Who’s Using the Little-Jake?

Bassoonists all over the world have started using the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup to play all kinds of music. Here are a few of the more active players that regularly use the Little-Jake in their performing.

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So what’s it take to really practice effectively?

Michael Lowenstern knows.

This video is done in the same kind of vein as my reed making video I made a few years ago. After presenting the finished product, Michael shows an unfiltered (although sped up to avoid absolute boredom from the audience) glimpse into his practice method when working up a difficult passage. With the clock displayed clearly for all to see, he works up a passage using a metronome and builds the tempo close to performance level. It’s a bit more than 30 minutes of him practicing and shows beautifully what 30 minutes of focused, intense, and correct practice looks like.

Students of all ages should watch this. This guy does it right.

Better Do It Right (Northern Darling)

 

Lyrics by Liz Davis
Music by Liz Davis, James Mouritsen, Trent Jacobs

Performed on James and Ben’s porch last autumn.

I’m using the TC Helicon Voicelive 3 for harmonies (all bassoon audio is from the Little-Jake).

UWEC Summer Double Reed week!

Dr. Christa Garvey and I will be hosting a double reed week this summer,¬†July 18-22, 2016. The camp will have separate sections for adults and high school level players, with a specific focus on reed making as well as the usual masterclasses, ensemble playing, and other playing activities. Use the UWEC double reed department reed making equipment including a full set of Reeds ‘n’ Stuff processing machines. Cane is included with cost of tuition but we’ll request you have some of your own finishing tools.

More importantly, we want to know what YOU want to get out of the camp! So when you register, we’ve made a questionnaire that will allow us to tailor the session’s content to meet your needs and desires! More details and the registration form is here:

https://sites.google.com/site/oboistchristagarvey/uwec-summer

We’ve done everything we can to keep this as affordable as possible. We’re pretty sure you can’t get a better deal than this. ūüėČ

Dremel tool beveling of the bassoon reed

In my never-ending quest to make my reed making more time efficient, I have switched my beveling technique for my regular reeds. I still let them form on the mandrel and bevel dry, but now instead of using a file for the first step of beveling, I use a Dremel tool with a sandpaper bit.

This removes the bulk of the material that I want to get rid of below the 2nd wire area and does it really fast especially when I have three dozen reeds to do at a time. The cut it leaves is really rough and uneven, but it smooths out really well on the second stage of the beveling where I sand the edge off the entire interior section using a flat block and sand paper.

“Tupperware” (Legere) reeds

Three years ago (give or take) plastics company Legere introduced a synthetic bassoon reed at the IDRS conference. There have been plastic reeds for years, my band director in high school in the 90’s tried to get me to play on plastic ones then, probably the Fox Renard reeds, but they were always notoriously bad. Flat, impossible response in the extreme registers, and they would frequently split down the middle. Anyway, Legere has made respectable single reeds for decades, and finally discovered a way of making polypropylene bassoon reeds that worked marginally well.

They were, of course, all the rage at that conference. Reeds you can’t adjust!? Of course I’ll take 6! Oh, they’re $135 each? Nevermind.

I played on a a few and found they played OK. They had three strengths then, “soft” “medium” and “hard”. I was told “you’ll hate the hard reeds” which was pretty untrue. They were a bit hefty to handle with the embouchure, but not terrible. The “soft” reeds couldn’t take any air for me at all. No dynamic range whatsoever. The “medium” was fine, although still not very full response in the bottom of the bassoon, and the extreme highs were … tenuous.

So fast forward to about a year ago and Midwest Musical Imports starts carrying the reeds. I tried a half dozen or so of the two new strength options “medium” and “medium hard” and found the medium to be like the soft was when they were first introduced, and the “medium hard” to be like the medium originally. Out of the first batch of ten, I found one that maybe would play OK for me. Not great, but doable. Still not worth $135.

