How and why do I adjust bassoon reed wires? – Reed Tip #5

You mean they’re adjustable?
Grab your needlenose pliers!

You can’t mess this up! All changes can be reversed, unlike removing cane. Try small changes at first.


First of all, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


The reed’s wires control response, tone, and pitch.

In general, round wires = stiff reed, oval/flat wires = relaxed reed. Wires can be rounded to perfect circles or slightly oval and flattened to slight arches — try to not go too much further.
Both wires operate ‘opposingly’ to each other (squeezing side of 1st wire and top of 2nd wire do nearly the same thing, and vice versa).

Bassoon reeds feature three wires. One inside the Turk’s head wrapping (3rd/bottom wire), one above the wrapping (2nd wire), and one at the top of the tube just below the blades (1st wire).

A simple chart of effects:

1st wire

  • Round – open tip, flatter pitch, stiffer response, buzzier, louder
  • Oval/flat – closed tip, sharper pitch, easier response, mellow, quieter

2nd wire

  • Round – closed tip, sharper pitch, easier response, mellow, quieter
  • Oval/flat – open tip, flatter pitch, stiffer response, buzzier, louder

Round both wires equally- tip stays the same, sharper pitch, quieter, mellower, high notes easier

Flatten/oval both wires equally – tip stays the same, flatter pitch, louder, buzzier, low notes easier


Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

Why have a thin reed tip? – Reed Tip #4

Reed and caliper

I’ll answer a question with a question: How easily do you want your reed to respond?  That’s how thin your tip should be. A professional, handmade reed’s tip will be paper-thin or thinner.

The #1 most important aspect of your bassoon or oboe reed is its response.  It must play easily. Only then can you contemplate pitch (#2), and resonance/tone (a.k.a. notes in the crow, #3).


First of all, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


The corners of your reed should finish out at around +/- .05 mm thick depending on the cane’s strength.

But a thin reed tip alone doesn’t make a great reed.  Though this aspect is the first mark of a master reedmaker’s knife control, the blend from the tip towards the heart (the thick area directly behind the tip) sets your reed’s character — the ease of response, the pitch, and the resonance in the tone.  This blend differs with each piece of cane.  This is the master’s domain.

If your reed’s tip appears thick (i.e. not bright) when viewed in front of a bright light or the crow plays only one note, you can thin it a couple of ways:

1. With knife:  shortening strokes, steepening angles.  Begin with your knife in the heart, halfway between spine and rail.  Scrape up past the tip.  Next stroke, begin slightly closer to the tip and angle your knife slightly to the corner, and subsequent strokes shorten the distance and angle your knife to the corner until it’s at a 45-degree angle and you’re almost on the corner.  This way, you’ll take more out of the tip’s rails than the center.  But this is a rather coarse method compared to the finer removal of sandpaper.

2.  Sand paper — 400+ grit, wet-dry (the black kind).  Place the sandpaper flat on a surface, just at the edge.  To set up the stroke, press only the reed tip flat onto the sandpaper, then angle it towards the corner, allowing only the triangle from the corner to the center of the heart to touch the sandpaper.  Stroke towards the corner, and manipulate your pressure and placement so as to remove more from the corner than the heart.  Alternate strokes are straight forward (more out of center of tip), sideways (more out of rail), circles either clockwise or counter-clockwise (accentuated removal from center or rail), and diagonally (more even removal from blend between tip and heart).

Test your results by placing the soaked reed in your mouth, lips on string (oboe) or the wires (bassoon) and blowing gently at first, gradually accelerating.  If the reed responds at a satisfactory point for you, you are done.  If not, continue thinning the corners and tip.

You can contact Tiger Reeds anytime to ask reed advice and troubleshooting.
Just visit the ‘Contact’ link at the top of the page!


Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


 

Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

Why should I store my reeds dry? – Reed Tip #3

Drying cane on a riverbank

Bassoon and oboe reeds are made from “arundo donax”, a dense bamboo in the grass family.  It is an organic product that degrades over time, whose structure efficiently gathers, transports, and holds water.

