Winter Reed Blues

I’ve got the Winter Reed Blues… I’ve lived in Canada for most of my life, and every Winter my reeds seem to freak out. Let me explain. The humidity level here from December to March is below 20 percent, and although it’s cold most of the time, the weather can fluctuate from a chilly -25 celsius to just below, or above freezing. This can happen in just one day. My ears have a hard enough time with the change in pressure, but reeds can just go bonkers.

Keep Calm and Carry On…

I’ve done a number of things to keep my troubles to a minimum. I use a humidor over night to store my reeds, and I also humidify my bassoon case so when it’s closed the instrument has a decent level of moisture for some of the time.

I’m always trying to keep reeds at various stages ready to go, and make sure that there are at least a few options for rehearsals, performance and practice. This wasn’t always easy with a full time orchestra job, but it was important if I was to be able to do my best.

Even when I had 6 or more reeds ready to go they wouldn’t always work when the weather changed.

Over time my reed making has, I believe, become a little better, and I still experiment from time to time in order to try to improve things. You do hopefully learn things. Sometimes just knowing that it’s not you but the weather is at least comforting, knowing that your colleagues are in the same boat.

I sincerely believe that the Canadian Winter climate can make or break a double reed player, and there are a number of habits that can help.

Good Habits

First and foremost, try not to rush the making and adjustment period. Make sure the wires are firm and stay that way….this takes some time for the cane to dry after forming the tube. The wires must be firm (not tight) but firm. Many students have a wobbly first wire, and this will not do, when the reed initially was designed to have a firm wire foundation for the opening to stay where it is.

You can also over do on the scraping, so go slow and extend it over several days. Be patient (easier said than done, but at least try!)

Most importantly keep your tools with you when you go to rehearsals and performances Always have a pair of pliers, mandrel, plaque, and a knife with you. I wish my students would do the same. This insures that in the likely event that the conditions change you can do something about it. If you make that a habit, then you are less likely to have the Winter reed blues, and if you do….at least you won’t panic.

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