How many reeds?

Dear S,

To answer your question about how many reeds should Daniel have? The reed issue is what our lives as bassoonists is about. The reeds change with the weather and the season and can break if dropped or bumped and crack for no obvious reason. Therefore, one can never have too many reeds. You never know when your favorite might be a “goner”. Usually three to six reeds that are playing can cover it. Some reeds wear out quickly, and others will play for months if kept clean and are dried out thoroughly in between playing sessions. Incidentally, the type of reed case that Daniel has will shorten reed life. Air cannot circulate through the wet reed placed on solid pins. A different/better reed case with good air circulation into and through the reed and case will help. When I was a senior in high school I won the solo concerto competition with the Tacoma Youth Philharmonic. On the evening of the concert my reed cracked nearly down the middle. I had only the one “playable” reed in my case and was forced to play through the biggest bassoon moment of my life with a destroyed reed. It was an embarrassment. Let’s say it wasn’t pretty. Daniel already has experienced the sudden loss of a “friend” when his reed was bumped in Seattle. Fortunately, he had a back up reed that was playable. He should not only have a case full of playable reeds at all times, but a “backup box” of playable reeds in a separate case for emergencies when the reed case is left at home or lost or the current reeds are not working well. (His current reed case could work for that.) The backup box stays in the case at all times. I keep the oldies (but goodies) in my case for emergencies as I have described above and do need to use them occasionally. I actually have several boxes including new reeds that I can finish scraping if needed.

I believe making reeds in batches helps with consistency of the process. Making batches of reeds will work only if he has enough mandrel tips to heat them all at the same time. I think that’s the problem. The reed needs to stay rubberbanded to the mandrel tip for a day after the heating. If he has multiple mandrel tips he can form the reeds and when they are all put together place them all in the oven at the same time. If he needs more tips we can fix that. As not all cane is created equal, and the variations of reed making is a curse of inconsistency, we need to make many reeds to find one that has the golden sound and response. When he finds a really good reed, he should try to copy its dimensions with his next reeds too. With a solo contest on the way this is the time to make as many reeds as possible. A few reeds per week for the time being. They need time to “settle” and scrape into playing well in advance of the contest. The reeds change during the first week or two of playing. With a comfortable “broken in” reed, the playing experience is much more pleasurable. Then he can concentrate on making music.