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 Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-08-06 04:57

One of the frustrations that I have when I make my own reeds is that quite often, at least one of those reeds will cause the Oboe to play flat. And when I say flat , I mean very flat. A quarter tone to almost a semitone flat.
Yet such a reed doesn't look any different from the others that play at A440. Same total length, same cut , same shape. same tip opening and same staple ect
I'm using staples that are 46mm in length. (not 47mm) and the finished reed ends up being mostly 69 mm in total length.
How is this even possible ?

I usually make reeds in batches of three.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2019-08-06 19:44

Four things influence pitch: length, width, reed opening, and scrape style.

Length: Since you're using 46mm staples, then staple length isn't an issue. Staples that are rounder in shape tend to play more open and flatter than staples that are more oval, so you might try a different staple.

Width: The shape of the cane is a primary determinant of pitch. If you're using cane that is already gouged, shaped and folded, then it is difficult to change the shape. There are four things you can do to make the reed narrower:

1) File the reed blank after it is tied so that you have a narrower reed. When you do this near the tip, the opening will be smaller so you will need to make these reeds shorter to have proper opening. Start by narrowing the throat area, 5-10mm away from the string.

2) Slip the blades. This has the same effect as No. 1, but you can decide to do it later in the process. If you don't tie your blanks with an overlap, then slipping the blades sometimes doesn't work because they might tend to move back.

3) Try different cane that has a narrower shape.

4) Shape your own cane. You will need shaping tools.

Reed opening: This is a function of the curvature of the cane. If you clip your reeds short, then sometimes the greater opening will keep them flat.

Scrape: Scraping the back of the reed tends to make it go flatter, especially if your scraping style includes deep windows. If you keep the back a bit thicker and thin the sides of the heart/blend, that will maintain a higher pitch. Also, if the blend between tip and heart is gently sloped, that also can lead to lower pitch. A steeper slope at the heart/tip line will keep the pitch higher and more stable.

When the cane is softer, that also will let the pitch sag quite a bit, so the scrape on softer cane needs to be thicker in the back and with a longer tip to balance. When you buy gouged, shaped, and folded cane, the hardness of the pieces can be quite inconsistent. Shaping your own cane will allow you to buy gouged cane that is more consistent in terms of hardness and curvature.

Dane
Bay Area, California

Post Edited (2019-08-06 20:15)

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-08-07 00:55

Hi Hotboy. Thank you for your response, it's much appreciated. After reading your comments I can see a number of factors that would be causing me to make reeds that cause the Oboe to sound flat. One in particular is that I do tend to remove probably too much cane below the heart. The average length of the scrape is about 11 mm. I've already been sanding my reeds a bit narrower but only my a tiny amount.
My quick fix in raising the pitch of a reed is to remove a bit of the staple end. This can need to be up to 5 mm ! So flat are some of these reeds. With careful listening I don't detect any serious result of the Oboe becoming out of tune with itself even though I know it's the upper joint notes that are suppose to be most effected by this.
Anyway, once again, thank you for the information. I'll just keep plodding along making reeds and keeping your suggestions in mind. As I may have mentioned before, I find the whole process of reed making quite relaxing (most times) and enjoyable.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2019-08-07 01:34

Dear Barry, Dane's advice is comprehensive but he is coming from the viewpoint of a long scraped reed, whereas, I assume, like most players in Australia, you are playing on a short scraped reed. The architecture ofd the reed is somewhat different and generally, the shorter scrape reeds use thinner sides and slightly wider cane. When you make a reed, I would start systematically and get your tip right first. Only once you have got your tip right, then start wirking downwards with the reed. The blend is quite important, and once you have that right with the tip, test crow your reed, and the optimal crow pitch is a C. Generally I have found, that the closer I am to that C crow, the more the pitch will be to A=440. Once you have achieved that, you are in a better position to balance the rest of the reed. Remember to only change or experiment with one variable at a time....otherwise it is difficult to work out what is working and what isn't.

I have tried a variety of reed styles over the 40 + years of reed making, and these days make a long scrape reed ( but it varies from the average American scrape), but the length of my reeds have not varied much - my completed weed is between 71 mm and 72 mm, and I am using a 47 mm staple. I tend to always use the same staples - Mostly Loree , and sometimes Chiarugi -2 . If you have a mish mash of different staples, again it is hard to tell what is working well or not and you end up having to scrape every reed quite differently.
If you dont already have it, Graham Salter's book "Understanding the Oboe Reed" is a weighty tome that will give you some excellent ideas.
Be careful of your tie on length. I add 26 mm to the length of the staple to get the overall length of the reed before I start to clip. Occasionally I do experiment with that a little, as my first teacher used shorter cane lengths than one can normally buy and he gave me the 26 mm rule, so sometimes, especially in summer, I tend to add 47 mm instead.

