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A reasonably good bassoon reed is critical for the success of young bassoon players. Many beginning bassoonists are unknowlingly playing on either a poor instrument or reed and eventually come to believe that they just aren't very good at bassoon. In fact, it is more likely that even an accomplished bassoonist wouldn't be able to acheive a satisfactory result with the same equipment. It is, therefore, imperative that you do everything possible to insure that your students have a source for reliable reeds.

Generally, bassoonists at all levels play on what would be considered soft to medium soft reeds. Unlike some single reed players, students don't work their way up to harder reeds. Some reed manufacturers offer the medium and hard reeds so that the buyer will have some cane to work with as they hand finish the reed to their own preferences. My recommendation is to experiment with a number of brands and strengths of reeds and see which give you the best results.

Reed Care

Make sure your students have some kind of container such as Tupperware or an empty plastic film canister that they can use to keep water in. Before playing, bassoon reeds should be totally immersed (that's right, string and all) in water for 3-5 minutes. Lukewarm works best. If you can afford an inexpensive reed case, go ahead and get one. There should be at least 2 useable reeds available at any time. The most important aspect of storage to remember is to make sure the reed can dry out between playings. Do not store them in water and make sure the reed case has ample ventilation. Many commercial reeds arrive in a clear plastic tube - don't use this for storage unless you cut a couple of holes in it to let air circulate (unless, of course, your student wants to conduct a science experiment on the various molds that can grow on cane).

A common problem with brand new reeds is that the tip of the reed will open too much until the cane softens a bit with playing. Simply squeeze the two blades together with your fingers until the desired opening is acheived. The reverse problem will occur later; the tip opening is likely to gradually close up during playing. Bassoonists frequently squeeze the reed at the sides of the top wire to readjust the tip opening.


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© 2002 Bruce Hammel. All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated: January 22, 2007

Bruce Hammel
Music Department - VCU
922 Park Ave.
Richmond VA 23227
Phone: (804) 828-4018