Oboe/reed problems!!

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QUESTION: Dear Geoffrey

It's been a while since I last asked you a question, I don't know if you remember me...! Anyway I am in dire need of some reed advice, I cannot make my own reeds at all, only adjust ones I buy - I play on thin reeds as I like the flexibility and used to love the Chinese reeds but now I am finding that after scraping I am unable to get any note above E'''! I don't know if I am doing something wrong/different, maybe tip or heart is too thin etc but with several batches of Chinese reeds I have had the same problem. If someone does play on thin reeds, does that mean the cane must be harder than normal? It does seem that after taking quite a bit off the reeds the cane seems soft and that is why high notes are impossible but I could be wrong. I have also tried using Glotin gouged, shaped and profiled cane with even worse results!
I will be very grateful for any light you can shed on this!
Best regards, Jade

ANSWER: Hi Jade

Yes I do remember you. It is a while since we communicated.

You have hit the classic problem of thin reeds which usually means a long tip too.
This makes the top notes more difficult and also often the middle Es and Fs with first octave key.
If you can gradually strengthen the tip by taking off tiny amounts at a time until there is a balance this may work.

Which Chinese style are you buying? The scraping should be very near to being usable off the shelf. May I suggest that you might be scraping too much out of the heart. Only scrape the side of the mid line leaving that bar of support for the reed. Your problems are caused by a poor balance in the reed BUT I have used Chinese cane recently in the tube and some of the material has been too soft anyway!

Soft cane in itself does make for these problems too. You have a point that thinner reeds can benefit from a harder material but in the end if you buy ready made reeds then there is not a lot you can do about the strength of the cane.

Glotin GSP are very much too soft usually and need a big chunk off the tip to make them work. They will often be very flat too - another symptom of soft cane and too much scraped out of the heart.

So scrape very carefully leaving the middle of the heart untouched as far as possible if you need to ease off the resistance. Cut back the tip a whisker at a time and see how that affects the response of the top notes. Use very little embouchure as you blow and try to find a balance in the reed with a free crow.

Best of luck

Geoffrey

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much Geoffrey, that is incredibly helpful and has confirmed much of what I thought! I'm thinking of buying a Reeds n Stuff profiler to help with the initial scraping as that is the part I have the most problems with, at least then I will have more control over the quality of the cane...
All the best
Jade

ANSWER: Dear Jade

I think that you have hit on a great idea to do the initial scraping of your reeds. This is certainly what loads of oboe players do nowadays as Profilers have improved drastically over the years.
In my experience and that of other reed makers I suggest that you don't try for the finished reed in your set up. All machines will allow you to take more off or less off depending on how you set it up. This is the only adjustment that can be easily achieved with most machines. Aim for a few thousands of an inch thicker and finish by trying and scraping as you would with a bought reed.

Which machine though?? I have tried most of them and have them in my possession! I had one of Udo Hengs machines (Reeds and Stuff) when he first made them and it was not great and had to go back to the factory several times. The new machines are now very good. The Michel is also excellent if you can find one. Jordanov used to sell them but I hear that Kunibert Michel has retired so these may not be easy to get. The K Ge machine is expensive and claims to finish a reed. This it will do but again often depending on the cane the result is often too wild. He has just improved his machine and brought the price down. Back off the thickness though and finish by hand is the key.

In the long run though the ease of blade sharpening is crucial as this is the most important aspect of the device. The blades lose sharpness very quickly. Think about it that bark on the cane is very hard and tough for the blade to bite through. The easiest machine to maintain in this respect is the Rieger. This is a really easy machine to use. It is strong and beautifully made and sells at a cheaper price than the Reeds n Stuff.  The blade has a straight edge unlike the other machines which have quite complex blades. The reeds I get from this machine are by and large reliable in scrape. I have the standard German template which has plenty left in - to take off if you need to! Thin tip and a bit of a bump behind it. It is possible to buy a " mouse" to help you sharpen the blade from Tony Spicer. This guarantees the correct angle and you can't go wrong on the sharpening stone. SO easy to get this wrong without a guide.

Reeds n Stuff provide  a bewildering number of template patterns - designed by oboe make - which you might find a bit daunting. Very hard to decide which suits you. A selling point though that might appeal.

The new  K Ge is a strong machine with an easily sharpened blade and a big variety of adjustments that you can make but these are again not for the faint hearted. The blade is a small disc. A clever design which you turn for a new sharp section. It certainly works and is now in its second or third version - one to consider.

But the one I go back to mostly when I really need a reed has to be the Rieger.

All the best

Geoffrey



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Geoffrey
Your comments on the various profilers are very interesting - you are right that the various templates offered by Reeds n Stuff was the main appeal for me and despite the vast choice there is really only one that looks remotely like my reed style and that is the #30 M.901 and since I play on a Marigaux 901 it makes sense to go with that one! I have looked into the Rieger profiler but the lack of choice of templates put me off as I don't like a big hump behind the tip, rather a gentle slope. I wouldn't dare send a reed to copy! It does look like an excellent machine though....I tried to get a Michel one a few years ago but the waiting list was too long - I didn't know he had now retired.

Thank you so much once again for your excellent advice!
All the best
Jade

Answer
Jade

I have the #30 Marigaux 901 template for R&S profiler. It works well enough. I have others from early days of the machine with varying degrees of success!

I have a year old 901 as well as other makes of oboe and the reeds usually work well enough in all of them - or not, as the case my be.
Sometimes I have been guilty of finding one of my instruments which suits the reed!
Sounds very indulgent but when you are as old as I am the collection of instruments does grow!!

Very best wishes


Geoffrey

Oboe

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Geoffrey Bridge

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Professional oboist with many years experience. Former pupil of Leon Goossens. Solo artist for Arts Council of Great Britain. Freelance recitalist/broadcasting/orchestras. Former Head of woodwind teaching in Hampshire, England. Questions on repertoire, playing styles, reeds, cane selection and processing.

Experience

St Andrews University Royal College of Music, Aberdeen College of Education Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music General Teaching Council certificate Broadcast solo recitals/performed with major symphony orchestras/Music Club recitals/writings on double reed matters

Organizations
Chairman and Trustee of the British Double Reed Society International Double Reed Society Association Hautbois Francais Orchestral Manager of Southern Pro Musica Orchestra/Aberdeen Sinfonietta

Publications
Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine/International Double Reed Society

Education/Credentials
LRAM, Cert Ed

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