Reed Making: The Key to Accelerated Performance

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Bassoon By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Bassoon
Last updated: 30/03/2018
Tags: bassoon, bassoon reeds

As long as I have been playing bassoon, I have been making reeds. My first teacher thought it an essential skill to learn as early as possible. Already facing the daunting task of learning a complicated instrument with many complicated fingerings, I was not happy about having to construct my own mouthpiece. My opinion would soon change. 

It's no secret that reed making is a difficult skill to learn. Often you deal with variables out of your control (cane consistency, humidity, etc) which makes constructing a good or even playable reed seem like a Herculean task. A reed that plays even moderately well can seem like a godsend.

At the beginning of my playing career, I had no clue how bassoon reeds functioned and how the instruments responded to variations. This made playing seem like a game of chance - one day I played well, the next I didn't for some unknown reason. However, I started progressing very quickly - much quicker than the other students my age. I don't attribute this to predisposed "talent". Instead, I like to think that my teacher's insistence on reeds pushed me ahead of the curve. 

In dissecting the science (and art) of reed making from such an early age, I was able to make connections and understand the relationship between the instrument and its mouthpiece, which yielded positive performance results. 

I truly believe that reed making may be one of the most useful pedagogical tools when it comes to teaching the bassoon. The reed is the gateway to expressing yourself on the instrument - why not put as much importance on understanding it as the bassoon itself?

Michael Elderkin Bassoon Teacher (West Central London)

About The Author

I am a freelance bassoonist and composer living and working in London.

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