Here are answers to the six quick tests.
- The Flip Test.
Rotate the reed 180 degrees. Many bassoonists always play with the same wire up. It is best to have the strongest blade up on top. In some cases an unstable 1-finger E can be stabilized by simply flipping the reed. In other cases the reed simply feels and plays better with one blade up vs. the other. File a notch between the wires so that you know which is the best blade to play up. See also the Thumbnail Test.
- The Ear Test.
Play any note requiring only the left hand. While holding the note steady and in tune with the tuner, plug your right ear with your finger. If the note changes pitch with the ear plugged, the note needs a tuning adjustment so that the pitch is true.
- The Wire Test.
Is the first wire (nearest the blade) choking the reed’s vibration? After the reed is wetted and playable, while holding the reed with both hands and supporting the butt end of the reed with your thumb, see if you can slide the first wire down toward the second wire with the fingernails of your index fingers. If the wire is stuck in place, the reed tube is being strangled, choking the vibration of the reed. The lowest notes can be difficult and sharp in pitch. With a pair of pliers, loosen the wire by twisting it one quarter turn until you are able to slip it down toward the second wire. The wire should be snug but not immovable. It is recommended to create a “cradle” for the first wire (see Quick Guide to Bassoon Reed Tuning, Fig. 5A).On the other hand, if the first wire (or the second wire) is loose and can be easily moved out of place or does not stay in place, the wires should be stretched and tightened. During this process the tube should be “rounded” to hold the wires in their correct positions. See Adjustment Techniques.
- The Tap Test.
Using a solid object like a pen or back edge of a reed knife (blunt side) tap the top blade in the middle listening for the pitch of the tap tone. Flip the reed and tap the bottom blade in the same location on the blade to compare the pitch. If the pitch is higher on one blade than the other, the blades are out of balance, requiring further adjustment. The same test is important to check on the reed rails, right and left. See Thumbnail Test and Adjustment Techniques.
- The Crow Test.
After the reed is wetted and playable, insert the reed into your mouth with your lips over the wires and blow the reed gently. The pitch of the reed normally sounds between F and G. If the pitch is significantly above or below these pitches the reed will need further adjustment. See Preliminary Tuning.
- The Corner-of-the-mouth Test (from Test 20: The Final Tests in the Quick Guide to Bassoon Reed Tuning).
With the reed in the corner of your mouth, can you play the entire range of the bassoon? If not, the reed may need too much embouchure control (biting) and is an indication of incomplete reed tuning. Having the ability to shift the reed off center or to the corner of the mouth can help save the embouchure muscles from fatigue which can be very helpful in long passages of Brahms symphonies or oratorios. The reed can still play in tune while giving your embouchure a break. This is often the case in the upper middle register (middle C to G). If the reed plays well out of the corner of the mouth above G, it indicates an excellent high register reed. See Preliminary Tuning and Evaluation for more information.