The gouge and making reeds commercially

January 20, 2010

Sent to reed clients today.

Balancing the Reed, and the Role of the Gouge

The problem with balancing a good reed is the front of the aperture (opening) needs to be open enough so that it springs back open when you compress it with your embouchure, but the back of the reed needs to be closed enough so that the pitch doesn’t sag in the upper register and you have the proper resistance in the reed. It is EXTREMELY difficult to get this proper balance, which comes from having the proper gouge. Most people don’t feel comfortable manipulating the gouge curve, and even when they do, it’s more often than not a game of guessing, so more often than not, we have to choose which end we want a bit “too open”, the tip or the throat (the bark area right above the string). If I were scraping reeds just for myself, I would certainly prefer the throat open the proper amount and the tip opened a hair too much. You are able to scrape the tip closed more easily by making certain adjustments, such as thinning the rails in the heart, making the corners and sides of the tip very very thin, and placing certain “collapsing” points in the tip, particularly in the bottom corners right by the integration line going into the heart. Since the throat is never scraped, you can’t adjust it with a knife, so it’s best to get it right in the gouge. HOWEVER, reeds that have the throat correct but the tip is slightly too open don’t last as long, as the tip usually collapses quicker, you are left with a smaller opening, and at which point most people pitch the reed. (Most people also compress quite a bit i.e. pinch or bite, which further exasperates the problem.) I use to use this kind of gouge, but I received feedback that the reeds weren’t lasting long enough for people. Therefore, I have chosen to leave the gouge so that the throat is too open, and the tip is about right. That way the reed comes to you “too open” in the back, so you are forced to pinch or “mash” the throat closed a bit. Once you play the reed in, the throat will naturally settle down and close a bit, and you can continue playing the reed for longer.

Manipulating the Reed Without Scraping

You can manipulate my reeds a lot just by “mashing” the throat of the reed a bit with your fingers. Also, sometimes the tip needs opening up, so try mashing the throat of the reed while pinching OPEN the front of the reed (i.e. the heart and tip). Another thing to play around with is slipping the blades a bit more or less. DON’T EVER SLIP THE BLADES OVER ONE ANOTHER! If you’re looking at a reed in your grasp with the tip up, the blade facing you should always be slipped to the right (tradition, going as far back as Tabuteau), so don’t make it to the left, but you can manipulate how far the blade slips. Slipping it more to the right will make the pitch go up and give more stability, but will make the reed less resonant. Slipping the blade less will make the pitch less stable, but will give a fuller tone and more response.


2 Responses to “The gouge and making reeds commercially”

  1. Jeremy said

    Cooper hi,

    The direction of the slip is a function of the direction you wind the thread – that is, if you wind your reed left- or right-handed.

    I’m a lefty, and I wind the thread with my left hand. For me, the overlap is to the left.

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