musings from a scholar, a performer, and a die-hard pedagogue!
Those that know me are aware of my slight addiction to reeds, reed making, and reed pedagogy. I am fascinated by the botany, physics, and acoustics of reeds and how these parameters interact with physiology and instrument design for each individual.
My latest Fox Red Maple 601 requires a thinner reed for my embouchure and reed design to produce the same tone quality and response than my prior Fox Red Maple 601. I have also changed bocals. I use a Leitzinger gold-plated ML-1 with this horn to produce the warm, resonant and projected tone I desire.
The change in instrument combined with a change in bocal caused consistently sinking open F’s in my reeds.
A sinking F is usually indicative of one of the following:
· Weak cane
· An over-scraped heart
· Too long of a blade
To check these, articulate “C-D-E” forcefully. In all three situations, the ‘E’ will sink as well. Use rulers, dial indicators and a sense of touch to determine which factor(s) affect the reed.
In my situation, the cane was sturdy and both the heart and blade have exacting measurements. This led me to believe the sinking ‘F’ was caused by a difference between the instrument, bocal, and reed dimensions.
The bassoon’s conical shape should taper from the bell through the throat of the reed. As I change bocals for this instrument, the plausible need exists to change the shape of my reed throat.
I chose to begin my experimentation simply. I am crafted 16 reeds: 4 each on 4 different forming mandrels. (One set acts as a control group: they are formed on my usual mandrel). The taper of a forming mandrel directly correlates to the internal shape of a finished reed. Tools are a simple, yet often overlooked, way to make dramatic differences to your reed design.
I am only halfway through my blanks at this point, but so far, a particular mandrel is standing out as superior! … a simple fix for a complex problem.
Don’t be afraid personalize your reeds today!