Reed stiffening through a single sitting

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    Philip Murphy

    At the risk of asking a very fundamental question, I’d like to know if it is a typical experience of bassoonists out there to have their reed gradually get stiffer through a single sitting. Particularly when I play for more than 90 minutes or so, I find that the reed is significantly stiffer than when I started, and accordingly tends to be less responsive, sharper, etc. Also, I do a significant amount of playing as a doubler for theatre, and I’ve found that this is compounded when the reed is left out (still on the horn) at certain intervals, even just a couple minutes, even though I typically wet it with water before letting it sit for any stretch of time.

    So what are the physics at work here? Is it that the reed is getting saturated with water? Or perhaps that it is actually drying out? Maybe the cane is too hard? (I know it’s not too soft).

    What do you all think?

    New York City

    Jim Fellows

    Often a cane issue. I had 100 pieces from an un-named grower in France many years ago which seemed to grow every time I played on it. After it was a finished reed, I would need to scrape it down 4-7 more times. Then finally, I would reach a depth where the reed just went too soft. I saved that cane for about 35 years, hoping it would get that characteristic “aged out.” Never happened. But it did make good kindling for my woodstove.


    Trent Jacobs

    Usually happens for a brand new reed for me, within the first maybe 2 hours of playtime on the reed. I like to play a few minutes, then set the reed for tomorrow, it’s usually stiffer that second day, and maybe needs some scraping. Subsequent days not as much, but maybe some.

    You can alleviate this somewhat by soaking and drying the cane multiple times before shaping and profiling, which kind of settles the cane a bit before you even start making a reed from it.

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