LMC Wednesday: Bocal & Reed Care

Exploration Questions

  • What types of bocals are there and what makes them different?

  • What is the lifecycle of a reed?

  • Where can I find good reeds?

  • How can I learn more about making reeds?

On the third day of LMC 2019 we discussed reed care, types of bocals and how reeds are made. Students learned which basic tools they can use to adjust and make reeds, as well as how to properly clean and store reeds and bocals.

Handouts: Reed Trouble Shooting, Reed Making Packet & Reed Care

Bocal Types & How It’s Made

  • Bocal How It’s Made Video

  • Lengths & Tuning

    • The numbers on a bocal tell you the length. Higher numbers=longer bocal=flatter pitch. Lower Numbers=shorter bocal=sharper pitch.

    • The letters on a bocal are specific to each brand and tell you a little bit about the style and composition of the materials. Try different types and always test bocals in person to decide if it is a good fit.

  • Bocal Care & Supplies

    • Keep your bocal clean by swabbing it from time to time. You can use a cloth or brush bocal swab, or a pipe cleaner. You may also run warm (not hot!) water through it and blow through the end to clear out any debris.

Reed Lifecycle, Care & Storage

  • Reed Lifecycle

    • Reeds typically start out buzzy and slightly flat and gradually warm up and raise in pitch over time. If they become moldy they will sound soft and flat. If they die from long term use they become stuffy and sharp.

      • Baby: flat, buzzy, loud, responsive

      • Middle Aged: stable, mostly in tune, comfortable

      • Retired: stuffy, sharp, muted, resistant OR flat, cracked, moldy

  • Reed Storage & Care

    • Always store your reed in a reed case!

    • Soak your reeds in fresh water daily. This helps clean them, make them more flexible and vibrant and prevent build up and cracks.

How Reeds are Made

Check out this video on YouTube to see how reeds are made and adjusted by a professional bassoonist! There are lots of different ways to make reeds, so see if you can find other videos that showcase another method.

Rian Craypo, Principal Bassoonist of the Houston Symphony, explains forming bassoon reed blanks in the Herzberg/Kamins Reed Making Method. Forming the Tube and Wire Placement 0:16 Gluing 4:46 Reaming 5:54