Probably the least important part of reed making is reed thread. This is the most visual and artistic aspect of the process but serves little purpose. There are a few shapes that require wrapping to seal properly (Hertzberg) but outside of that, good shaping and Duco cement will suffice. Threads are available at double reed supply stores. I have been looking for other sources of reed thread (for cheaper) but have come up short. I know people who prefer cotton thread, and for those people “Aunt Lydia’s” thread is availabe at many stores. I don’t personally like how Duco cement works with cotton. Nylon size FF thread or 138 can be found at many online retailers. I have been using OMEGA thread. Its a nice nylon thread but its thicker than FF so maybe it isn’t usable for oboe/english horn. It comes in 90 different colors and its very cheap. This is great for bassoon and contra reeds and it doesn’t take as much thread to create a turban. I have a friend who buys all of her thread off of the thread exchange. They sell larger spools and in many colors. And of course all of the double reed supply stores have thread. Most of my thread is from RDG Forrests and Charles
Home-made reed case
I made myself a reed case last week! I remembered seeing a post from David Wells about making a reed case a few months ago. I wasn’t looking for something cheap, because I kind of like the fancy reed cases. There are currently no reed case that fit contaforte reeds and most players have just been using jewelry boxes.
So I was happy to find this little tupperware in the container store for a few dollars. And then I picked up some foam at Michaels (like the kind for kindergarden crafts)
I used two layer glued together with Duco cement for the reed holders, glued that to the base and glued it into the acrylic container. I also poked holes in the lid so that the reeds can dry out between uses.
There is a HECKELPHONE for sale on Charles music! This is a super rare find and an awesome instrument. It is in perfect condition from original owners and has 7 bocals.
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
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.
Berdon Bassoon Profile
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
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.
Reeds & Tools 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.
This is an example of the gouge from this machine.
Reeds & Tools 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…
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.
The Reed Desk
The next few entries that I would like to post have to do with my reed desk. I firmly believe that the quality and reliability of someone’s reeds is directly affected by the quality of their reed tools. Generally I have found that people who have great reeds on a daily basis without any “reed panic” days tend to have great reed tools that are sharp and in adjustment.
I would like to post a few entires on a consumer level giving detailed reviews of some of my machines and products. This will be bassoon, contrabassoon, contraforte, or general purpose double reed equipment. I have no affiliation with any company but have chosen my equipment based on reviews, function and the recommendation of my teachers.
I have some basic care tools that I use to maintain my instruments. Key oil, cork grease, bore oil etc. But there are some things that I have found to be very useful especially in buying a used contraforte. The contra was in the use of Lewis Lipnick, a very accomplished and busy player. It had some tarnish on the keys, and I don’t trust myself to take it all apart to clean it. Contrabassoons and contrafortes also suffer from water problems. Contra is the only woodwind instrument that never EVER gets swabbed!
I found these silver polish strips to be amazing! You get a wet paper towel, wipe down the tarnished area and then just wipe it with the polish wipe and its done. I also have “acidic hand oil” like we all do, but mine can damage the plating of instruments over time. So this is a very easy way to keep my keys from damage. These I found at Bed Bath and Beyond
The other great find is Silica gel packets; this is a form of desiccant, or a chemical that removes moisture from the air. I bought a couple packs of these and I keep two in the contra case at a time. When the contra is put away in the case, the instrument is still filled with moisture and warm moist air. These packets help dry out the air inside of the case. I bought mine off of Amazon
International Double Reed Society 2013
This year was my first IDRS conference yet and it was amazing! I met so many legendary players and nice people. There was an entire room of vendors and instruments to try as well as a room full of music provided by trevco. The bassoon selection was impressive and included:
and oboes were brought by
It was odd that even though there were Loree oboes and Heckel bassoon at the conference. Loree and Heckel were not there only their used instruments were sold through other sellers.
Legère reeds were there and many more bassoons were hooked onto some synthetic reeds. Other innovations were brought by Guntram Wolf. They brought a Lupophon and the Contraforte.
Now this is particularly interesting to me because I have been seriously getting into contrabassoon and I feel a strong pull towards the contraforte. I am now raising funds to buy a contraforte to take auditions with. I have a list of repertoire to perform and record on it and was a great treat to get to play another one this week. If you ever get a chence to get your hands on a contraforte, test it! the dynamics, range, note connection is all much easier.
This last month I have been playing in a musical. I am playing in a Stephen Sondheim show called “A little night music” it’s being produced with a reduced score.
I have never played a musical before! I’ve been in many operas and symphony shows but never a musical, so I was initially very confused as to how the woodwind part worked. This is so far what I have learned…
Reed 1 is flute, piccolo, alto flute, and maybe clarinet
Reed 2 is flute, clarinet, and maybe alto sax
Reed 3 is clarinet, bass clarinet or tenor sax
Reed 4 can be oboe/english horn
Reed 5 is baritone sax, bassoon, bass clarinet
this is basically what I know about musical scoring so far. I think that the reed parts are different for every show and what I gather is that most people who play in musicals regularly are able to double on many instruments. Basically everyone can play flute and clarinet and sax, but only one person has to have/play the oboe, the bassoon, and the bass clarinet.
A Little night music has me on Reed 5 and for this show this means that it is only a bassoon part, which is rare. What is also specific to musicals is having a long run of a shows. Most projects have a weekends of concerts but musicals can have multiple weeks of shows.
Woodwind players often try new things to “spice up” their playing. Even new instruments emerge with the amount of experimentation, new compositions, technology, and new materials available. Here are a few of my favorite double reed innovations of the last ten years.
German bassoon system add ons:
wing joint system to high G
more about Robert’s bassoon can be found at his website
Guntram Wolf Instruments
Kontraforte (revised contra bassoon)
Lupophon (revised bass oboe)
more information about Wolf instruments and products can be found at:
Loboe (low A oboe)
The new Püchner oboe bell
Marigaux plexiglass oboe
Fox plexiglass bassoon