Unfortunately for your playing career, that water also serves as a breeding ground for bacteria that want nothing more than a meal.  Store your reeds dry to protect against degradation.


First of all, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


The Situation:
Your reeds are turning color (darkening), developing an unpleasant odor, breaking down, becoming soft and soggy, or otherwise dramatically changing in color, and/or developing a strong odor or taste.

As mentioned in the previous reed tip, “Why should I soak my reed in water?”, bacteria from your mouth are the first step in digestion. Anaerobic bacteria do not survive or eat in the presence of oxygen and the absence of water.

The Remedy:
Your reeds should be dried completely between playing sessions.
This should happen at a relatively fast rate — the reeds should be dry to the touch within a few minutes and in ‘crack danger’ within an hour (i.e. you could not squeeze the blades shut without concern for cracks).
A hard-sided reed case with a secure latch and air holes is the best choice. In a pinch, an Altoids can lined with paper towels will work. The case must have several large air holes in the top lid, sides, and/or bottom for adequate air exchange. The plastic vial/cap or the ‘coffin’ your reed arrived in is the worst possible choice for storing your reed — you are guaranteed to chip the corners or tip while placing it into the case, and the airtight environment is ideal for bacteria to survive and eat your reed.

Pros
:
Lower (or zero) chance of mold growth.
Reduced odor/taste (indicating less bacterial growth).
Longer reed life/better playing life.

Cons:
None.


Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds
“Drying Cane” picture copyright Evelyn Simak and used by permission of [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Why should I soak my reed in water? – Reed Tip #2

Bassoon reed and oboe reed in water


Bassoon reed and oboe reed in water

Students and clients of mine are often left to wonder, “Why does he insist so strongly that I soak the reed in water?”

If I could term one habit as ‘miraculous’, this might be it.  In order to improve every aspect of your reed’s life, soak it in pure water rather than your mouth.


First of all, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.

The Situation:
Your bassoon or oboe reeds are turning color (darkening), developing an unpleasant odor (stinky), or otherwise breaking down and becoming soft and soggy faster than expected.

The Remedy:
The reed should be soaked in pure water rather than saliva before it is played.  As an additional step, a rinse or quick dip in water at the end of playing will further help remove any accumulated deposits.
A clean medicine/pill bottle is an excellent reservoir, and if crushed it will not shatter like glass.  Wash it out periodically, and do not store water in it.

Pros:
Color will remain vibrant golden-white for much longer.
Odorous compounds will be diluted and flushed from the reed.
Reeds will play better for much longer (better response, better tone, more consistent over lifespan).
If water is carried in a convenient, watertight container the inconvenience is nonexistent; taking the extra minute to soak the reed in water provides tremendous long-term benefits to the reed’s life, vastly improving your performance ability and helping out your bank account.

Cons:
The small bother of pouring water into the reed soaker cup.  If you find filling up a 30ml bottle too difficult, be prepared to purchase many more reeds in the meantime.

Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

How can I bring my reed back to life? – Reed Tip #1

The most frequently-suggested and useful reed tip I can suggest will rejuvenate an old reed, bringing back vibrancy and response.

I’m talking about ‘hydrogen peroxide’, H2O2.


First of all, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


The Situation: A formerly great reed does not respond as easily as it used to (doesn’t start vibrating or stops suddenly), feels stuffy (hard to blow), and perhaps has an unpleasant odor.

The Remedy: Soak the reed in 3% hydrogen peroxide (bassoon – whole reed; oboe – only the blades) — available at the drug store. How long?  The length of time varies – longer removes more deposits but deteriorates the reed faster).  Suggested time is anywhere from “a few minutes” to “until the bubbles stop.” Soak in water and blow a mouthful of water through reed afterwards to remove leftover detritus and reduce taste.

Pros: Often a near-miraculous return of playability. Reed gains response, brighter/more resonant tone, lightens in color, and is clean again.

Cons: H2O2 bleaches and deteriorates organic material. Slight taste is noted, can be soaked/rinsed out.


Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds