Monday, April 13, 2009

Filed vs. Unfiled?

A lot of people ask about the difference between filed and unfiled reeds. Here's a brief explanation:

An option to fine-tune the sound, the file is often preferred by players who use traditional, moderately resistant, dark-sounding mouthpieces– the file helps such mouthpieces blow more freely.

For those who play relatively easy-blowing, moderate-to-bright mouthpieces (especially jazz or pop sax mouthpieces with a high baffle), an unfiled reed is usually preferred.

The French File (or “file”) is the area behind the vamp (or cut portion) where the bark is sanded
off in a straight line.

The File-
  • Provides ease of response, especially in the low register… …making soft attacks easier.
  • Also makes the tone slightly brighter… …for use with resistant mouthpieces.

An unfiled reed provides a darker tone and more resistance; a filed reed provides a brighter tone and is more free-blowing.

Recommended use of filed or unfiled reeds for common sax mouthpieces:

• Meyer
• Otto Link
• Selmer rubber

• Dukoff
• Beechler
• Selmer metal
• Guardala
• Berg Larsen

Rico offers the following filed reeds: Rico Royal, Reserve (saxophone) Rico Select Jazz, Hemke, and Grand Concert Select

The following reeds are unfiled: La Voz, Rico, Rico Rico Select Jazz


  1. Yesterday I got a box of Files Select Jazz 3M reeds. I put it on my Tenor Otto Link NY 7 - dark sound and it was really hard to make a sound. I did that after put it in water for about 10 minutes.
    Then I tried my Eug Rosseau DXPJ6 - Jazz and it was very easy to make a sound.
    Does that contradict what is said here above?

    1. The more open your mouthpiece is, the softer the reeds you have to use. I don't know the dimensions of your Otto NY 7, but off the bat I'll assume it's bigger than the Rosseau DXPJ 6.My guess is that a 3M is probably too hard for the Otto. Your problem has nothing to do with the bright or dark issue. It's all about tip opening and reed strength balance.

  2. I've been playing a box of Tenor Rico Jazz Select 3S unfiled and a box of 3S Filed. The unfiled reeds feel softer and much much easier to play than the filed reeds on the same mouthpiece. Should I buy one softer strength of the filed reeds for them to be the same as the unfiled?

  3. It may be your DXPJ6 is not the tip opening marked. My alto SJ6 measures 55 tip when it should be 70.

  4. Funny enough...I used a Rico Royal on my Metal link and it was fab but the same reed sounded crap on my Rubber Link?

  5. My Selmer Mark VI (#84xxx) tenor plays nicely with my Selmer silver-plated C* metal jazz mouthpiece. It seems to blow easiest when I use Rico Jazz Select filed 2S or 2M reeds. I like to play low, dark, soft, and as smooth a sound as possible (I wish I was Houston Person). Once well-soaked, these reeds give me that low Bb without having to tongue-start it (I call that "popping" the note).

  6. I switched over to the Jazz Select Filed almost a year ago from the Vandoren Javas(green), which I had played for years on alto. Had to start my setup search all over again after finally buying a tenor. I like the playability of these reeds; they are consistent and easy to break in. They have added a nice little edge to my sound with of course some practicing on my part. On tenor though, I sometimes feel like they are lacking the depth of tone that I would get out of the JAVAs. It could just be me being overly self-critical, because when I go back and listen to some of the recordings I have been on, the sound and tone is EXACTLY where I want it to be! I now play the filed on both alto and tenor, and on all my mouthpieces.

    Alto: Lakey 5*3 w/ Jazz Select 3S Filed
    Tenor: Link STM 7* w/ Jazz Select 2H Filed
    Guardala MBII w/ jazz Select 2H Filed

  7. I've been using alto V16 2's on a Phil Barone New York 6M HR. My instructor is hinting at switching to either to Rico Select Jazz (Unfiled) or a harder V16. I'm pretty much wanting to try the RSJ's, but kinda confused with the RSJ strength scale. I know that Rico's run a little softer in the Orange Box vs Blue Box matchup,... same thing when it comes to V16 vs RSJ? If so, about a half strength jump like with orange vs blue? I got a box of Rico Reserves #3 just sitting in a draw,... way to stiff. Looking for RSJ to equal about a V16 2.5. Do I do RSJ 2 Medium, 2 Hard, or 3 Soft? Thanks!

    1. Eric, are you still a Phil Barone Fanatic?

    2. You can find a quite accurate comparison chart for reeds on the Vandoren web site.

  8. I am playing a wonderful NY Myer tenor mouthpiece. I tried both the filled and unfilled Rico Jazz reeds. I found the unfilled much better on that set up. It blows eaiser in all ranges with mimimum effort. The filled did not play well and they were very hard to blow.

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  10. Thanks for nice description. I am not clear about this before. Thanks. Nice sax school in online.

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  11. Otto Link Florida 8star Tenor. What advice please?
    Filed or unfiled.