I am now offering custom contrabassoon reeds on my reed website for people who have a preference of shapes. The standard shape for all of the contrabassoon reeds is the Rieger K1, this is a versatile shape that is free blowing on most instruments.

I personally use a Heckel Contrabassoon shape, which was found and reproduced in a small batch by Arlen Fast through Fox Products. I play a mid 1980’s Heckel contra and I have been finding that this shape suits the instrument.

The shapes available for contrabassoon reeds are:

Rieger K1, K2, K3, Heckel, Skinner-Braunstein, Greg Henegar,  Rhodes R1

It’s hard to describe each shape and dissect the playing qualities since so much of what makes a good reed has to do with cane and the scrape. But if I can ramble a bit, I’ve spent time with these shapes and made each of them my primary shape at one point in time so there are patterns I have noticed.

K1 is all around great. I have used this on Fox contras, Mollenhauers and Heckels and I think it makes a balanced middle of the road reed. I’d say that it sounds a little plain and can be buzzy in the first few days.

K2 is a shape that I basically never use or recommend. If it’s your thing I can make that shape for you, but this has. always been a buzzy mess for my on my instrument. I’ve tried to change wire placement, gouge, and reed lengths and I continue to not like this. It is a wide goblet/tulip shape.

K3 has some interesting qualities because it is pretty narrow and has a shallow curve from the tip to the throat. This had the effect on me like trying a Herzberg reed for the first time, with a narrow shape the scrape can be thinner and more free blowing without sagging or loss of the high register response. It has a sweeter tone than the K1 and be easier to blend with a section.

I traced the following shapers onto a piece of paper so that you can get a sense of what a reed with these shapes might look like.

The Heckel shape is a goblet/tulip shape like the K2 but much narrower. I’ve been putting a very thin tip on this and leaving a moderate amount of spine. It gives me a fast response and dark tone. I have used this on about 10 of my reeds so far this year and all of them have a wobbly middle F. It hasn’t been a bad note on this instrument before, and its a drawback that I can manage.

Rhodes R1 is basically the Fox Products straight shaper version of the K1. It is great for all instruments and needs some break in time.

Greg Henegar’s shape is a Knochenhauer shape. I haven’t studied with Greg (yet!)?) so I’m sure that he has a specific way of making reeds. Like all Knochenhauer style reeds, there is a big flare at the end of the tube, so the amount you bevel has a big impact on the tip opening. These reeds have a rich tone and really responsive high register, I notice that these will want to go a little sharp unless the reed is scraped pretty thin. This shaper was made in a small batch by Bell Bassoons in Canada, but they might still be available as a custom order.

Skinner-Braunstein shaped reeds are a wide heavier style reed. This shape is great for softer pieces of cane and gets a big round sound. Reeds made from this shape seem to last a long time as well. There is some confusion for reed makers about SKB1 and SKB2. In Skinner’s reed making method excess cane is trimmed off of the end of the tube, in most reed making now we like to trim the excess from the tip with a tip cutter. If you follow his method, you would need the SKB1, which appears narrower but is the same shape. And if you don’t trim the butt of the reed, you would buy the SKB2. Steve Braunstein makes both SKB reeds and the RR1 reeds, so I would contact him to buy them.

This is a post that I have dreaded doing for a long time. I debated whether this was necessary and useful to people, or if it would just be obnoxious. I realized that when I myself was buying reed tools there was very little information on a consumer level about how these machines stacked up against each other. If I was starting all over again in buying reed machines, I would have liked to have seen more information about them. So that’s the basis of including this aspect of my reed desk equipment.

