I started to conceive of the idea of designing a reed some years ago when I was busy playing saxophone professionally in a variety of different musical settings in Tokyo, Japan.  Around that time I began to notice that I was buying box after box of even the most famous brands, only to find that they contained few or no reeds that really worked well or lasted as long as the ones I remembered years before that.

The constant frustration of wondering whether I could make it through a performance without having the reed die out on me or experiencing a noticeable lack of response and power (especially during solos) certainly didn't help the music I was trying to make. After testing the various brands with no real luck, I began thinking that the best way to get a reed I could really be happy with might be to actually come up with it myself!

In analyzing the root of this reed problem, it became clear that the deterioration in the quality of cane was a major culprit, and this same sentiment was also expressed by many other players I either knew or had heard about.

With this in mind, I set out to find the source of the highest quality cane available. From what I researched, it seemed to be agreed upon by most woodwind authorities that the wild, natural cane indigenous to the Var region of Southern France called "ARUNDO DONAX" (technically a form of grass) has traditionally been considered to be the finest grade around. And as in the creation of a really fine vintage wine, certain factors of natural environment are also believed to be essential to the growth of premium quality cane and the Var region is known to possess uniquely favorable conditions of soil and climate in which this wild cane thrives.

I was most fortunate to be able to find a source for this cane from the Var, especially since the land which yields our particular crop is located near mountains that once had been quarried for marble. It seems that the marble, in a form of silica, actually works its way up into the roots of this marvelous cane and this may be one reason the reeds produced from it seem to have so much integrity and resilience. I also learned that this Arundo Donax cane has become a precious and premium commodity due to the rise in land values in the Var, less available growing space as a result of land development, over-harvesting, pollution problems, damage from winter freezes, etc.

A noticeable feature of our cane is that the "pulp" or parenchyma cells (the softer tissue which support the fiber bands) has a finer, firmer texture than that of some other brands which by comparison seem rough and spongy which means the reed can become "mushy" or weak after a short period of playing. This is a telltale symptom of lower grade, less expensive cane. Instead, our cane, with its balanced ratio of well developed fiber and pulp, furnishes the reed with a resilient "spring", endurance, and overall characteristics of response evident in some of the great reeds manufactured years ago.

Another important consideration is to make sure that the cane is properly aged and sun dried to give it the maturity and stability necessary to transform it into a reed that will perform to high standards.

With the material and mechanical requirements determined, the next most important step was to work on the design of cut prototypes which would evolve later into the actual models themselves. After extensive testing, we developed cut profiles which were influenced by specifications of earlier model reeds, but with what we hoped would be improvements rendering them more suitable to contemporary playing situations.

The actual manufacturing operation involves cutting the cane poles to smaller sizes, hand splitting them into sections which then become the "blanks" that are finally milled into the final form of reeds and hardness tested/designated. We have the good fortune of using the state of the art, computer guided machines for this which are more accurate than any past machinery. In the final phase, each reed is diamond honed to produce a table surface which will match well with the table of the mouthpiece.

Tom Alexander