Keyed Kontraptions

Meerenai Shim and I have started a new ensemble, Keyed Kontraptions!

This was a natural progression for us which came about from our previous collaborations. Our combined sound is so unique and I am excited to share our playing with you. We will be working with composers in the Bay Area to create repertoire for this arrangement.

Joseph Columbo wrote us a piece last season titled Strawocktopuss (which is a reference to one of my tattoos) Here is our performance of his piece, more to come!

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New Contraforte Bocal

Contraforte Bocal

I received a new Contraforte bocal as a late Christmas present this year! When Wolf sends out a contraforte they send it out with one bocal, presumably something well matched to the instrument. This has been their system for a while and reflects in their period instruments as well. Since the instrument is custom made so is the bocal to match it.

One of the great aspects of playing bassoon and contrabassoon is that each player sounds different and unique, part of that is the player and part is the equipment. I also think that changing equipment/reed shape/bocals can make someones playing easier depending on what qualities they like to bring out in their playing. So having one bocal as my default bocal forever with no other option made me a little antsy. I contacted Wolf about 2 years ago and asked if they could make me a second bocal. At the time I was making shorter contraforte reeds and my pitch would travel a little high and so I asked for a longer bocal. Well they asked me why I would want another bocal and what I thought it would change. I honestly was just curious, anything slightly different would have its own characteristics, no two bocals are the same etc.

I was selling some bassoons through Midwest Musical Imports and I asked if they could email Wolf and get this started for me. And it just arrived! So far the obvious characteristics are a lower center of pitch and easier high register. This will be my primary bocal for now to figure out any other differences.

Herzberg Shaper

Herzberg Shaper

I have been experimenting with different versions of the Herzberg shape and I recently found an original for comparison. So I took some photos of how the Herzberg lines up with the Bell shaper and the Rieger #14.

Bell

I shaped onto some paper and held them together in the light to get and idea of the two shapes. The Herzberg is in green and the Bell is in red.

Bell Shaper

As far as I can tell the Bell H shape is an exact copy of a Herzberg shape without any differences.

Bell Herzberg

Rieger #14

The Rieger 14 shape is supposed to be the Rieger copy of the Herzberg shape. Here the Bell shape is in green and the Rieger in black. The blade of the Rieger is nearly exactly the same as the original Herzberg but the tube of the reed is narrower, the tube is straight with no flare. Part of the Herberg reed style is in the bevel, and the flare at the butt of the tube has a relationship with the tip opening. So the #14 is a very similar shape but will create reed with a different tip opening.

I know Fox make a few shapes that are similar to the Herzberg, their Michael Dicker shape is close to the Rieger #14 as well. If you want the Herzberg shape I would really suggest the Bell H shape which is an exact copy. The only advantage of an original Herzberg shaper would be the pin indents which precisely position the cane. And that would only be an advantage for people with a Herzberg profiler.

Legere Reeds

Legere Bassoon Reeds have been in and out of my reed case over the last few years. Initially they were fantastic and I played many concerts on them, but then I discovered that they don’t last forever. After a few weeks the reeds develop little hairline cracks at the tip and become less vibrant.

Most recently they changed style to something more resistant, and used silver staples. I found a few of these that were great but generally these were unpopular because of the lack of vibration. And now Legere has reworked the bassoon reed again to have a longer blade length and a narrower shape. This new batch of reeds is just coming out and is going to be available everywhere in a few weeks. These reeds are vibrant and have excellent attacks. I’ve been really liking these new reeds and will be using them all summer.

Legere reeds

They did a commercial with Paul Hanson, jazz bassoonist extraordinaire. And he touches on a good point which is that Legere reeds allow us to focus on the music.