Monday, March 9, 2015

No Coke -- (No) Pepsi!! -- No Brands of Cane?

This classic Saturday Night Live skit makes fun of the ubiquity and dominance of blockbuster brand names like Coke and Pepsi.

We have this in the world of cane dealers, as well.  There are bassoonists who are fiercely loyal to a particular brand of cane and will not try other types.

I believe brand loyalty in cane is vastly over-rated.

Here are some things to remember:

1. Cane growers and dealers are in business to make a profit like anyone else. These are not charities!
They try to sell as much cane as possible to keep in business.

3. Cane quality differs more from harvest to harvest than from brand to brand. Everyone who has purchased from one source year after year has experienced this, certainly. Like wine producers, weather plays a big role in quality.

4. The gouge plays as much of a role in whether or not you like the cane as does the brand.

5. Any performer facing the need to play many different kinds of music during a week or month of performances is smart to keep reeds made from several different sources in the reed box. Reliance upon one brand will narrow your expressive capability and hinder execution of the often disparate demands placed upon you!

Recently, Miller Marketing Co. began offering a selection of cane I've chosen based upon measurement for cane hardness and density.

If you've read my recent post announcing this new line, you may have wondered what kind of cane I'm measuring.

The answer is, I don't know! The large batches of cane I measure are generally unmarked. I'm not very concerned about this, either!

With this selection method we are trying something new. My selection of cane is not based upon where it is grown or how it is processed (although the gouge is mildly elliptical and of moderate thickness). Over the years, I have measured cane from France, Italy, Spain and California and found pieces to use from each region.

While it is hard to compare different brands of cane, given differences in gouge, length, and also in the general look and feel of the different types, measuring for hardness and density alone allows me to focus only on the objective physical characteristics of an individual piece of cane.

This is how I bridge any differences between brands and select pieces from any source which have the best chance for success on the bocal.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts re choosing cane. I concur that different brands mean very little, although I have found some brands that I seem to produce better reeds more consistently from. What about trying to get cane sellers to identify Vintage, like wine merchants do? Any chance of something like that happening? I know I can buy some Gonzalez Cane identified as being from 2005, I think, vintage. Do you know of anyone else selling it this way? Earlier I questioned who was doing the gouging and if you were doing the selection of this cane. I already have some and have made a couple blanks from it. Looking forward to some great reeds from Miller-Stees Cane.

    1. Frank, Vintage would be an interesting guide, but I doubt if any dealers would be willing to privilege one harvest over another.
      I measure EVERY piece for this line of cane, rejecting 2/3-3/4 of what I test. I hope you like it.

  2. You're very convincing, Barry. I just ordered some of your cane and look forward to trying it! Betsy

  3. Barry..Played my first concert yesterday on cane made from your selected stuff (through Justin Miller). Peter and The Wolf, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and some "Snapshot Concertos" by Sean O'Boyle. This reed was the second finished reed out of my first 4 blanks. First finished reed was nothing special, I finally gave up after sanding and clipping several times and it got too short. This reed, however, was truly exceptional! Very vibrant, capable of nice soft, dark blending in sounds as well as brilliant soloistic sounds for solo passages like Peter... Heard several positive comments from respected colleagues and audience members including a retired professional Bassoonist of some renown. I'm optimistic that the next ones are also qoing to be exceptional! Kudos!!