|Reed Tools and Suggestions for
Individualizing Our Reeds ...
While we are working hard to create a reed that will work on lots of bassoons,
each instrument - and player - is different. In order to get the most from our reed
(or any reed) advanced players will want to personalize their reeds. Although
making reeds is a time-consuming process and requires years (if not decades) to
become comfortable with, the good news is that with a few simple tools it is
relatively easy to individualize your reeds and make them play even better on your
Reed Adjusting Tool Kit
"Short" mandrel - for holding the reed
6" needlenose plyers
Arrowhead Plaque (I like the plastic ones)
Scraping Knife - we prefer the double hollow-ground style
Flat File - an ignition file from the local car-parts store works great
Cutting Block (billot)
400 wet or dry sandpaper
The First Step...
The first step in the process of adjusting any reed is to make sure that it is
adequately soaked. This means that it should be completely submerged in
water (preferably warm) for 3-5 minutes. Especially in the winter or in dry
climates reeds will tend to get very dried out, and you cannot get an accurate
concept of how the reed vibrates if it is not fully soaked. Many young players
fail to adequately soak reeds and immediately have response problems.
Having said that, you also need to be sure not to over-soak the reed. Much
more than 5 minutes will cause the tip of the reed to "balloon" and cause a
false sense of hardness to the reed.
A word to the wise: We have been advised not to use emply 35mm film
containers for soaking reeds. Apparently there is a chance of residual heavy
metals being present - something we don't want to expose ourselves to.
The Tip ...
Before beginning any work on the reed you should make sure the reed is
soaked so that the tip is open 1/16 of an inch. If you are not used to working
with reeds, you should measure this. The tip opening will have a very
significant impact on how the reed responds, and while a few players may
want to vary that slightly, our reeds are made to work best with that opening.
If the opening is too wide, you can squeeze the first wire from the top and
bottom to close it slightly. If it is too closed - after making sure you have
soaked it long enough - you can squeeze the same wire from side to side.
Remember - the wires are there to control the tip opening (and other factors)
and just pinching the reed itself without changing the wire will have very
little long-term effect.
The second wire will also effect the tip opening and the reed response and
vibration but you will need to reverse the directions; squeezing from the sides
will close the reed and squeezing from the top will open the reed.
Some thoughts before you begin...
There are many different reed styles available on the market today. The
following suggestions for scraping are for the style of reed we make. Many of
the suggestions we offer are fairly standard and will work on any
well-constructed reed. However, because of these differing styles, you will
want to start out very conservatively until you know how each scrape effects
your reeds and style of playing.
- Start out slow - take very little cane off - you can always go back for more if
you like the result.
- Realize that all reeds will have a break-in period. During this time they will
change and "harden-up". If you scrape a new reed to just where you want it,
don't be surprised if the next day it has completely changed! Give reeds time
to come into their own, avoiding extremes of range and dynamics while the
reed settles - you will be pleased with the results.
- Be sure you are scraping the reed. Too much right-hand wrist motion will
tend to dig holes in the reed. Think of a plowing motion to remove cane, a
little at a time.
- Working with two or three reeds at a time will extend the life of the reeds
and keep you from getting into that awful feeling of desperation if the ONLY
reed you have cracks or meets some other untimely demise.
OK, On to the Scraping...
- To improve response and articulation
Scrape the tip of the reed using the
flat plaque and being sure to take
the knife completely off the edge of
the tip and picking it up so as not to
inadvertently damage the reed
- To improve response in tenor register (a-d)
If the tenor range is stuffy or unresponsive
scrape the sides of the heart in the area
highlighted. Again, be sure to use a
scraping motion without too much
- To remove general resistance and increase vibration
If you would like more response from the
reed through the entire range, try scraping
the entire length of the reed (excluding the
tip area) on the sides of the heart. Be sure to
leave the heart (or "spine") intact to support
-To mellow the sound of the reed
If the reed vibrates too much, or is too
"buzzy", scrape the side rails from
the collar blending into the tip. Be
sure not to tip the knife at too steep
an angle or you will catch the edge
of the blade. If you do create a nick
on the side edge, use the sandpaper
to remove it before continuing, as
these nicks are nearly impossible to remove
with a knife.