I have just started working with a new batch of cane and it is very high quality. This is cane that was cut 2 years ago and is on the harder side. It seems more middle of the road and has been great with the Fox 2 shape for bassoon and Reiger K1 on contrabassoon. If you are interested in some reeds head over to King Bassoon Reeds or email me if you are interested in cane.
A standard tool in any reed making kit is a shaper. This gives the proper dimension to the reed blade and tube. I have a few that I have collected and I really only use 2 or 3 of them. I have always found it very interesting that such small changes (hundredths of millimeters) could make such a dramatic difference in tone, pitch , and ease of response/articulation.
I mostly use fold over shapers in conjunction with a handle. But I think I am going start finding more straight shapers. I have…
Fox 2 15.2mm tip
For myself I use a Reiger 14 shaper and I am very impressed by the response. I can articulate a high F, and still play pianissimo low notes IN TUNE without struggle. I find that my students respond best to the Reiger 13. The 13 is like the 1A except the tube is narrower, this back pressure helps with air management and articulation. The Fox 2 straight shape is a really great shape, and I would really suggest that this be a high school students’ first shape.
The K1 and C2 are both new to me. The K1 is a contrabassoon shaper and unlike all of the very subtle differences in bassoon shapes, the contrabassoon shapers are all dramatically different. The K1 to me is a very standard shape and makes the style of reed that I am most used to playing on.
The C2 is a contraforte shape which ends up making very wide reeds, and so far this is one of the two contraforte shapes that exist. There is still some debate over the length of contraforte cane. Contrabassoon cane is 150mm which is what some CF players use, for me that creates a reed that is unstable and actually tend to be flat. I mostly use 160mm cane which suits this shape pretty well. I have even heard of people using 170 and 180mm cane!
Now my teacher Steve Braunstein has quite a collection of straight shapers. What is interesting about them is that you are about to shape one side of the cane, slide the cane over a bit, and shape the other side. So in our experiments to find contraforte reed shape he is able to use contrabassoon shapes and make them wider. This is a great advantage to me since there are few options for CF shapes, so I will be finding some straight shapers in the future.
One of the defining aspects of creating tone on the bassoon is the shape of the reed. Shapers are made by many different companies, and each company offer different dimensions. These design differences correlate to players’ theories about reed dimensions. Some top players even have their own shapes manufactured to unify their own reed style.
Shapers are made of shaper handles and shaper tips. The shaper tips are the pieces with varying dimensions, and many shaper tips can fit into the same shaper handle to process cane. Straight shapers do not require shaper handles and are usually cheaper. For shaping with regular shapers the cane is folded in half and so only two sides need attention. The set back of the straight shaper is that the cane is not folded over and so four individual side of cane need to be cut evenly.
I own three shapers myself; a Fox 2 straight shaper, Rieger 1A, and a Rieger 13. Oddly enough all of these shapes create a 15.5mm tip and play respond best with a blade length of about 27mm.
I would say that a Fox 2 straight shaper is a great shape for people new to reed making. A Straight shaper (black shaper pictured above) is easier to work with because there are no adjustment screws in the way of you knife, and you can shape before or after profiling. This is a thinner shape with narrow throat and tube. This is my go-to shape for high note reeds, however low notes are usually quite sharp.
The Rieger 1A is a very popular shape, and I haven’t met a bassoonist who doesn’t own this shape. Its a great shape for bassoonists who are looking for an all around balanced reed with high notes and low notes. In my experience, this shape can be a bit too bright with a *CVX* bocal. A bright shape with a bright bocal can create a thin sound which lacks much depth.
The Rieger 13 is new to me, it is a copy of the shaper created by the famous American bassoonist K. David Van Hoesen. Many of my favorite bassoonists today studied with Van Hoesen and carry on some of his reed ideas. It has a wide throat and tube which is great for keeping pitch down for most reeds. The shape of the finished blade itself is slightly rounded near the tip. So far I have noticed that this shape has a sweet sound and ages well.
below are three blanks shaped on different shapers.
Fox 2 Rieger 1A Rieger 13