Bassoon Reed Making
Bassoon reed making is both a science and an art. It is a science because it involves the careful calculation of measurements and the control of variables during a process of experimentation.
It is also an art form because you are creating something personal and unique for you. Your reeds are never going to be exactly like anyone else. The art of reed making rests in crafting your own, customized reed that works for you.
These pages on bassoon reed making will only be able to cover the scientific aspects. I will cover, step-by-step, how a piece of tube cane is processed into a working, finished bassoon reed.
You are welcome to start at the beginning, to learn about Bassoon Cane, or feel free to skip ahead to the next steps.
Here are the stages of the bassoon reed-making:
- Split and soak bassoon cane
- Pre-gouge and gouge cane
- Shape Cane
- Profile Cane
- Form the Bassoon Reed Blank
- Wrap the Bassoon Reed Blank
- Finish the Bassoon Reed
Types of Bassoon Cane
When you buy bassoon cane or reeds through a supplier, it is available at any of the stages listed above.
Tube cane is arundo donax cane that is still, yes, in tube form and completely unfinished. You will start at the very beginning of the bassoon reed making process with tube cane.
Gouged cane has already been gouged for you. Continue the process of finishing the reed, starting with the next step, shaping. You must still soak the cane before you shape it.
Gouged and Shaped cane, sometimes listed as GS, has already been gouged AND shaped for you. Continue the process of finishing the reed, starting with profiling the cane. Remember to soak the cane before profiling it.
Gouged and Profiled cane is available if you prefer to use your own shaper but do not have access to a profiling machine. Remember to soak the cane before shaping it.
Gouged, Shaped, and Profiled cane, or GSP, is a very common form of processed cane. This is a good place for intermediate bassoon students to start with bassoon reed making. Most of the tools for gouging, shaping, and profiling cane can be expensive, inaccessible, and impractical for younger students. GSP cane is a convenient way to get practice and experience forming blanks without the hassle of the earlier stages of cane processing. As always, remember to adequately soak GSP cane in water before forming reed blanks.
You can also buy Bassoon Reed Blanks. Blanks look like regular bassoon reeds, but they are unfinished, so the tip of the reed has not been clipped. To complete the reed making process with bassoon blanks, soak the blank, clip the tip of the reed off and finish them yourself. This is also a good place to start with younger reed makers.
Finally, you can purchase finished Bassoon Reeds. Beginners, you should start here and either purchase reeds from your bassoon teacher or from a supplier that he or she recommends to you. Beginners have enough to work on at first that reed making at this stage would be too burdensome. Focus on the fundamentals and find yourself a good bassoon reed supplier. You will learn reed making eventually!
Why make your own?
There are many advantages to making your own bassoon reeds. The first is cost. Finished bassoon reeds can be very costly, and the further back you go into the processing of cane, the cheaper the cost will be for each piece of cane.
Here's an example: Let's say a pretty good finished bassoon reed costs $18. Bassoon reed blanks would cost somewhere around $10. GSP Cane? $5/piece. GS Cane? $4/piece. Gouged cane? $3/piece. Bassoon tube cane costs around $2/tube. Each tube yields 4 pieces of cane, so tube cane is the most economical choice, costing about $0.50 per piece of cane.
The second major advantage of making your own reeds is the freedom and independence it affords you. You can customize your own reeds to make them work for you, and not depend on anyone else to make them for you. What would happen if your favorite reed-maker went out of business, for example? Would you be able to find a suitable alternative, someone who you really like? Well, maybe. But would the reed be perfect for you?
Bassoon Reed Making will teach you a lot about how your instrument works. As your reed making skills improve, so will your sound on the bassoon. You will customize the reed to work for you, so that you can sing through your instrument. That is the most rewarding part, in my mind, of making bassoon reeds.
Everyone has different need with bassoon reed making, so judge your needs and the costs wisely before choosing where to begin.
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