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Baroque Oboe Reeds

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  gonzaloxruiz 13 years, 1 month ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 17 total)
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  • #88517

    Shawn
    Participant

    Hello everyone,
    I was fascinated by the Baroque oboes on display at IDRS this year, and have always been fascinated by the Baroque oboe. I would love to learn to play, but don’t currently have the means to do so. I wanted so badly to try one at convention, but then I heard some others try them and the sound coming out was awful — must take some getting used to in order to get the ideal sound.

    Anyhow, I was wondering if someone could share some of the differences between baroque oboe reeds and traditional american scrape modern oboe reeds. What are the differences (aside from the tubes and size of cane) in the scrape? Just curious about this under-played wonder of our double reed family.

    Thanks
    Shawn

    #105174

    Anonymous

    Hi Shawn –

    I once wrote an article–fool that I am–about this very subject for the now-defunct early music magazine Continuo. The article contained pictures, a diagram and measurements, but I doubt that anyone, without prior instruction and hands-on experience with baroque oboe reeds, could have actually constructed a reed based on the info I provided.

    You can also visit my website to see pictures of some of the reeds that I make for baroque oboe and oboe d’amore.

    The situation with baroque reeds is similar to modern–there are many diferent “scrapes” and ways of producing them. There isn’t even a national standard in this part of the world akin to the North American long-scrape. And just as with the modern oboe, baroque reed-making seems to be a subject that few can teach effectively, or even want to teach. Michel Piquet once said you have to “fill up a bushel basket” with rejects before you gain any sort of expertise in reed making, and I truely believe that for the baroque oboe, one has to develop a workable, personal approach based on trial-and-error.

    About the most that I can say (and I’m sure that there are some who will disagree vehemently with these generalizations) is that the baroque reed should have a fairly continuous “profile” from tip to back, compared with a modern one. There is a tip, but it blends rather gradually into the heart, with no obvious “bumps” or “humps” along the way. And of course, there are no “windows” cut out of the the back. There can be, however, a “spine” running down the length of the blades, depending on one’s preference.

    I haven’t made any baroque reeds in a couple of years (been playing mostly modern oboe, and lately bassoon), but with the last ones I made, I began experimenting using a thinner gouge and a “short” scrape–this is, according to many, the more “historical” way of building a reed. Since the number-one objective is to produce a reed that overblows easily at the octave, the short-scrape/thin gouge approach seemed better than the longer scrape I had been using previously.

    Hope this helps.

    #105175

    gonzaloxruiz
    Participant

    I can imagine the scene at the IDRS. I’ve seen it. There are a couple of makers of wonderful baroque oboes who, in my opinion, are not the best advocates for their own work when it comes to their playing or their reedmaking. So what happens is that some very nice instruments are being tried by people who don’t know how to play them, on reeds that even our finest pros (who play that same model oboe and normally sound very good indeed) couldn’t coax one decent sound from. Meanwhile, within earshot, a ton of players are trying instruments they know how to play, using with their best reeds, and the discrepancy is shocking and depressing to me. When I invite these same makers to my workshops to show their stuff to the class (and usually make a sale or two) I insist that the students be allowed to try them with their own or my reeds. The noises that ensue are much closer to music than what you usually get emanating from the baroque oboe booth at IDRS. Sad but true. Maybe this year he’ll take me up on my offer to make reeds for the display models…

    Still, while there are lots of wonderful and awful sounds to be gotten out of a baroque oboe (just like on a mod), I would dispute that there is an “ideal sound”, except the one you imagine. I know what kind of sound I like. One of the things that thrilled me to no end when I started baroque was that there was not such a consensus on how it should sound, at least compared to the one there is on modern oboe if you’re on the “big job track”. It helped me learn to sound like myself, whatever that meant.

    As far as reeds it’s hard to describe in writing. Mine are very responsive, medium resistant have a severely tapered tip thin rails and a big fat center rather than a spine which is .45-.50. I hand shape 9.2 wide from 15mm tubes gouged to .70, .35 sides. Like the last post said, I doubt this is enough info to help anyone make a reed, but I can’t post a treatise right now. Best to find a player you like and check out the reeds. Best way to learn is to go to one of the summer workshops that encourage beginners coming from the mod and have loaner oboes, like BPI at Oberlin, where I teach, or the SFEMS workshop near San Francisco. I notice that people that try to learn it on their own usually give up. It takes time and money to go, though not that much of either really.

