One thing which commonly draws aspiring musicians to the bassoon, apart from the warm, dark, reedy timbre, is the level of customizability that the instrument has. The bassoon, a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that’s a popular instrument in orchestras, concert band, and chamber music, is popular not only for its sound, but because it allows the player to have a greater control of that sound.
In fact, it’s common that bassoon reeds are made by the players themselves. If you’re new to the instrument, or have a child that’s interested in learning to play the bassoon, you might not be aware of the different characteristics of different types of bassoon reeds. For that reason, we thought it’d be helpful to put together a guide to help you get you started.
Bassoon Reeds for Beginners
Although bassoon reeds are commonly made by the players themselves, beginner bassoonists tend to buy their reeds from professional reed makers. If you’re not sure where to start, you could ask the music teacher who will be teaching you or your child if they have a preferred professional reed maker. In some cases, the music teacher will be able to make reeds themselves. If the teacher does not have a preferred brand of reeds, you’re faced with a few options.
Jones Double Reed products are a popular choice with beginner bassoonists. They’re affordable, meticulously tested before packaging, and available in a variety of options such as medium-soft, medium, and medium-hard. Each piece of cane used in a Jones reed is selected for exact diameter and wall thickness. The reeds are assembled by hand and tested before they are packaged. Additionally, Jones will replace any reed which a player finds defective.
The Fox Renard Bassoon Reed is another fine choice for beginners. The Fox Renard Bassoon reed is only available in medium strength, but it’s one of the most affordable options available.
If you’re looking for a higher quality bassoon reed, you need look no further than Singin’ Dog. They specialize in high quality, handmade bassoon reeds. They’re made by professional bassoonists with many years of experience both making and using their reeds. They’re available in medium strength.
Legere makes synthetic bassoon reeds that have been used by top symphonic and jazz musicians for more than a decade. Featuring all of the warmth and depth that elite players demand, these synthetic bassoon reeds deliver consistency, durability, and an instant response. Traditional bassoon players are often skeptical of synthetic reeds, preferring to stick with traditional reeds. On top of the fact that Legere reeds are able to produce an excellent sound, many players enjoy the fact that legere reeds do not need to be changed as often as traditional cane reeds. In fact, some players find that their synthetic bassoon reeds can last for months because they are not affected by hot, cold, wet, or dry weather.
What’s the Difference Between Different Reed Strengths?
You might have noticed that some professionally made reeds are sold in soft, medium, medium-soft, medium-hard varieties, and hard. For beginners, it’s good to stick with reeds that are in the medium range. The harder or softer a reed is, the more adjustments and modifications will need to be made before that reed is playable. A beginner bassoonist’s ability to handle reeds on the softer and harder ends of the reed strength spectrum needs to be developed over time taking skill, preference, and sound into consideration.
Learning to Adjust Reeds
As it’s a skill that’s typical of most experienced and professional bassoon players, many students are well-advised to learn how to make their own adjustments to finished reeds. It only requires a few tools, and the process gives students a better understanding of their instrument and more control over their sound. To adjust your reeds, you only need a knife, cutting block, plaque, pliers, and a mandrel. In some cases, it’s helpful to have a reamer.
You’ll want to test the reed on your instrument by playing a few notes: left-hand C, D, E, and F. If the reed is too easy to blow and is very flat in pitch, you should cut more off the length of the tip using the knife and cutting block.
If the reed is unresponsive and stiff, you’ll need to begin a gradual scraping process. First, make sure that the reed is moist. The next step you’ll need to do is to insert a plaque between the blades before you start scraping. Starting with the tip, work towards the back using short strokes. Gradually, you’ll want to increase the length of your scrapes until you’re scraping from the shoulder of your reed to the tip. Scrape both sides uniformly and periodically stop to test how the reed plays with your instrument.
If the reed’s strength is correct but it’s still flat, that means the pitch level of the reed is too low. You can fix this by reaming the reed so that it fits further onto the bocal.
If you find that the pitch is too high, you should do some additional scraping. Often, beginner bassoonists take a bit too much out of the area in the back of the tip which causes the reed to collapse. This is a skill you’ll have to develop through practice, but when you’re first starting out, just scrape gradually and test often.
Making Your Own Reeds
Eventually, once you’ve mastered making adjustments and modifications to professionally made reeds, you may want to start learning to make your own reeds. Doing so will give you the ultimate control over your sound by allowing you to craft reeds precisely for your own preferences. Once you feel like you’re ready to start making your own reeds, there are a few handy resources which will help you do so.
Buy Online and Save
There’s a lot to know when it comes to the different types of bassoon reeds for beginners. That’s why so many parents just like you turn to Music & Arts. With over 150 stores across 24 states and over 150,000 educator-approved products on our website, you’ll find one of the largest selections of band and orchestra instruments and accessories at Music & Arts. If you have questions about the specifics of a particular bassoon reed, contact us and we’ll be happy to help. With one of the largest product offerings in the world, we offer educator-approved band instruments and accessories, including a variety of oboe cases from some of the most trusted brands in the industry.