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Barrick Stees, Bassoon

Making Reeds

Ways to Make Your Reeds Last Longer

General Comments

  1. Make lots of reeds at a time. I make them and break them in in batches of 10. Since my job is very demanding, I have to have extremely high standards. Getting a job is even harder than retaining one. Therefore, if you are a student or do not yet have a job, your standards need to be even higher than mine!
  2. About one of every four of my blanks turns out to be a good reed. If you are not making more than two or three reeds at a time, how can you expect to have any good reeds on a consistent basis?!
  3. Don't rely upon that "Old Faithful" reed in your box to see you through a period of bad cane or bad reed making! Get on the phone and order cane from a different supplier if you find yourself with bad cane. Keep several different batches of cane from several different suppliers on hand at all times.
  4. Have several reeds in each of the different stages of assembly at all times. Keep the reed pipeline running.

Break in Period

  1. If you soak cane for two-hour periods prior to processing, the break-in time will be significantly shorter.
  2. Break reeds in over a period of two weeks, preferably with a whole week of rest after the first break in.
  3. Don't play on new reed for more than 20 minutes for the first couple of playing sessions.
  4. Break the reed in by playing long tones, slow scales, arpeggios, but very little technical, fast music. Avoid the high register at first. See reed-break in exercises.
  5. Put reed away for drying and rest when it develops a sizzling sound.
  6. Put reed away for drying and rest when its tone narrows and brightens due to excessive playing.
  7. During the indoor heating season, store reeds in a humid environment. A plastic bag with a few holes in it and orange peels in the bag works well. Keep an eye out for mold!

Stable Period

  1. Use three or four reeds in rotation any given week.
  2. Give each reed at least one day of rest in between playing.
  3. Use good oral hygiene.
  4. Rinse reeds out after playing.
  5. Scrape accumulation of lip skin, "lunch", whatever, off reed with your finger nail or reed knife while reed is wet.
  6. Clean "lunch" out from between blades with pipe cleaner or sandpaper. Note: reeds that collect stuff between their blades are probably too old anyway and should be retired.

Your reed is too old when one or more of the following is true:

  1. The tone begins to spread at "f"
  2. Even though blades are thin enough, it begins to lose its response.
  3. Slurs become bumpy or more difficult. A poor slur from high G to Eb above the staff is a good indicator.
  4. Reed starts to become discolored.
  5. Tone becomes smaller
  6. Certain registers lose their pitch. E.g., open F and E go sharp
  7. Pitch of the reed becomes unacceptably sharp.

Throw these reeds out and make more!