Reeds by Holly

The Initial Inspection of Your New Reed

The Initial Inspection of Your New Reed

Soak the reed thoroughly for 1-2 minutes in warm water, longer in cool water. Insert the plaque and gently flatten the tip toward the plaque. Look at the saturated reed tip against the darker background of the plaque. Thinner areas will look darker against the plaque. What you should see is a fan-shaped halo of thicker cane in front of the plateau that is graduating thick to thin, thickest at the midline than the sides, and sloping outward toward the corners of the tip, where the reed is thinnest. Use your eyes to determine the blending of the colors of the cane against the plaque before applying your knife. Look for thick areas forward of thin areas, or an interruption of the gradual slopes traversing the heavy back of the heart to the gossamer corners of the tip. Don’t assume both blades and all 4 corners come to you perfectly balanced and equal. I do my best, but…make them equal by using appropriate scrapes to balance and blend the plateau to the corners.

Another good thing to remember is, a properly thinned tip turns white in color when backlit in front of a bright light source. Look at the photographs. Use them as a visual guide. The more perfect the halo of shading is (and the more balanced the heart, blend, and tip regions are in relation to one other) the more delicately responsive, in tune, and tonally refined the reed becomes.

And finally, when it’s time to make adjustments, if the lightest touch of the knife blade to the cane does not create a powdery cane residue as it scrapes, stop! You will tear your tip if it is too moist and/or if you do not have a razor sharp knife. Refer to [Sharpening the Reed Knife], and perfect this process first before going near a reed tip. The cane should be moist, or your plaque will deform and splay the dry blades, but the tip must not be too wet either. The cane has to come off in a powdery residue with no weight from the knife. Even the weight of the blade, itself, is far too heavy. You must hold the knife so as to hover it over the surface of the tip, which must be finished thinner than a human hair. Move it ever so slowly and watch, watch, watch the cane residue come off in just the right amounts and in just the right places along the blade’s edge in just the right powdery quality. All these conditions must be right. Do not compromise! Be ever so precise, and work under bright, direct, incandescent light. Note: Successive drying and soaking shortens the life of your reed! But, this cannot be helped while learning to adjust reeds. You will get better with practice, and your reeds will last longer. Also, ultrasonic cleaning really does help. Ask me about that, if you are unfamiliar with it.