Friday, March 30, 2018

Saved by the blog

reed #89 made on March 30, 2018 (the 89th day of the year)
For some reason I feel compelled to strictly adhere to my "Reed-a-Day" rule.  This harkens back to my college days when an oboe-playing friend informed me of his famous teacher's instructions to make two reeds a day.  My friend ended up in one of the world's top orchestras.  Was it because he made two reeds every day?  We'll never know, but we do know that making two reeds a day was what he was doing when he won the audition (and beyond).

When I was in high school I wrote to a world famous bassoonist who, in his reply, advised me to become an ace at reed-making.  And that was the extent of his advice!  The best way to become an ace is to make a lot of reeds, assuming your method and tools are sufficient.  Making a lot of reeds also ensures that you'll always have many reeds to choose from rather than being stuck with whatever you happen to have.

Since bassoon reeds last a lot longer than oboe reeds (and take a lot longer to make) I adjusted the requirement for a bassoonist to ONE reed a day. 

For regular classical concert weeks, each of my reeds lasts barely one week.  The reed still plays after a week and can be used for things like pops concerts if there are no solos, but the reed no longer has the degree of control it had when it was brand new.  This may vary for other bassoonists.  (I seem to have a component in my saliva which very rapidly breaks down bassoon reeds.)

This week I had a lot of catching up to do, since I had fallen behind on my Reed-a-Day rule due to the demands of my symphony schedule.  Yesterday I made seven reeds at once.  The reason I try to avoid that is because after the first couple of reeds I become impatient and therefore less careful.   As I progressed through the seven reeds I became increasingly aware of how long it had been since I had sharpened my profiler blade.  Those who reed this blog regularly already know that I have an aversion to sharpening the profiler blade.  But I'm reasonable enough, during rare moments of lucidity, to realize that it's in my best interests to sharpen it.

So I did it; I sharpened my profiler blade without my usual preceding fretting.  However, perhaps because I was so cavalier about this particular blade-sharpening event, I ran into a snag.  Something was not quite right when I re-installed the blade, but I could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong.

I re-read my notes from my reed lessons with Norman Herzberg, hoping for a clue.  I double checked the drawings I had made when I first learned to sharpen the blade.  I looked at the photo I had taken with my phone right before I took the blade assembly apart (to be used as a reference) and realized I needed a photo of a different angle.

Finally it dawned on me that I had written about blade sharpening several times on my blog, with photos and in-depth explanations.  So I consulted my blog.  (I had always hoped that this blog would prove to be useful for something.)  Sure enough, I found the exact photo I needed to solve my problem.  This is it:

Using the blue pie-shaped shim to check the blade height
In case you're curious, my mistake was that I had placed the cutting shaft as far back as it would go instead of as far forward as it would go.  It's a good thing I had plenty of photographic instruction to refer to.  If your reed-making equipment requires similar maintenance, I highly recommend taking copious notes and photos to be used later.  I also learned a lesson......if I sharpened the blade as often as I'm supposed to, I'd never forget how to do it!