 

Reiger Bassoon Gouger

Reiger bassoon gouger
bassoon gouger

 

Reiger Bassoon Gouger
bassoon gouger

This gouger was a recent acquisition, it was a graduation gift from my uncle. Outside of this gouger I have only used the Reeds ‘n Stuff gouger, and I do really prefer the Reiger. The guillotine (which is included, and a big reason for choosing this machine) is very easy to use and cuts to a perfect fit to the cane bed. Once the cane is at that 120mm length, it fits right into the cane bed and never slips out. I have had some problems with other gougers where the cane jumps off of the machine once you use a little strength.

www.georgrieger.com

 

Berdon Bassoon Profile

Berdon Profiler
bassoon profiler

 

Berdon Profiler
bassoon profiler

This machine is an ANTIQUE! It is very old and I found it on eBay from an oboe player who had it in his closet for a few decades. This machine represents a very simple single barrel profiler with two basic adjustment screws, a removable blade, and no measurement systems whatsoever. There are many simple machines like this still being done by a few companies. What I like is that it is very easy to use, easy to remove the blade to sharpen myself and easy to adjust. I don’t like that when I adjust the profile I have to waste a few pieces of cane on trial and error experiments with no way of knowing what my current settings are. I found this for $300 and it works great, if you can find a cheap simple profiler you can probably get a good blade fit to it and get it working. Otherwise I would suggest finding something newer and more sophisticated.

 

Reeds ‘n Stuff Tip Profiler

tip profiler
bassoon tip profiler
tip profiler
bassoon tip profiler

This tip profiler I also found used. This is the only thing that I own by Reeds ‘n Stuff and I’m quite sure that he now makes a fancier version of this. However this is very similar to the Reiger tip profiler and it makes all reed finishing a dream. Every tip is the same every time. I cannot enough stress how much this machine changed my reed making and my consistency of sound. I know that they also make oboe tip profilers, that is most of what I hear oboe reed makers complain about is creating an even tip. I have also had some luck using this with contrabassoon reeds without even having to adjust it. If I just put the reed on and keep it a few millimeters shy of the guideline, I get a great tip.

www.reedsnstuff.com

 

Reeds & Tools gouger

Contra Gouger
contrabassoon contraforte gouger

 

contra gouger
contrabassoon contraforte gouger

 

These Reeds & Tools machines are my newest additions, just over a month old. They represent the fanciest machines with flexibility and technology and controlled results. The gouger I currently have set up for processing contraforte cane, this means that I am using a 160mm long 30mm diameter cane bed with a 30mm diameter blade. The cane beds on this machine are interchangeable, so I also have a contrabassoon length bed (150mm) that I can slide use. I also have a 28mm diameter blade and carriage If I want to have eccentrically gouged cane instead of concentric. This machine can also fit a bassoon cane bed, so for doublers who only want one machine to process both instruments’ cane this may be a good choice. Again the guillotine has been great and the bed hold cane firmly.

gouged contra cane

This is an example of the gouge from this machine.

 

Reeds & Tools Profiler

contra profiler
contrabassoon contraforte profiler

 

contra profiler
contrabassoon contraforte profiler

 

This machine is a blast to use! So easy and fast. I have two scoring blades so I can score the collar and the center line of the cane. Chris van O’s was also nice enough to include a spare blade and a dial indicator for adjustments. Unlike my bassoon profiler, this machine has it all. I can accurately change my profile by hundredths of a millimeter by using the attachable micrometer…

contra profiler
contrabassoon contraforte profiler

 

This pair of machines make cane processing fast and accurate, and I would recommend them. So far Reeds & Tools is the only company making equipment for contraforte. The machines that I have are for cane up to 160mm in length but he is also making machines at 170mm and 180mm for contraforte player who want to experiment with longer tubes or blades.

reedsntools.nl

 

 

 

I have been putting out reed orders for the past few months with great success and have had a great time connecting with customers. However it has been a hassle to manage reed orders along side regular gig emails etc. so I decided to create a reed website! It is a site that will be constantly updated with new products and cane sources. So feel free to check it out!

There is an icon (will make more sense in a few updates) at the bottom of the webpage linking to my eBay store. That is where I sell sale reeds or inventory that I need to move, usually at a reduced price.

kingbassoonreeds.com