Cane Density post #4 (final)

Final play testing yesterday and today. Definitely results to report.

Harder cane was more consistent from reed to reed, while the softer cane yielded a wider variety of end results. This takes into account aspects of tone color, dynamics, stability, as well as how much additional work I needed to put into the reeds.

The harder reeds all had a more “brittle” tone to them. Not brighter, but definitely had a more rigid quality to both the sound and the response. I had to scrape all of them a bit more to make them responsive. When I did that little extra scraping they were generally pretty good, but the tonal character of “brittle” never went away completely when compared to what I would consider the sound of my absolute best reeds. They were all quite stable, and ran a bit sharp in pitch comparatively. None of this should be surprising, as it’s what we *should* expect from a harder reed. There were two or three out of the six that I would consider pretty darned good, and all of them would meet my minimum standards for sale, however they did require that little bit of extra work.

Of the softer reeds there was one that I liked quite a bit. The rest had some pretty serious issues. One of the two that side slipped the worst was fine, but as I said in a previous post, the slippage was too great for me to consider selling such a reed. The other side slipped reed played pretty poorly. Of the other four, they were all pretty squishy feeling. One was exactly what I would think of when I think of a reed that is too soft to be useful: extremely flat, sagging pitches, not responsive in the tenor and upper register, quiet and limited dynamic range. However, of the ones that weren’t slipped and that one really extreme one, they were reeds I could make work, and still better than a lot of reeds that are mass produced. I still probably would have put them in the give-away pile.

So conclusions: There is definitely something to the buoyancy test. Cane that measures at extreme ends definitely have qualities you’d associate with harder and softer cane. If you’re making reeds for yourself, I would suggest doing this test on your pre-gouged cane, and weed out the outlying 10% of measurements from reeds you want to make. Use the cane to adjust your machines or something, give it to students that are just learning to make blanks since they’ll probably not make much good their first time or so anyway. What I haven’t yet determined is if the middling pieces of cane are different enough to justify making the reeds differently, if that means gouging differently or using a narrower shape on slightly softer pieces. I don’t use different shapes anyway. But it’s easy enough to adjust the gouge thickness.

I might make a post-final post about this, after I’ve made and played on a dozen or so reeds that were the softer and harder range that I will gouge just a little differently (thicker gouge for harder cane, thinner for softer gouge) and see if that matters for consistency. I guess if I’m measuring the cane anyway I might as well help it along.

While it adds quite a bit of time to the overall process of cane preparation before gouging, I think I’ll do it for the remaining cane I have sitting in the box. At the very least it’ll weed out those softest pieces. Ultimately it might not save me all that much time, but it will save a little bit of frustration and headache when I would otherwise run into outlier-soft pieces of cane.

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