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Wind players tend to be fanatical about their reeds. This is understandable, as woodwind reeds are quite fragile and must be handled with care. Even very slight damage will keep a reed from performing at its best. When you purchase new reeds, they are usually dry and must be moistened before playing. Most players simply stick the reed in their mouths to moisten it. Though this works, it isn't the most sanitary method, and saliva enzymes and bacteria can damage the cane's fibers.
A better method is to use a small glass of water or running water from a drinking fountain for wetting the reed. Take care not to overmoisten the reed, as an overly dampened reed can become too soft and difficult to play.
When you put the reed in your horn, grasp the reed from the bottom, not the thin section, and take care not to damage the reed when you slide on the ligature. Make sure the reed is properly aligned before you tighten the ligature to hold it in place. Don't overtighten the ligature, or you could warp the reed and possibly strip the ligature screws. Experiment with the placement of your ligature to get the best sound and feel.
Be sure to remove the reed and store it in a reed case when not in use. The moisture from playing can make the reed stick to the mouthpiece and could damage the reed. If possible, rinse the reed and dry it after playing. It's a good idea to periodically rinse your mouthpiece to remove any residue from playing.
Rico Reeds manufactures a product called the Rico Reed Vitalizer Kit that can help keep your reeds in optimum condition and at the moisture level you prefer. The Reed Vitalizer includes a special Reed Vitalizer storage bag and Humidipak humidifier to store reeds at the humidity you prefer, with three different humidity levels available.