    #105176

    Anonymous
    gonzaloxruiz wrote:
    …So what happens is that some very nice instruments are being tried by people who don’t know how to play them, on reeds that even our finest pros (who play that same model oboe and normally sound very good indeed) couldn’t coax one decent sound from. Meanwhile, within earshot, a ton of players are trying instruments they know how to play, using with their best reeds, and the discrepancy is shocking and depressing to me.

    Which is probably why many modern players even today dismiss the baroque oboe as a “toy” or a “joke”.

    gonzaloxruiz wrote:
    When I invite these same makers to my workshops to show their stuff to the class (and usually make a sale or two) I insist that the students be allowed to try them with their own or my reeds. The noises that ensue are much closer to music than what you usually get emanating from the baroque oboe booth at IDRS. Sad but true. Maybe this year he’ll take me up on my offer to make reeds for the display models…

    Considering that Mr Ruiz is one of the top players in the country, maybe the world, perhaps he could be persuaded to do more than make a few reeds. How about a workshop or masterclass at the next IDRS? I’d be glad to help with the organization of this, if needed. I’m sure that there are more than a few aspiring young baroque oboists in IDRS who would jump at the opportunity.

    #105177

    Shawn
    Participant

    Mr. Ruiz,
    Thank you so much for your info. I agree completely — though I have no training on Baroque oboe, and have only played one once (Cincinnati Conservatory owns two of them and I had the privelage of trying one one time, — though I would hardly consider the sounds that came out desireable!)…anyhow, I live only about an hour away from Oberlin — now I know where to start.

    Thanks again for all of your information — very enlightening.

    Shawn

    #105178

    gonzaloxruiz
    Participant

    Thanks Cristopher for the kind words. I am going to try to get to the conference this summer since it’s actually driving distance from my house (long drive, but no plane). I don’t know how much I’ll do there, haven’t played there since Buenos Aires.

    If you live an hour away from Oberlin you should consider BPI. I’m not just trying to drum up business. There’s few enough places to get started and a remarkably high percentage of all the people that sound good on 2 key oboe in this country have gone through there.

    What oboes do they have at Cinci? Do you remember? I’m surprised, since Sarah Bloom has in the past been a famous detractor of baroque oboes. Since she’s a fine player I always assumed that she based her opinions on things she heard that might have made my skin crawl too. You never know. I’ve heard some mighty awful modern oboe playing too…

    I always wonder why it is that nobody leaves a bad performance of, say, the Brahms violin concerto, saying “you know, I’m just not sure about these steel strings. They sound harsh and grating and seem impossible to play in tune! And these heavy modern bows. Is it even possible to phrase elegantly on them?” Of course not. That would be nonsense. You criticize the player. And yet, after all this time, people hear shoddy baroque oboe playing and the instrument gets the blame…

    #105179

    Claire Williamson
    Participant

    Questions about baroque oboe staples –

    When you order staples, in what condition do they come in? Wrapped with thread, unwrapped? Round? Ovular? Do different makers “finish” them to different degrees? Help!

    Thanks!

    #105180

    Anonymous

    Over the years, I’ve bought staples from many sources, including Harry Vas Dias, Steve Hammer and Rick Seraphinoff. Also Robin Howell in Toronto. I believe in every case the staples were furnished “straight off the laithe”–no string and round at the tip. It’s up to you to wind some string around them and flatten the tip to an oval–with a mandrel inserted, of course.

    I never thought to request the staples “ready to go”–but I suppose the makers will do this if you ask. It will just cost more, and considering how overburdened most of them are, it may delay the order.

    #105181

    Claire Williamson
    Participant

    Could you describe the process of taking the staple from round to an oval? What tools do you use?

    #105182

    Anonymous

    I use a pair of needle nose pliers that has been ground (filed) on the inside faces to remove the rough gripping surface. Alternately, you could wrap the pliers with tape. The point is not to chew up the brass when you do this.

    You should have a mandrel that has the desired oval shape at the tip. I had mine made by a machinist a long time ago. Lacking any other “models”, I had the machinist copy the shape of a modern Loree mandrel, scaled up a bit for the baroque oboe.

    I’m not sure what there is available to buy on the Internet–maybe an English horn mandrel will work? You’d have to check to see what fits inside the staple.

    The staple should fit over the mandrel and “bottom out”, with the tip of the mandrel ending precisely with the end of the staple–just like with a modern staple and mandrel.

    Once you’ve established that the mandrel and the staple work together, then you can begin to carefully bend the staple tip to match the profile of the mandrel. Be careful that you have the staple oriented so that the seam (if there is one) ends on on the flat side of the bend, otherwise it may split open.

    Now that I think about it, the un-bent staple may not fit all the way on the mandrel–it may need some pre-bending to seat properly. Once the staple is seated all the way, you can finish the bending and shaping of the tip.

    Obviously, it’s not just the tip that gets bent–the flattening continues back along the staple, perhaps another 10-15mm. I’m guessing here, since I’m at work and can’t measure one of my staples.

    I don’t recommend trying to bend the staple without a mandrel–too risky. But once you have the right equipment, the process takes only a minute or too, and then you are all set for the rest of the staple’s normal lifespan.

    #105183

    Shawn
    Participant

    Mr. Ruiz,
    I am sorry that I don’t remember what kind of Baroque oboes Cinci has. I’m pretty sure that Sarah didn’t purchase them. Mark Ostoich is the oboe prof at CCM now — he has been there quite a while now. I’m pretty sure he had them purchased — though not many play them…not sure why. Definately not becuase Dr. O doesn’t want people to play them…he was always asking of someone would play one or both for various things.

    Shawn

    Ps. You metioned in an early post “If you are only an hour from Oberlin, start with BPI — what is BPI?

    #105184

    Shawn
    Participant

    Mr. Ruiz,
    I am sorry that I don’t remember what kind of Baroque oboes Cinci has. I’m pretty sure that Sarah didn’t purchase them. Mark Ostoich is the oboe prof at CCM now — he has been there quite a while now. I’m pretty sure he had them purchased — though not many play them…not sure why. Definately not becuase Dr. O doesn’t want people to play them…he was always asking of someone would play one or both for various things.

    Shawn

    Ps. You metioned in an early post “If you are only an hour from Oberlin, start with BPI — what is BPI?

    #105185

    gonzaloxruiz
    Participant

    This is still last summer’s page, but…
    http://www.oberlin.edu/con/summer/bpi/

    #105186

    Candi Morris
    Participant

    I don’t remember the baroque oboes being available when I was at CCM (early-mid 1990’s), so I’m pretty certain Sarah didn’t purchase them. I was in an early music double reed ensemble during that time, playing shawm…

    #105187

    gonzaloxruiz
    Participant

    I’m sorry, I’ve been a lax moderator. My excuse is that I’m in London with the English Concert and checking infrequently as I tend to do when away from home. If any of you are within striking distance of this month’s tour, I can actually recommend it. It’s a very fine wind section this time.

    About staples:
    I get my baroques from Seraphinoff and my classicals from Howarth London. I don’t make any kind of oval at all on classicals, and on baroques I just do it with needlenose pliers. This can be hard to do if the metal is hard or thick. I don’t use a mandrel. I have a pair of pliers that I’ve altered so that they don’t close all the way. That way the taper at the end of the tube is always the same, which is crucial to how much the blades press against each other, thus to the size of the opening.
    Then there’s the thread. First I wrap some teflon tape so the thread won’t slip (this can be disastrous in a concert!). Then I use linen thread (or regular cotton – don’t use anything that compacts too much) and wrap starting from the bottom, then coming back down to within three wraps of the bottom, back up, etc. Usually there’s four layers on the part that protrudes out the top of the oboe.

    The important bit: I always test my tubes in the following way. They should go into the oboe the right amount (on my baroque it’s 16mm out of a 49mm tube, but like all baroque measurements varies depending on your equipment), they should sort of “grab” the counterbore (reedwell) so that I can hold the oboe by the staple without the oboe dropping off. Most importantly, they should seal. I test suction on the tube and topjoing assemblage before I ever make a reed on that tube. You should be confident that your tubes don’t leak. On mods, with a metal well and cork you can (mostly) take it for granted, but not here.
    Cheers

    As you can see, there’s a bit of work to be done when you get new tubes before you get down to actual reedmaking, but since they’re reusable I find it’s worth my time to be picky about these steps.

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