Monday, April 4, 2016

Extending the Life of Your Bassoon Reeds

For years I have had issues with my reeds drying out to the point of the wires moving around. If you're a bassoonist, you know what I mean. Though submerging the reed in water gets the wire tension back, I often have to re-tighten. No matter the solution, once the wires come loose the reed's characteristics will never be the same.

For years I tackled this problem with the RICO humidity packs. With my main box of reeds I would use the 73% packs but I found there was not enough airflow to prevent mould. Whenever I tried using the 50% pack I would find the entire box of reeds had gone mouldy within a week. 

Eventually I gave up on the RICO system and began soaking my reeds once every 12 hours, allowing time to dry before putting them back in the box. Unfortunately, there were always lapses in the routine, and sometimes I didn't have time to let the reeds dry enough causing mould to set in, After doing this process with many generations of reeds, I wondered if their overall lifetime was reduced from the constant soaking.

How, I asked myself, was I going to keep my reeds humidified without mold setting in? I gleaned my next move from an advertisement for some 'sterile' reed box system. They recommended to soak a small sponge with the original formula Listerine once a day and put it in the box. Since September I've been maintaining my reeds using this technique and have found a dramatic increase in performance life. Though the reeds still need to be soaked before use, I've not seen a loose wire in months.

It's a technique I highly encourage all bassoonists to try.

One of my reed boxes: you can see the
sponge in yellow. 

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