Hoarding the Reed
Willard Elliot also spoke about how he hoarded particular reeds. (from "Season with Solti" by William Barry Furlong)
For the tour week, for example, he'd been hoarding a particular reed to play during Beethoven's Third Symphony, the Eroica, in Carnegie Hall. He though it was finished "but somehow it came back and I used it on our recording sessions for the Beethoven symphonies. Then I put the reed aside and saved it because I was going to use it for the Carnegie Hall performance." He did not use it in rehearsal, he did not use it in the Youth Concerts, he did not use it in the programs of the Mahler Sixth Symphony. ("I used another reed for that because the requirements of the Sixth Symphony are not quite so great.") The reasons he treasured this reed are embedded in the demands of the Eroica on the principal bassoon player.I try to do much the same thing. If I identify a reed I want to use for a particular piece or concert, I'll try not to use it on the dress rehearsal and probably won't play on it the day before. The reed will be tired and less vibrant and responsive if I don't give it a rest.
A Pitching Rotation
I use an approach similar to that of a pitching coach in Major League Baseball. I try to have three or four reeds that I could use for the week's repertoire available. I do not use one reed for the whole week's rehearsals and concerts. In addition, I have a "farm system" of reeds that I break in during the week that I could use the following week. I also have some "veterans" on hand for use in a pinch.
For most situations, a reed that satisfies the criteria listed in my previous post, "Choosing Reeds -- Some Criteria" will be fine. However, in some cases, demands placed on us by conductors, repertoire, ourselves, etc. make use of a good, everyday "Omnireed" insufficient to the task at hand.
For those special situations I use the above process to select reeds that have certain inherent qualities that are different from the rest of the pack. I try to enhance those characteristics through adjustments in one or more of the parameters listed on my website. I then hoard these reeds (sometimes a month in advance!) and use them only for the piece for which they were intended.
Remember that you must have a large quantity of blanks available as it's probably impossible to predict what a reed's special qualities will be until you begin scraping. Also, very few reeds (maybe 1 or 2 out of 20) will commend themselves to you as "high note specialty" or other "extreme" types of reeds.
The selection process is worth it, however. The feeling of comfort afforded by playing a difficult excerpt on a reed chosen especially for it takes your playing to another level and enhances the impression of ease for the listener.
Never let them see you sweat!!