Q: My reed tip closes in the center first when squeezed shut. What should I do?

A: First start by tightening and rounding the wires to create more arch to the blade. Follow by squeezing the second wire from the sides, closing the tip and then squeezing the first wire from the sides, opening the tip back up.

In some cases the reed has been weakened too much in the middle of the blade from scraping behind the tip. It may be necessary to clip the tip to shorten the vibrating length and strengthen and thicken the tip. In other cases, it is necessary to weaken the edges of the reed blade to change the balance of the reed spine to the edge along the length of the reed.

Be sure also to check at the tip of the reed that the corners are thinner than the center of the tip. The reed should taper from the center of the extreme tip to the corner. This ratio is approximately 2 to 1. A typical ratio of thickness across the tip is 3-4-5-4-3. These numbers represent thousandths of an inch.

Q: My reed crows low in pitch (around C#), but you recommend the crow to be between F and G. I tried the solutions in the Quick Guide, but is there more I can do?

A: If you play a “0” (zero) length bocal and play at A 440, the reed can play in tune with a lower crow. But in most cases, the lower crow will become problematic playing in the upper register. For a second bassoonist this may not be a problem. I played second bassoon in the Seattle Symphony with a zero bocal and a D crow. But if you are having pitch and/or stability problems you may want to raise the crow.

If you want to try raising the crow of the reed, start with rounding and tightening the wires to put more arch and strength into the blade. Avoid achieving vibrancy by scraping through the resistance point near the tip. If you are scraping in the middle of the blade behind the tip to create vibrancy in the reed crow, then you are making a mistake. When you squeeze the blades closed, check to see if the reed tip is closing in the center first. If so, the several adjustments indicated should be pursued, starting with wire adjustments.

Q: The reed crows, but when played sounds bright, buzzy, metalic and slightly weak. What can I do?

A: There are several methods that can be used to darken the tone of the reed:

  • In some cases, clipping the tip by 1/2 – 1/4 mm or less will eliminate the problem.
  • In some cases the tip opening will close all at once and by clipping the tip will now close from side to center. In addition, increasing tip gradient ratio to thinner corners/thicker center will darken the tone and increase resistance. Also check the corner flex test (see 2.1 of Quick Guide).
  • Another solution is to create a “beard” by gently sanding across the tip opening. Sanding techniques for reducing the tip opening in the Appendix of Quick Guide (figure S1) will also darken the tone.
  • Solutions for “If Flat” in Crow Test will also darken the tone.
  • Sand the edges of the blade along the length of the rails at a 45 degree angle.

Q: What can I do for a dull, dead reed?

A: There are several methods that can be used to brighten and add vibrancy to a reed:

  • Check for balanced blade strength,  and tip opening symmetry as indicated in “If Sharp” in Crow Test.
  • 1st wire “cradling” is quite effective. See Fig. 5A of Quick Guide.
  • Test for vibrancy and tuning for bare fork Eb (2.1), Ab/Bb trill (4.1), and fork Bb (11.1).
  • Adjust wires for a more oval tube and less blade arch (2T/1T).
  • Sand to weaken the delta.

Q: What is the difference between lowering the crow with wire no. 1 or wire no. 2?

A: Adjusting the first wire will help strengthen the upper register, and wire no. 2 will favor the lower register.