But now I heard they changed the design pretty dramatically sometime in October/November of this year, and for the worse by all reports. So I tried about 10-12 of the medium hard ones and found one that I felt could actually play dynamics for me. Basically the most open, most boisterous one in the group. Way out on the end of the bell curve. I was always surprised at how many people preferred the “medium” strength, and even felt those to be hard/heavy. Unreal. Anyway, I went ahead and bought that one. The most comfortable one I had ever tried, and apparently the last of this generation, so I just went with it. I’ll hold it as a backup in it’s own little reed case in case I forget my reed case at home for a gig or something, I know I’ll have something that will work with me.

And further interesting, when I let one of my students try this reed that I liked, it was SO LOUD for him. These things definitely don’t react like cane. They don’t sound as good (although passable) and respond kinda weird. This one plays the very high notes very well though. But it’s interesting how different they are for different people. I don’t see them replacing my cane reeds for either myself or others any time soon, but there’s certainly a market for a reed that you can’t adjust even if you wanted to. Just make sure you try at least half a dozen and be able to return what you don’t like. They’re at least as variable as cane reeds, if not more so.

Postage increase

I hate to do it, but I have to adjust the rate of postage for my bassoon reeds. The US Postal service raised the price on Priority Mail packages by nearly a full dollar for the small flat rate boxes this month. http://www.endicia.com/usps/postage-rate-change/2016

I’ve always charged exactly the cost of postage for me. With the flat rate boxes, and using recycled newspaper for packing material, that means it’s only the rate charged by the post office. I don’t have to buy packing and shipping supplies (other than tape and a sheet of paper for the label). So while this jump is significant, I wasn’t making any money on shipping anyway. I unfortunately have to change my shipping to reflect the new cost to me of a flat rate shipment to $6.10 (and that’s not considering that paypal takes their cut of what I charge as well).

December bassoon reed special

Through the month of December (we’ll call it a holiday special) I’m offering my reeds at a discounted rate of $20 per reed. Contra reeds still regular price, but if you need one for those nutcrackers or new year’s concerts, now’s the time.

Please allow 2 days for finishing, and USPS Priority Mail shipping time (usually 2 days).

A4-B4 and Unintended Consequences

After my fancy Ab/Bb trill mechanism was completed, a number of interesting options have come up. The most recent, when seeking to remember the¬†famously impossible A4-B4 trill in the last movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, I discovered a new one that anyone with an Ab/Bb trill key can do, and I can do easier since my thumb can just use the Bb key.

A4-B4

B4-A4 downtrill

It’s kind of a down tril. Start on A normal fingering, then go to this full fingering (red trill keys down) for B, and trill open the two tone holes to go down to A. A bit fussy, and the A is sharp, but it works well enough for Berlioz and easier to get to than the other fingering I learned years ago.

Bell ring replacement

Almost a year ago I started on the process of replacing my cracked/chipped bell ring. I had selected a piece of exotic Olivewood to replace the original plastic. Unfortunately, the wood decided to warp pretty significantly after the rough cut, so we let the ring age for the better part of a year and stabilize. In the meantime I had a Delrin material ring replacement. It looked OK, but was a bit translucent, and was weird in some kinds of light.

IMG_20151016_191035

My repair tech Eric Anderson finally was able to finish the wood ring, which took a week for the lacquering process. Here is the final result:

P1010299 P1010305 P1010304 P1010302 P1010301 P1010300

There was a little hole from a worm or something in the part that we selected, impossible to predict it would be there when we started cutting. A little fill was added to make sure it didn’t have a rough edge to snag. It’s a pretty cool selection of wood, with nice character, and the lacquer Eric used really helped the grain pop!

Electric bassoon concerto commission grant

Today we got some wonderful news that a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board was awarded to my dear friend Adam Conrad to write a concerto for me. The concerto will be for electric bassoon and chamber orchestra and will be a large scale work featuring extensive improvisation sections, including full group improvisation in the tradition of the group IMPROVESTRA. The grant is substantial enough that Adam will be able to dedicate some significant time into the writing and production, including some live performances and a professional studio recording. Exact details will follow in the coming months.