musings of a professional bassoonist

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Update on Reed-a-Day Challenge

Well, it hasn't been easy, but I've somehow managed to stick with my New Years's resolution to make a reed a day. Today, August 15th, the 227th day of the year, I made blank #227.  Yay!
Blank #227 made on 8/15/15 (the 227th day of the year)
This fact would be unimpressive to a bassoonist who makes reeds to sell.  But to me, this is high output.

One reason I like the concept of making a reed a day is because....please accept my apologies for stating the obvious.....I know exactly how many reeds I'm making per year (and per day and per week, etc.).  I number each blank and keep a record of any changes, such as sharpening of the profiler blade.  It's fascinating to see how such changes affect the reeds.

It's easy to experiment with cane using the reed-a-day method.  In the past when I've made reeds during marathon sessions, it was impossible to try different types of cane and then make more reeds with the cane that worked.  Processing reeds each day allows for effective experimentation, and by that I mean experimentation which is followed by immediate implementation of the conclusion. Normally, the phases of making a reed are spread out over a period of several weeks or even months, but when experimenting, I have found that it's OK to make a reed quickly, by wrapping a newly formed blank the next day and testing it immediately.  (This has caused me to question my longstanding belief that the best reeds are made slowly, with new blanks remaining untouched for at least two weeks before further processing. Seriously, some of my best reeds have been made from blanks one day old.)

There's one drawback to making a lot of reeds, as I explained in a recent post.  Much to my dismay, the profiler blade must be sharpened regularly (every 50 pieces of cane) in order to achieve the best possible results.  So the more reeds I make, the more frequently I sharpen the blade....in order to make 365 reeds a year, I must sharpen my profiler blade a colossal 7 times per year!  What punishment!  On the other hand, I'll eventually become de-sensitized to profiler blade sharpening, and before long, I'll think nothing of it.  Right?

How many reeds does a bassoonist need for a year?  I suppose it varies a lot depending upon the amount of playing per year and individual preference.  I know some bassoonists who play on the same reed for months, amazingly.  For me, a reed is worn out after a week of playing on it, so obviously I much prefer to play on brand new reeds.  And, like all bassoonists, I like to have lots of reeds to choose from!

I try to always make enough reeds so that I'm maintaining a decent-sized stockpile, which was a strong recommendation of my teacher K. David Van Hoesen.  Mr. Van Hoesen himself maintains a massive stockpile of recently-processed reeds to this very day, even though he doesn't play all that often.
GIF animation of K. David Van Hoesen in his living room
Mr. Van Hoesen is an eternal source of inspiration, with his students performing in many orchestras, including the top ten, throughout the U.S.  His infinite wisdom and inimitable bassoon playing echo in the playing and the teaching of those who were fortunate enough to have been influenced by him.  Even though he's retired, his basement continues to fill with newly-made bassoon reed blanks.  Maybe someday he might be convinced to sell some of them!




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