Should I be making my own bassoon reeds?

Should I be Making My Own Bassoon Reeds?

Bassoon students are not infrequently told they “should be making their own reeds”, the arguments in favour being,
1. You are at a disadvantage if you are dependent upon a favourite reedmaker who may retire, or fail to deliver on time for that important concert/audition/exam.
2. Reeds are expensive: making your own reeds will save you money.
3. Making your own reeds is part and parcel of being a bassoonist. You’re not really a “pro” if you play on reeds made by someone else.

We beg to disagree here (and not merely because we have a vested interest in selling you more reeds!). Peter’s advice to all bassoon players was always to use the best reeds you can find, regardless of maker. By all means learn how reeds are made and be experimenting to find what works for you. Along the way you will make some usable reeds and you will be learning valuable lessons in reed adjustment. But only when your reeds are consistently superior to any that you can buy should you finally bid your reedmaker adieu.

In the matter of expense, well, obviously a good reed is worth its weight in gold! The stress of trying to persuade an unco-operative reed to “go” before you step onstage for that important concert is just not worth the possible monetary saving. Also, the cost of good quality reedmaking equipment is not inconsiderable and it may be a long time, if ever, before you can produce playable reeds.

Is reedmaking an essential part of being a bassoonist? Not necessarily. Many professionals and teachers have too busy a schedule to allow for such a time-consuming activity. And those with musical talent may not have a matching talent for the skilled handcraft involved in reedmaking.

Peter’s advice was that only advanced tertiary students should start making their own reeds. Until the student has developed a sound advanced technique, the last thing they need is unreliable, inconsistent reeds. Prior to this, there are just too many other important areas for the student to concentrate on.

Joanna Musson

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