Topic: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

Hi everyone,
I am finding that my college students are not being very successful at making reeds. We have tried it all....I keep a copy of a very famous reed making book in the reed room and tell them to make me 5 reeds before their next lesson, etc.

The thing we/I am struggling with the most is teaching them the basic knife technique needed to take off the right amount of cane in the rough scraping stages. I feel badly because I think the biggest problem is that I'm not doing a good enough job "explaining" and "showing" them for them to get it correct and be successful in the rough scraping stages.

I would be very interested in your thoughts/bag of tricks and ideas of how you teach your students beginning reed making techniques and knife technique and cane removal. Reed making is a process, however I would like them to at least be able to get a "crow" of some sort from a rough scrape. They have been attempting this now since September. sad

Shawn

Shawn Reynolds
Professor of Oboe/EH - Youngstown State University
Howland Schools - MS (director of bands); HS (Asst. Dir of Bands, Marching, Symphonic)

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Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

Take a relatively far gone reed, use a pencil to shade an area you want them to remove cane from. Tell them to scrape so they leave an outline in pencil behind, this makes sure they're removing cane from where you want them to, but not going outside the given area at all. Use realistic areas for this, so not just random circles. Shade the rails, the corner areas, the tip, collar, and heart.

Some people just aren't very good with a knife either. Assuming the profile they have is at least in the ballpark, try having them use a triangle or warding file instead of a knife. Sandpaper at the tip. That might be enough depending on what they need. I know many bassoon reed makers that almost never use a knife for anything.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

While I'm sure Trent's advice is great for bassoonists, I think Shawn is looking for oboe-specific help.  wink

I have my beginners practice their knife technique in the air first.  Knife hand should twist or pivot at the wrist, producing a nice sweeping motion without the knife "flopping around" in the air.  Have them imagine a wire that extends from the wrist, through the hand and knife handle, and straight out the end of the blade.  This imaginary line is the fulcrum point, and should remain stationary while "sweeping." 

The reed hand forms a comfortable fist-like grip position with the thumb on top, pointing away from the body.  Practice moving the thumb tip forward and back (as if guiding the knife up/down the reed), without moving the fingers below.

Then, I have them scrape a pencil (the old-school hex shaped kind).  Make it their first mission to scrape just the flat surface, without rounding off the edges/corners of the pencil.  Switch to a round pencil, and see if they can make a nice straight channel, now without edges as guides.  This is a good simulation for placing windows on an oboe reed without obliterating the spine and rails.  A lot of practice can be done on just one pencil, versus a real reed, and it is much less stressful for a student who is worried about ruining valuable cane.

Finally, teach them the more subtle tricks on an actual reed, but have them use the crappiest cane available until they build their confidence.

This process has proven itself with even the most fearful of new reed makers in my studio.  I hope it works for you and yours!

Last edited by Jonathan Marzluf (2011-03-08 23:10:47)

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

Oh, Ha!

Well, I'll keep it here in case Shawn ever needs to give a reed class to bassoonists. ;-)

Yesterday was a long one.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

I do indeed use the Shalita book with them. I agree its one of, if not the best out there. Thanks for the suggestions so far! Keep the coming -- great thoughts.

Shawn

Shawn Reynolds
Professor of Oboe/EH - Youngstown State University
Howland Schools - MS (director of bands); HS (Asst. Dir of Bands, Marching, Symphonic)

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Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

I like Johnathan's comments a lot. I'll have to adopt them for my beginners and recalcitrant students.

I like to make my reeds in a sequence of steps, and I'll scrape a step on one blade of a blank reed and have the student copy it on the other. Then I'll correct what needs fixing on his blade and go to the next step on the same blade. The student will then copy step 2 on my step 1, minimizing cumulative error as much as possible.

Sometimes I'll build a number of reeds with sequential steps on successive blades so the student will have a visual model at home.

Someday I'm going to get out my camera...

Bob Hubbard
Westwinddoublereed
bob@westwinddoublereed.com

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Re: Teaching beginning reed makers -- Need thoughts and suggestions

I give my students my reject pieces of split  tube cane to practice scraping on. This gives them the opportunity to develop their knife technique without fear of cracking  thinner pieces of more finished cane, and they can experience  working through the various layers of cane  as they get used to scraping.

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