Reed Making

Process and photographs of reeds in various stages

Wireless, part 1

Thu, Jan 17th, 2013 12:00:00 am

Any discussion of English Horn reeds would be incomplete without addressing the relative merits and/or drawbacks of using wire on the reed.

 

Any discussion of English Horn reeds would be incomplete without addressing the relative merits and/or drawbacks of using wire on the reed. 
As is the case for so many aspects of playing the English Horn, the decision to place a wire on the reed or to "go wireless" is a personal preference.

Arguments I have heard for using a wire on an English Horn reed:

1. One has been told to do so by a teacher, colleague or classmate
2. To control the opening of the reed
3. For "stability"
4. To help the reed seal on the sides of the reed, as well as the sides of the tip
5. To keep the blades from "shifting"

Metal is a conductor of vibrations. Examples are flutes and brass instruments. However, when metal is soldered, this process inhibits vibrations. It necessarily follows that metal wire on wood (in this case, cane) would similarly inhibit the vibration of the wood. Typically, the wire is wrapped twice around the reed and twisted to secure it which further dampens the vibrations of the cane.

Any discussion of wire must factor into the equation the type of metal from which the wire is made. Brass, bronze, gold, stainless steel and copper each conduct vibrations differently. The resulting vibrations of the reed will vary based on the composition of the wire. In addition, the thickness, or gauge of the wire must be considered. The placement of the wire in relation to the string (top of the staple) affects the reed, as does the amount that the wire is tightened.

However, in my experience, placing a wire on an English Horn reed negatively alters the vibration. It muffles the vibration, taking the "lows" out of the tone and compromises the "ring" in the tone of the reed. 
Wire on a reed shortens the amount of cane vibrating freely, thus more cane is usually scraped out of the reed; hence the reed usually becomes very unstable and the opening can collapse. Indeed, one of the principal arguments for the use of wire is related to "adding" stability and/or to hold the opening of the reed in place.

To be continued...

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