Right at the end of last year, right as I was sailing into the last Holiday Pops concert of a long season, I made a reed. It was a good reed – one of those reeds that is good right away, so I didn’t have to wonder or waste time fussing. I liked it as soon as I made it. It had a perfect balance of resistance and response, the sound was rich and vibrant, and it did what I wanted without having to be forced. It was even colored just right for a holiday pops concert.
I played four services on that reed – one right after another, for three days – and it never required an ounce of maintenance. No cleaning, no polishing, no refine-the-corners-again-and-clip, no worries at all. Just soak it up and play all the music. I called it my Christmas Miracle.
Subsequently I took a couple of weeks off, and when I came back in January it was STILL a great reed. I recorded an audition CD on it. Played it on a Mozart concert. Put it away for another few weeks and then used it for our exciting Muses’s Workshop chamber music concert last weekend. It was still gold Monday night and I played it for my CD release concert.
It’s incredibly rare for a reed to be that good for that long, so although I am not a measurer or a saver I decided to record this one’s specs for posterity.
Let me say, I’m very much a math person in my life. Numbers are my friends. I LOVE a metronome. But my approach to reed-making is much more intuitive, and much more about reacting to the individual piece of cane I’m working on. I don’t generally take any micrometer readings at all, and use my length benchmarks only as a guideline. The numbers I’m going to cite here would mean more to me if I was more aware of my norms – but I’ll be interested to be able to look back on this during a reed slump sometime, or to hear from other oboists as to how these compare to their own standards.
The reed was wound on a 47mm brass Sierra tube. I would have wound it at 73mm (that’s a number I stick to) although I didn’t make specific note of that at the time. Who knew it would be so good?
Finished length: 70.5 mm
Height of rooftop (at the gutter): 65 upper blade, 65.5 lower blade (It is NOT intentional that the upper blade sits lower than the lower blade. Don’t know why it happened.)
Bottom of heart: 60 upper blade, 60.5 lower blade (Again, the asymmetry is unintentional – if this had been a reed I had to fuss with I would have fixed it.)
Thickness, center of heart: .51 mm
Thickness, center of tip (a little back from the very tip. How do we indicate that spot, people who measure things?): .15 mm
Thickness, corner of tip: .08 mm, quite symmetrical for all four corners
So interesting, right? At least, I mean, to the five people who are still reading, not to all of the people who clicked into this post expecting a heartwarming story of some sort…