Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Only Reed Test


There are as many ways to test a new reed as there are bassoonists, but so many of them don't tell you much. I'm always looking for ways to save time in reed making.

Here is the one test that I think tells you a lot about a reed's potential for success:

Choose three notes for trial; one each in the low, middle and high register. For new reeds, I don't test the highest part of the bassoon range, though. Just up to high G or so.

Play the "hairpin" long tone above on each of the three notes. A well balanced reed will allow both a pp ending and beginning as well as a good FF in the middle.  Be sure you can bring the pp down to a "clarinet" style diminuendo in particular.

The pitch and tone quality should remain consistent from beginning to end. 

If the reed passes this test, I think you will notice that it also does a lot of other things well. It will articulate easily, "problem" notes will be stable, it will slur large intervals smoothly, etc.

Why does this one test predict success in other areas so well? Because it tests how symmetrical the reed's tip opening remains under more or less lip and air pressure during the hairpin.

It's all about the tip opening, folks!!

A reed whose tip cannot be closed or reopened symmetrically during a dynamic change will fail in other areas as well. There is either something faulty about its construction or the cane is of poor quality.

Try this test for yourself! It will save you time. 


  1. Oh thank you for the sanity! This compared to having a test and scrape for every note and slur possible on the instrument. Similar to my testing procedure in its simplicity, if not in its actuality. I test first finger E and low D. If those notes work, the reed works! Who needs more tests than that?

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