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This is the second post from my recent cane harvest. I harvested a bunch of cane from the Ventura river and dried it out. Now it’s time to get to the rest of the cane processes.
First I cut the “knuckles” out of the cane. These are the connecting sections of the cane that hold the shoots together. Since these knots are unusable it’s import to take them out without removing any extra cane, so I cut as close to the knots as I can.
At this point all of the cane is free of the joints. This will help all of the sections of cane to dry more evenly. Some of the shoots were in the middle of a stalk of cane, and weren’t uniformly exposed to air.
Now with a caliper, I measure out every shoot of cane and mark the cut. I cut my cane to 120 millimeters because this fits all of my equipment. It’s important to keep in mind that cane continues to shrink as it dries out. So when cutting in the last few stages, its better to leave a millimeter or two extra.
After all of the cane is cut to size, I store it vertically in a plastic bin. I leave the lid off and rotate it once a week since it is still drying out.
Home grown and harvested tube cane isn’t as pretty as store bought tube cane, but it cane be. Cane companies add a few extra steps like steam cleaning (which also sanitizes) they also sort out pieces with color variations. Home harvested cane isn’t quite as reliable as store bought cane either, not every piece cane be expected to become a good reed.
I have the great advantage of living by a field of naturally occurring Arundo Donax. My mother lives in Ventura, California and the Ventura river, from the Ojai river, is infested with an unending source of cane. The easiest place for me to collect this cane is where the river meets the Ocean. The is however a problem with this cane, since it grows basically on a beach, it is very weathered and dry. From what I have experienced so far, much of this damaged cane makes very soft reeds. The sun, sand, salt, wind, humidity, and temperature take much of nutrients from the cane and leave it very porous and soft. The best cane is in the middle of the fields, so it takes a bit of work to get to, but this cane is the most protected.
All of the pieces I have cut are in different phases of the drying process. I have read many articles about the drying process and what some of the big cane producers do. First I have read from two separate sources to harvest cane the day after a full moon. “the pitch is up” and something about the gravitational difference of having the moon high in the sky during the day pulls resources from the roots into the fibers. From there on the process is very different company to company. Most french companies keep the cane outside to dry in a “teepee” formation for a whole year. Where as the Rico company keeps the freshly harvested cane outside in the sun for 10 days and then moves it all into huge indoor storage facilities and large ventilator fans.
For my part I am going to harvest enough cane to allow me to try a number of different methods. Some I will leave outside, others will stay mostly inside, and others I might cut to shorter segments to see if it will dry faster. Most of the pieces I cut are 5-6 segments long and so ill have different sections of the same cane to work with.
Ill be sure to post pictures of the reeds made from this harvested cane!
Legère has been well known for having synthetic single reeds which have been mostly used for marching bands or for doublers who don’t want to keep up with reeds for multiple instruments. This fall they have released a synthetic bassoon reed.
I have played on plastic bassoon reeds before, Charles music makes one and so does wwbw.com. These reeds are really intended for beginners to get a feel for the basic technique of bassoon and learn the first few notes. They sound very bright but passable in the low register, not much in the tenor register. That is the quality of sound that i was expecting from the Legère reeds as well. My teacher Steve Paulson played on them with the San Francisco Symphony and he sounded amazing. So i decided to put my name on the list and buy one.
The shipping took some time but the company is in Canada so its understandable. I first played a few long tones and it was a little resistant. I make reeds that are easy blowing and respond with very little effort, they can tend to be bright sounding. So in comparison this reed was a bit hard for me.
Its been a few weeks and I have been using this reed exclusively. I have gotten completely used to it and it is capable of producing a very full rich sound with a little bit of push. The tenor register especially needs a little boost to get a good vibrato. I clipped the corners and it allows me to tongue easier without the sharp edges. Double tonguing fast passages takes some getting used to as every note has a bit more resistance to get started. These reeds come in three densities: soft, medium, hard. I use soft and so does everyone i know who uses one. These reeds have more playing resistance than cane reeds.
I would recommend that everyone gets one of these to keep in the back of their reed cases for bad weather days or traveling. I have been in between apartments in San Francisco and all of my reed making equipment is packed up so if I had been using cane reeds i would have been out of usable reeds by now, not to mention the drastic weather changes here in the city.