Good luck and if I can help in any way, let me know.

Geoff

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2019-08-07 03:20

If you remove a lot of cane from just behind the heart, make sure not to scrape the spine thin where it meets the heart. That works well for loosening up the response, but it will drop the pitch significantly. Also, if you are using a long scrape, the heart should be no longer than 5mm. To reduce the blowing resistance, make the heart shorter on the lower side, staying away from the spine.

Dane
Bay Area, California

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-08-07 04:26

Hi Geoffrey. Thanks for the 'heads up' As I mentioned before when responding to Dane's comments ,the total length of my reeds when finished come in at about 69 mm which I've noted are noticeably shorter than yours. But I do make a short scrape of about 11 mm. I also narrow the tip slightly from 7mm. but only slightly. I think the main problem with my flatness is that I have too much of a gradual slope from the tip to the heart as mentioned by Dane. Also I remove too much cane below the heart but this is because I think it makes my reed 'darker' in tone.
However, despite the flatness of some of my reeds , these reeds have an excellent sound to them. Well, according to what I'm listening for in a good Oboe sound anyway.
Also as previously noted in my last comment I use the drastic method of shortening the staple for an instant 'fix'. This sometimes requires up to 5mm taken off the staple. According to my ear anyway , I don't hear any serious intonation problems considering that you're actually removing part of the bore when you do this.
I was using Chiarugi-2 staples (27mm) but now use KGE-2 staples (26mm) The KGE s have a 'fat' oval. I don't know what the cane is , but I got it from Richard Craig some time ago.
Anyway , your response is greatly appreciated.

Skyfacer

Post Edited (2019-08-07 04:36)

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-08-07 08:06

I have some experiences that contradict some of what Dane and Geoff have posted, but this is all experience gained with long-scrape American-style reeds. Thinning the tip is always where I go first in bringing a reed up to pitch--lots of times I think I'm done with the tip but find, with a freshly-sharpened knife, that I can make it a little thinner. Then I can shorten the tip and the pitch comes up.

I find that reeds can be made to play in tune at a variety of lengths, but it depends a lot on the cane. My soft-cane reeds end up being short. Length of the tip matters more than the overall length of the reed.

I have found that taking more off the back of the reed, below the heart (in a long-scrape reed) doesn't necessarily result in a lower-pitched reed; in fact, taking it out of the spine in the back is my go-to strategy in getting a too-open reed to close up, which brings up the pitch. Taking more off sides of the heart is the number one way I use to flatten a too-sharp reed, so I try to avoid that area unless the reed is too sharp.

Sadly, I think that piece-to-piece variations in cane have a lot to do with why our reeds don't always play the same even if we always make them the same.

Mike

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-08-07 10:05

Hi Micheal. Thanks for your input as well. I'm printing yours, Geoffrey's and Dane's responses out for future reference. Learning all the time.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-10-17 01:11

I know this is an old thread but reading it again I came up with a question. Do the reads crow on pitch but play flat, or do they crow flat and play flat? I've had reeds that crow flat (like on a B) but still play up to pitch, so I'm trying to get the concept here.

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-10-17 05:42

Hi EauberauHorn. My reeds mostly crow flat. Sometimes noticeably so.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2019-12-14 03:10

"Do the reads crow on pitch but play flat, or do they crow flat and play flat? I've had reeds that crow flat (like on a B) but still play up to pitch, so I'm trying to get the concept here."

It depends on what you mean by "crow." If you set your embouchure and blow as hard as if you were playing a high C, then an in-tune reed should crow somewhere near a C. If you are loosely blowing, then from my experience you can't really tell where a reed is, pitch-wise.

Dane
Bay Area, California

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 Re: Reeds that play very flat.
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2020-01-28 01:15

I was taught that the crow is with your lips practically touching the cork, so that they are not affecting what the reed does. The first crow should be a C and without the lips touching the reed, if it is a stable reed, it will be difficult to get it to change its pitch much. The second crow is lips in same position but blowing harder, and the C an octave below should sound. There should be no "squawk" at all. Ever. Supposedly "pro" reeds I have bought that have a squawk are extremely hard to play in tune, while the ones that crow as described above require very little embouchure adjustment to play in tune. A stable reed does not imply a stiff reed, either.



Post Edited (2020-01-28 01:17)

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