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Place a piece of dry gouged, shaped, and folded cane on the
staple. Using an overall length of 71mm, place a pencil mark on
the cane at the end of the staple. (If using profiled cane, the
overall length should be 70.5mm.
Soak cane in very warm water until pliable–25 to 30 minutes.
Using two or three half hitches, tie nylon string securely to a
hook. Place staple on mandrel, being careful to align the wide
measurement of the oval end of the staple with the corresponding part
of the mandrel. Line up the cane on the staple. Begin wrap
two turns in back of the end of the staple. Wrap away from the
cork, checking to see that the sides are meeting equally. If
not, slacken the string tension and slightly shift the cane on the
staple until the sides are closing equally. After reaching the
end of the staple, cross over binding and wrap back toward cork.
At the end of the binding, secure with a half hitch knot, being
careful not to slacken the tension of the binding. Cut the
string attached to the hook and tie two more half hitches.
Measure the reed blank to be sure that the binding does not go past
the end of the staple. If it does, the reed will not respond
Start scraping 3mm up from the binding. Scrape off bark from
the reed. Be careful to leave a very narrow but well defined
spine. Be sure to leave a small amount of bark along the sides
of the reed. This helps to support the tip opening and to
prevent leaking. Next, make a mark at 66mm and begin scraping
the tip. From here to the end of the reed, remove the bark from
the sides. The entire tip must be quite thin, but the sides of
the tip are somewhat thinner than the middle. There is also a
slight spine in the tip, but it can only be seen by holding the reed
up to a light. Note that while the tip is quite well defined at
66mm, there is some blending as well. Be sure to keep the reed
moist throughout this process.
Cut off 1/2mm from the tip using the knife and billot.
Insert plaque and finish scraping the tip. Test crow.
If it sounds above the note C, scrape more from the back until the
crow reaches C. If the crow is lower than C, clips a small
amount from the tip until the crow is up to pitch. After the
crow is at C, make marks at 62mm with the knife, and make two or three
scrapes in each window of back. The reed should now only need
final adjustments, finishing cutoff, and sealing.
Using the knife and billot, clip 1/2mm more from reed, as needed
for pitch and tone quality.
Use fishskin if necessary. Apply cement, lacquer, or clear
Final Reed Adjustments
*Before making any adjustments, be sure that the reed is
moist. Also, always insert the plaque before scraping the reed.
REED TOO HARD TO BLOW: If the reed crows no higher than the
note C, remove cane carefully from the corners of the tip, and, if
needed, from the window areas of the back. If the crow is higher
than the note C, remove cane lightly from all areas.
REED TOO EASY TO BLOW: Clip a small amount from the
tip. Depending on the quality of the cane, making a sharper
definition between the tip and back and/or thinning the very sides of
the tip will sometimes increase resistance.
LOW NOTES UNRESPONSIVE: If the overall resistance level of
the reed seems satisfactory, try slightly bending the tip and heart
HIGH NOTES FLAT: This is usually caused by the tip opening
being too big. Insert plaque and gently squeeze the reed closed for a
few minutes. Clipping a small amount from the tip also helps to
bring the high notes up in pitch.
PITCH LEVEL OF THE REED IS HIGH AND QUALITY IS SHALLOW: If
the crow is not too high, remove cane from the windows and lightly
from the sides of the heart.
PITCH LEVEL OF THE REED IS LOW: Clip the tip. If the
reed is very flat, 1mm or more may need to be removed. Closing the tip
opening by inserting the plaque and squeezing may also be needed.
REED HAS TOO MUCH RATTLE OR BUZZ: Thin the very sides of the
tip. Sometimes more definition of the tip (especially at the
back corners) is needed.
TONE QUALITY OF THE REED IS TOO DULL: Blend the tip into the
heart area. Lengthen the tip.
REED SOUNDS GOOD BUT PITCH IS UNSTABLE: Thin the very sides
of the tip. Sometimes a reed like this will settle down after some
playing, so, if possible, play on it for a few days before adjusting.
MOISTENING: Moisten the reed for two to five minutes in
one-half inch of warm water. A small glass, plastic cup, 35mm
film container, or other vessel will work well for this purpose.
If water is not available, good results can be obtained by filling the
reed tip with saliva and laying it on a flat surface, or returning it
to its case for 10 to 15 minutes. After the reed is moistened,
blow through the cork end of the reed to remove any water remaining
inside the reed.
TEST THE REED: Lightly moisten the cork and insert it into
the bore of the instrument. Look directly into the reed opening and
determine if the opening is satisfactory. If the reed is too
open, it will be hard to blow and possibly too flat. If the
opening is too closed, the reed may be too soft, produce a weak flabby
tone or the pitch may be too high. Gently squeeze the reed
blades closed if they are too open. If too closed, open
carefully from the sides with the fingers. Never attempt these
steps on a dry reed.
A reed that has been used for some time can be improved by cleaning
the inside of it. Use a very small pigeon-tail feather or a
small pipe cleaner. Great care must be used. Soaking the
reed blades in hydrogen peroxide will work for this purpose as well.
Reeds that are subjected to unusual stress–dropping, unnecessary
squeezing, bending of the tip, scraping against clothing–are
destined to have a short life. (duh)
Keep a vessel of water handy during playing and reedmaking
Professional players use a reed case. This helps prolong reed
life by allowing the reed to dry out more slowly between playing
sessions, thus helping to prevent warpage and mildew.
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