Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Aging Temperamental Children

Reeds - If you too make your own, you can relate to the neurotic and temperamental nature of these little buggers. A reed can have great response and amazing tone one day, but less than 24 hours later may sound like the latest advancement in duck call technology. There are so many differences between how each person makes their reeds, along with the materials and tools they use. I'm not going to explore those all in one post. It would be too tedious. But I'm going to mention a consistency I've started to notice.

I try not to every have a reed case of just brand new reeds or just old reeds. Newer reeds can take a bit longer to break in, while older reeds tend to have more and more issues as they age. (Though occasionally you find one that is like a fine wine and grows better with age.) I don't work on reeds every single day, but every other day or every 2 days I try to sit down and spend an hour or two doing some type of reed work - processing cane, tying blanks, scraping new reeds or killing and dissecting dead reeds. The newer reeds get worked into my practice cycle as the dead reeds are pulled out.

Now as I go through the process of making a reed, I tend to use very hot water and work quickly with the blank. Once the reed is stable enough to be placed into the practice cycle, it continues to need that hot water for a period of time. As it ages, I find I don't always need water that is quite as hot. Room temperature water or tap water warmed by my hands works just as well as the hot water, if not better. Occasionally, it craves a treatment of that nearly boiling water, but it is merely a sign of its age and impending death. Some reeds can survive for months, while others can disintegrate within weeks. But this progression of soaking water temperature never fails for me.

What is interesting is my current Yoda told me today that she finds the progression to be opposite for her. Newer reeds soak in cooler water while older reeds need hotter and hotter water to function. She and I definitely have different methods of making our reeds and what we need out of the reed. Its yet another difference in the various steps of reed-making.


Rebecca said...

You always seem to be different from other people, thus your "children" must be different too.

Anonymous said...


I've been making reeds for over 30 years (yikes!) and have never thought much about the temperature of my cane-soaking water. I always draw water from the cold tap, and it settles up to room temperature before long anyway. I may have to start messing with this idea.. maybe you're on to something!


Patty said...

I use extremely hot water to "wake up" my old reeds. That works for me.