Topic: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I have found little information on the subject, but when did reed players settle on Arundo Donax? My student collected some bamboo and it seems to be way to hard and brittle. Are there other related plants that have been used for reed making? The node on the tube can also be quite large, I am loathe to use my good equipment on processing the cane because of dulling the blades, so I will give a whirl with my old equipment. My student mentioned that there is a grower using bamboo, but there is much confusion on the web with calling Arundo Donax, Bamboo. I am really curious- Steve

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

Steve -

We might start by asking if any other members of the Arundo genus are suitable for reed-making (copied from Wikipedia) -

    Arundo collina Ten.
    Arundo formosana Hack. - Nansei-shoto, Taiwan, Philippines
    Arundo mediterranea Danin - Mediterranean
    Arundo micrantha Lam. - Mediterranean
    Arundo plinii Turra – Pliny's Reed - Greece, Italy, Albania, Croatia

I have no experience with or knowledge of any of these, but perhaps somebody on this Forum does. Apparently, A. donax (correct abbreviation--not "Arundo d" as seen in recent articles in The Double Reed) is the only member of this genus that grows large enough to yield suitable material for reeds.

Christopher Brodersen
Maker of Historical Keyboard Instruments
Reviewer/contributor - Fanfare Magazine
Amateur bassoonist, baroque oboist, baroque bassoonist

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

Thanks! I was just looking at bamboo, I think there are 115 varieties. I'll give it a try, just because I am curious. My student hand gouged, profiled shaped some and the reeds were quite hard, but I think that was also because there was too much wood.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I believe that some traditional Chinese and other East Asian reed instruments use bamboo reeds. I'm certainly no expert in this though, so which variet(ies) might be used for this is your guess. There must be performers and/or ethnomusicologists out there who could answer this definitively.

On a related subject, an artist with whom I recently collaborated has asked me to try making a reed out of sugarcane. I don't think it's going to work, but I've got some sugarcane drying now so I can at least give it a try. I'm hoping to at least get a reed-shaped object out of the process, which might be enough for her purposes, anyway.

David A. Wells
Lecturer – Bassoon and Music History
California State University, Sacramento
davidawells.com

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I bought a quadruple-reed (!!!!) instrument in India and the reed is made of palm leaves. I'm sure many things could serve as reeds for us, but a. donax is cheap, plentiful, easy to grow, and seems to do the job.

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Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

David A. Wells wrote:

I believe that some traditional Chinese and other East Asian reed instruments use bamboo reeds. I'm certainly no expert in this though, so which variet(ies) might be used for this is your guess. There must be performers and/or ethnomusicologists out there who could answer this definitively.

On a related subject, an artist with whom I recently collaborated has asked me to try making a reed out of sugarcane. I don't think it's going to work, but I've got some sugarcane drying now so I can at least give it a try. I'm hoping to at least get a reed-shaped object out of the process, which might be enough for her purposes, anyway.

Sweet!

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: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

Trent wrote:

Sweet!

Groan...

David A. Wells
Lecturer – Bassoon and Music History
California State University, Sacramento
davidawells.com

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I'll be here all week.

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: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I hate bamboo and yes, Arundo is cheap and easy to use. Fortunately I know how to sharpen my blades. It was fun to try, but too hard and frustratingly brittle.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: Bamboo vs Arundo Donax

I'm not surprised that bamboo proved to be too hard and brittle for reeds. After all, bamboo is being used a lot now in flooring, where it makes sense because of its durability and sustainability.

Christopher Brodersen
Maker of Historical Keyboard Instruments
Reviewer/contributor - Fanfare Magazine
Amateur bassoonist, baroque oboist, baroque bassoonist