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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000992.txt from 1997/12

From: Roger Garrett <>
Subj: Re: Reeds
Date: Wed, 24 Dec 1997 16:44:58 -0500

I really enjoyed your post David. You have it down to a science. We
differ only slightly in our reed-making time........I wonder if we should
do the Paul Bunyon test sometime.....I hand-cut and you ReeDuAl! Would
be interesting....90 minutes snips me by about 15 minutes I think (8-10
reeds). But I always ruin at least one (hate that)....I think that
problem would be eliminated if I used a ReeDuAl.....but they are so
blasted expensive! So I cheat and buy the Vandoren got me
intersted in trying to make them again....hmmmm.....

You really should try the plumbing. I'm actually getting ready to fire up
the jointer, planer, and table saw and begin making the beanie babie when would I make reeds????? ;)

Thanks again for a good post.....I will save and copy for students.

Roger Garrett

On Wed, 24 Dec 1997, David B. Niethamer wrote:

> This is an interesting thread for me. I've made my reeds since about
> 1981, "cheating" slightly by using a ReeDuAl. For me the benefits are
> longer lasting, more stable reeds. I'd say my reed making time comes down
> to an average of 30 minutes each day - not an onerous burden for someone
> who makes his living playing the clarinet.
> Until this year I used blanks from various sources, and had good luck,
> about 50% good playable reeds which could last for months (though not
> necessarily at peak form). this year I tried making blanks from tubes,
> and noticed a great increase in the quality of the reeds, and a
> significant increase in the percentage of good reeds.
> I can reduce a tube to 8 (or if the tube is long enough, 12) blanks in
> about 2 hours using nothing more than three different grades of
> sandpaper. I've tried some of the planing tools, but like the hand
> operation a little better. With care, I can produce a very accurate blank
> pretty quickly. Even this operation can be spread out if you don't want
> to spend 2 hours in one shot. Quarter the tubes and cut them to the
> appropriate length one day - flatten the backs another - do the profile
> of the blanks on a third day. I'd guess flattening the backs would
> consume the most time - 45 minutes to an hour.
> "Curing" the blanks is critical to me. While it is a multi-day process,
> it doesn't really need to take very much time. I soak my blanks for 15-20
> minutes, then practice long tones (or Baermann, in deference to David
> Hattner!), then file the wet blanks and dry them flat side up. You want
> to let them warp if they're going to do it. Repeat three or four days
> running, and let them dry overnight, about 24 hours if possible. The
> filing takes 5-10 minutes each day. This curing process greatly limits
> the warping of the reeds once they're cut.
> When the blanks are ready to go, I drag out the DuAl and run 6-8 reeds in
> 90 minutes. That's perhaps the biggest time investment at one stretch,
> and I try to do it on a day when I can also make an hour or two for other
> practicing.
> Breaking in is critical too. I try to play the new reed for 5-10 minutes
> max for the first 2 or 3 days, then gradually increase the time until I
> feel the reed is balanced the way I'd like it, and stable and "broken
> in". Then I take a few to rehearsals and do any finishing touches.
> I have a Harrison reed case which hold 12 reeds, and I try to keep myself
> to just 12, even considering how much I play each week. I did break down
> and get one of those inexpensive Vito reed cases (four reeds held by
> rubber washers on a plastic frame) for my Kiddie Concert/Pops Concert
> reeds (good reeds on the way to "retirement"). Of the 12 in the Harrison
> case, roughly 4 are on the way out, four are "concert" reeds, and four
> are on the way in. Anything more than that, and I get too confused. I
> mark each batch clearly with the date of manufacture, and when I have a
> new batch ready, I have the "Reed Olympics" - testing the three best new
> reeds against the three best in the case, and working my way down the
> line until I figure out which three to put into the "Pops" reed case (and
> which three to trash).
> I make 6-8 reeds a month, which seems to be a good pace for my needs. I
> can even occasionally miss a month, though that can get a bit hairy if
> lots of big works pile up. Except for the practice of doing it, I can't
> imagine why anyone would need to make 10-15 reeds a week - that would be
> overkill for me.
> I too have a child with homework, and leaves to rake (still!!), though I
> try to limit my plumbing to the grenadilla variety. The time invested
> pays off for me many times over. Probably if I had to put a price on my
> time, my reed would be more expensive that Vandorens. But I'd rather
> spend my *time* making a reed that I like, than spend my *money* for some
> Frenchman to hastily cut a piece of cane that I *might* like, or maybe
> not.
> In my line of work, reed stability and longevity count for a lot,
> including reduced stress from trying to find a good reed on a regular
> basis. I've always been glad I made the effort to learn to make reeds.
> David
> David Niethamer
> Principal Clarinet, Richmond Symphony

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