rico is now owned by Boosey & Hawkes, the same company that owns Buffet and Keilwerth.

Read Part IV Placing the Reed on the Mouthpiece