Addressing Stress VPI

Today I met with an ENT and a speech pathologist (who happens to be a trained singer) at the University of Minnesota clinics to discuss my issues with Stress VPI (commonly called “palatal air leak” in the music community). I’ve had issues with air leaking through my nose when playing bassoon for the last 20 years. Mostly it has been manageable, although the symptoms of this insufficiency sometimes show up at the most inopportune moments and without any predictable precursor.

[For more information on Stress VPI see the following links: ]

In the lab today I brought my bassoon, and after inserting a small camera up my nose they observed my larynx and vocal folds as I sung, and then observed the area of the nasal passage that should seal when talking and playing an instrument. While I played only for about 45 seconds I did not experience the leak, however I am able to reproduce it on command without the bassoon so I demonstrated this for them. The ENT immediately saw where the insufficiency was, although it is very small for me, as it does not impact my daily use of my mouth and nose in speech or eating.

The visit concluded with them taking the videos done during the exam and the information they have so far to several other specialists in the ENT department as to what the best course of action would be to correct this problem. There are training and physical therapy related things that could be done (which they did not seem hopeful would be helpful in my situation) as well as some outpatient pseudo-surgical remedies. There may be other things as well, but that’s what they are consulting with other doctors about.

As I learn more about this with the doctors and get a treatment plan in place, I’ll post follow-ups to this story, and hopefully help other wind players that suffer from the same playing problems I have.

Why 116mm?

As I announce the availability of GSP cane for sale, I should clarify why my cane is the somewhat unusual length of 116mm.

Most commercially available bassoon cane is sold at 120mm length, with a 30mm profiled length and a 30mm tube. When I designed my shape, I wanted to have to clip less off of the tip of the reed and still have a 56mm long overall reed, without too much tube length.

This is not without precedent. Many reed makers (Danzi, and Versiglia come to mind) trim 2mm off the end of the tube before forming the reed. I cut this step out of the process for you.

My suggested wire measurements for this shape are: 32mm from the fold, 40mm from the fold, and 4.5mm from the end of the tube. I highly encourage beveling the tube end, at least the last 7-10mm of the tube. The shape was designed with beveling in mind.GSP

Tools of the trade

I sometimes run across stuff when shopping that make me go “oh yeah, that’s a good reed making supply” or something. So here’s a post with something like that.

Students often ask me what to get for binding up a reed when forming the blank. I saw this at Ace Hardware and it was just about perfect. I’m sure you can get it in a grocery store as well, or under slightly different names. This spool would last a single reed maker a very long time.IMG_20190309_150559[1]

On forming blanks and cracking cane

For a number of years now I’ve utilized a cane processing and tube forming method that has resulted in zero cracking in my blanks on a very consistent basis. I did a rather recent unscientific experiment to see if one aspect of this process was beneficial and it seems like it is a critical component of keeping the cracking from happening. Read the full post »

Starting cancer treatments again

In March of 2019 I was diagnosed with a metastatic recurrence of my cancer. I will begin new chemotherapy treatments on April 10. Chemo can take quite a toll on the body, and at times I may get behind in reed orders, but I plan on continuing on working, teaching, and making reeds during treatment. I appreciate each one of my customers, many of whom have been ordering regularly from me for years! I appreciate a bit extra patience with sending orders out as I get into these new treatments (and hopefully beat this thing for good this time).

Review of new bassoon case: MB-2 by Marcus Bonna

I had grown unhappy with my BAM high-tech bassoon case and finally saw another case on the market that I thought would actually be an improvement. I like it better, although I still don’t think the perfect bassoon case yet exists. Nobody really has the best bocal storage I can imagine, and I still can’t keep both my hand crutch and balance hanger attached while the instrument is stored. Still, this case offers flexible bocal storage, a generously sized sheet music pouch, and a compact size with interesting and compact internal layout. View the entire video review here.

Read the full post »

Caring for your Little-Jake pickup

Over the years I’ve sold a great many Little-Jake pickups to players all around the world. On occasion I find out one of them fails or breaks and I repair them at no cost but the shipping. There are two ways that I typically see the Little-Jakes fail, and there are ways to prevent both from ever happening in most cases. Here are some things I do to prevent damaging my own pickups.

Read the full post »

Going Wireless!

With a lot of new really inexpensive wireless guitar options on the market now I thought it was to solve the mechanical problems of hardware mounting to be able to run the electric bassoon with a wireless transmitter that was actually viable. Read the full post »

Keywork choices on a bassoon.

I have a lot of bells and whistles on my bassoon. Of course, my bassoon came with a lot of “extra” goodies that are not common on a lot of instruments. Over the years of getting to know my own instrument, carefully researching keys and playing many different bassoons while working for Midwest Musical Imports, I added a few things, although with the bassoon there are more options than any other wind instrument for key customization. Below are some of my keywork choices, things that I wouldn’t mind having, and my rationale for these decisions. Read the full post »

A New Reed Making Video

After 4 1/2 years my original “The Making of a Bassoon Reed” video has over 37k views, and is one of the most watched bassoon reed making videos on Youtube. I’ve grown as a reed maker since then, and purchase new equipment to make reeds from the tube cane stage, as well as make my process more efficient. So with those changes I thought it might be worth making an updated reed making video. I started filming the process last summer but got interrupted before it was done by my cancer diagnosis and treatment. But I finally had an opportunity to finish filming the final pieces and do a narration of the process as before. Again, this isn’t a tutorial video and if you don’t know anything about reed making I’ll probably talk about things that won’t make any sense, but that’s not a big deal I don’t think.