Saturday, January 28, 2012

How a cleaned bassoon reed ages

The upper reed is my main reed at the moment. Actually, because I'm lazy, it's basically the only reed I've been using. I've been playing on it for months, probably at least hundred hours or so. I'm careful to sonicate my reeds after every use, so I can get away with this. In high school, before I cleaned reeds, I remember them going off much more quickly; going first stuffy and then dead. I think the usual aging mechanism is that the reed surface gets clogged with dead skin cells from the lips. This slimy stuff deadens the vibration, and maybe contributes to bugs growing which can eat away at the reed.

The lower reed is a new reed I'm working on finishing. The old reed is still working, but I'm getting worried about it. The color is getting darker, maybe the pitch is rising, and I'm feeling like some of my problems are the reed's fault. Having a new one on hand gives me a comparison, to see how the old one has aged. I arranged the light in the picture to try and demonstrate the difference in texture between the reeds. The old reed has developed grooves between the white cellulose fibers. I'm not sure what the material between the fibers is, maybe lignin, but whatever it is, it seems to be lost faster than the white fibers. I should check the interior of the old reed when I discard it, see if a similar effect is occurring on the interior.

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