Topic: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

By Norman Herzberg | Interview February 17, 2005

There can be many reasons for lack of response in the high register. Over the many years and numerous bassoons that I have played those reasons are correctible and include the following:
1. It is possible (probable) that the bassoon is leaking around high note inserts for high C and D. The wood around those inserts is not sealed well and air leaks between the insert and the surrounding wood. It is easy to remedy. Press some wax around the insert and then touch it with a hot needle. The wax will flow in any void around the inserts.
2. It is possible that the hole in the inserts is the wrong size. I can remember Fred Moritz prying out an insert and pressing one with a different size hole in its place. He obtained ones with different size holes from Heckel.
3. I had a Heckel bassoon with high note resistance. Benson Bell who was with Frank Marcus at the time suggested that a tapered insert with the taper starting large at the bore and getting smaller toward the pad might work. By the way, you must save the original inserts as you work in case you cannot improve the condition. We tried several different tapers and found one that was a definite improvement. The strange thing was that one taper out of the two inserts was all that was necessary.
4. Try an insert that projects into the bore slightly. Saliva will flow around it and not clog the hole.
5. Of course the bocal can be at fault. Try different ones, but don't settle for a bad one just because it gets the high note or is of pre war vintage!.
6. The D ring key around the third hole may be sluggish. It could rub against the groove that it is set in. The pad that closes the hole that it governs (on the wing joint) may be stuck or open too slowly. That will inhibit a quick response for high C and D.

Reeds:
1. The fault can be in the reeds you use. Contrary to common belief, reeds do not have to crow to be good. I have had bad reeds that crow and good ones that didn't. In fact, I can make any reed crow--does that mean all of my reeds are good? As an experiment, I took a good reed that did not crow and trimmed it so that it crowed. It was ruined!
2. Contrary to common belief, the wires MUST be tight! The second wire must be round! Any trimming of the reed should be done in the upper half!
3. The thickness of the reed at the shoulder should be -036--037.
4. For those of you who use the Herzberg bevel, start the bevel 3/8 of an inch up from the bottom of the tube.

Yoshi Ishikawa
Professor of Bassoon, U of Colorado at Boulder
Editor, IDRS OnLine Publications
Administrator, IDRS Forum

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Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Another thing to check when high register notes do not speak is the perfect placement of wire No. 1 at or near the collar of  your reeds. THis wire is critical in that it must form totally touching the cane all around at the placement point for the wire. Any gap of air in the surround of this wire will limit high register response of that reed. Often a first wire will be replaced if it is not fully formed completly touching the cane all around the tube. Good luck. Sincerely, Gerald Corey, Ottawa

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Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Hi Yoshi et al.,

I was very interested to read in Yoshi's archive posting that "Any trimming of the reed should be done in the upper half!"  (from Norman Herzberg's interview February 17, 2005).

So, in using this approach, would any lightening of the channels or rails occur only in the upper half of the reed?

I'd love to have hear points of view on the following:

For lessening overall resistance of the reed, I've found that lightening the channels on the upper two-thirds of the blades can work (but I will try just the upper half and see how that goes). This may relate to my having an initial profile that is heavier than it should be in the lower part of the blades.

For providing easier response in the low range (and possibly to lower pitch in the low range as well, as a reed ages), wouldn't scraping the rails just above the collar (and possibly across the entire lower third of the blades) be a good option?

And for lessening overall brightness as well as helping overall response, wouldn't lightening along the entire rails just a bit be a good choice, ensuring that sufficient thickness remains in the lower rails closest to the collar (and continuing upward for the lower two-thirds of the blades)?

Susan

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Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

There are a lot of finishing issues raised in Susan's post and I'm sure there will be many points of view offered. So, here are some of mine. I start with a profile that establishes the thicknesses that were recommended by Lou Skinner. Invariably when my blanks are formed I find that the rails are raised slightly relative to the overall curvature of the reed blade. Before I do anything else I reduce this elevation in the rails so that they blend smoothly with the blade curvature. I then cut the tip, tip-profile the blank, and begin the process of finishing the reed.

If I find the reed too stiff overall I usually make a couple of scrapes up the channels between the center and the rails and just off the center line of the reed. Then to free up and open the sound I remove material from the center from about 10 mm. below the tip to the tip. This is a gradual operation and you can't go too far or the middle E is lost. This also significantly boosts the low register response. To fine-tune the response level I use some ceramic blocks that Bill Roscoe supplied many years ago to thin the very tip of the reed. This combination of operations (admittedly an oversimplification) generally gets me to where I want to be. In summary, most of this adjustment work is done on the upper third of the reed and most of it is closer to the center line than the rails. Working the entire length of the reed reduces resistance but also weakens the reed more than is usually desireable. However, I do constantly check the actual center line of the reed to make sure it remains only slightly heavier than the overall blade thickness.

Now a couple of specifics. I find that thinning the channels on just the upper part of the reed tends to weaken the wings too much and the reed loses much of its potential power. I tend to remove material closer to the center line of the reed so it maintains strong output. Similarly, thinning the rails all along the reed also results in weak wings and poor output. Instead, try selecting a line about 2 mm. in from the rails and thin along that line to darken the tone somewhat. Better yet, adjust the tip opening with the wires to brighten or darken the tone.

A little judicious trimming just above the collar can help low register respnse somewhat. However, this is a delicate process and it is very easy to undercut the plane of the reed at that point and really kill its ability to respond.

Anyway, one could go on forever, but these are some of the thoughts that came to mind from Susan's post.

Last edited by Gene Carter (2006-10-27 20:22:53)

Gene Carter, Owner
Linden Reeds

Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Gene -- Thanks for the detailed response. Very helpful suggestions for avoiding some of the problems I've run into.

Can you describe the ceramic blocks you use to thin the very tip of the reed? I imagine the smoothness of the ceramic material provides a "less disruptive" way of thinning the tip than by using a knife, file, or sandpaper, but I have never heard of this type of thing.

Susan

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Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Hi Susan...If you look under the "Bassoon Reed Room...Bassoon Players Use Dull Knives?" I described the ceramic blocks a week or two ago. I don't know whether Bill Roscoe could still supply these but they are handy to have.

Gene Carter, Owner
Linden Reeds

Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Hi Gene - I actually purchased tip-finishing blocks from Bill Roscoe a number of years ago (perhaps an earlier version, since they had a wooden base instead of ceramic and were separate rather than glued together). At the time, I did not have success using them, but that could be attributed to the fact that I was just getting back into playing my bassoon and working on reeds after being away from it for awhile. The blocks surfaced just recently during a household move this past summer, so I hope to find them and give them another try. Thanks for reminding me I had these! -- Susan

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Re: Reed respons - from the IDRS OnLine Archive

Here's a query regarding tip profilers:
I use a Reiger tip profiler and find it to be a very useful and time-saving tool. However, no instructions came with it for adjusting the depth of the tip profile. For the most part, I like the way it is set up, but for some heavier reeds I would want to set it for a lighter profile (to avoid getting a ledge at the start of the tip profile).

Susan

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