What are the parts of a reed? How do I figure out what's wrong with a reed? What do I need to know before I get started adjusting bassoon reeds?
Workbook Page: 23
Read and Review
Most of the reeds you’ll find are German style reeds which have a thick shoulder and heart that tapers to the thinner tip and corners of the reed. Keep in mind that bassoon players do not, as a rule, move toward “stiffer” reeds later in their playing careers as clarinet or saxophone players often do.
Unless you’re already a bassoon player, you probably aren’t going to have the time or budget to make reeds for your students. However, you can and should learn to adjust reeds that students buy if your student isn’t connected to a hand-made reed source in your area, especially for your younger players.
Serious high school students should learn to adjust reeds themselves. Most students won’t make reeds until the college level. Making reeds is not overly difficult, but it takes a long time to get good at it. If there’s a bassoon specialist who can train a willing high school bassoonist, it doesn’t hurt to get started early.
How to assess a bassoon reed
Look for obvious issues at first glance: Chips and cracks. Don’t assess much else on a dry reed
Before adjusting a reed, decide what is wrong with it… just saying it’s “bad” doesn’t help
Once you determine the problem, you need to address them one at a time (5)
Check the sides (or rails)
Check the wires (Usually less than ¼ inch from 1st wire to 2nd wire. See “Wire Shapes and Tip Openings” in the back of the workbook)
Check the tube. It needs to be round! Test the fit of the reed by snugging it onto the bocal. I should go on about 8mm and it should not wiggle. If it does wiggle, the reed and bocal have not established a good seal. A bassoon reed reamer can be used to increase the size of the tube opening and/or reshape the tube for a better fit on the bocal.
Play (or have the student play) reeds both ways
How to adjust a bassoon reed
Tools and Reed Sources
Online bassoon supply sources recommended by Daryl Durran (Penn State School of Music)
A bassoon specialist will be able to evaluate reeds you purchase or that you have adjusted if you are uncertain about their quality.
Up next: Adjusting the Wires