Thoughts and concepts about various aspects of English Horn playing
What follows are a few things to consider with regard to this topic.
Questions often arise about the need and/or merits of applying some sort of plastic tubing to the staple before placing the reed on the bocal. Anyone who has ever experienced the frustration of having a reed slip off the bocal during a rehearsal or performance has likely considered using tubing.
Some arguments for using some type of tubing are as follows:
1. It helps create a better seal between the staple and the bocal, especially if the staple does not fit perfectly onto the end of the bocal.
2. It keeps the reed in place and helps avoid the problem of slipping off the staple.
The main argument against using tubing is that it changes the vibrations of the reed, usually dampening the tone in one way or another.
For years, I used plastic air hose manufactured for aquariums. In order to alter the vibration of the reed the least amount, I used the smallest piece possible - usually 5 mm in length. However, the plastic seemed to dampen many of the "lows" in the tone in favor of the "highs". And, as it aged, the plastic became quite stiff.
Recently, I have begun to use aquarium air hose made of silicon and am much happier with the results. The silicon is a much softer material and as such, appears to change the vibrations of the reed far less. With the silicon, my reeds sound and feel much more like they do without any tubing. The diameter of the tubing I use is 6 mm. and the thickness is about 1 mm. I have seen tubing on reeds that has a larger diameter and is much thicker, but I would not recommend using that because it dampens the tone tremendously.
I use a piece that measures 5 mm in length, though it is possible to use a piece that is 4 mm in length. However, I would not suggest using a piece any shorter than 4 mm. If the piece is longer than 5 mm, the vibrations are dampened further.
Several reed supply companies sell shrink tubing to put on the staple. Since I have no experience with this product, I do not have an opinion as to its merits and/or drawbacks. But, experience has shown me that a short, thin piece of silicon tubing provides the best results for my English Horn reeds.