What is ‘crowing’ …and why? – Reed Tip #8

If you’re a bassoon or oboe player or you’re associated with one (parent, friend, band director, and so forth), you’ve likely heard this word — “crow” — used both as a noun (test the “crow”) and a verb (“crow” the reed).

A “crow” is the rattly sound the reed makes by itself (not on the instrument) when blowing into it with your lips on the string or the wires (not touching the blades).  An ideal crow contains high, middle, and low pitches.

Crowing is the single most important diagnostic tool you have.  You can tell a lot about a reed by the crow.  And it’s very easy to do.

For the best results, 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.


How to do it:

  • Place your lips on the wires (bassoon) or the string (oboe), not touching the blades.
  • Start by blowing very softly.  You’ll hear a soft hiss as air moves through the nonvibrating blades.
  • Blow gradually harder.  You’ll eventually hear a soft, high pitch by itself.  This is the “peep crow”.
  • Increase your air speed, adding more notes.  When you hear a jumble of pitches, you’re in the “crow”.

Some people only test the “crow”, only blowing hard and making the loud, rattly sound.  This doesn’t tell us as much as feeling out the peep crow and main crow.

Using the information above, you can adjust the reed to fit you. Try adjusting the opening of the reed to make it easier (or harder) to play and to change the pitch of the peep crow.  An oboe reed should have a ‘C’ peep crow, and a bassoon reed should have an ‘E’ peep crow — use your tuner.

To adjust your reed’s crow, you’ll find great tips in “Reed Tip #7 — How do I break-in my reed?” and “Reed Tip #5 — How and why do I adjust bassoon reed wires?

Some notes will appear or disappear as you change the opening. Scrape from the tip, the blend, the rails, the windows, the back, or even the heart to change the sound profile of the reed.

Don’t know what those words mean?  Keep checking in here at the Tiger Reeds reed tips.

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!

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