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.

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.


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!

The Japanese Beetles

Sat in with this pretty killer band a couple weeks ago. Laying some electric bassoon goodness on top of their great sound. Check it out.


Going au naturale

Several conversations with Paul Hanson and one nice little chit-chat with a really excellent sound technician at SubCulture, I have devised a plan for a complicated but I think reliable microphone setup that will amplify the bassoon well, with some amount of isolation, a balanced sound through the register, and maintain the natural quality of the bassoon sound. What follows below is mostly an email sent in private to a few colleagues, that I’m now sharing more publicly. As far as I know nobody has tried doing this yet, so if you read this and have a chance to give it a shot, I’d love to hear how it works in practice and not just theory. (more…)

My custom shaper is now available from Fox

After several months of waiting, this October saw the delivery of the first of the Jacobs straight shaper from Fox. I’ve compared this to the original shaper that I had designed and made and the Fox dimensions match excellently. I’m very happy with the results and I’m hopeful that many bassoonists for years are able to make reeds with this shape.

In stock at Midwest Musical Imports

Detail of shape diagram: Jacobs TF Shaper

On Effects

So I get this question a lot. “After I get a Little-Jake, what kinds of effects should I get?” Usually this is coupled with a question about amplifiers as well, which I’ve covered in another post. Effects are a giant rabbit hole you can jump down. Guitar players know this, as there are dozens of online forums and reviews sites dedicated to those metal or plastic things on the floor sometimes called “stomp boxes”. You can see some old blog posts of mine talking about certain revisions of pedal boards that I’ve used over the years. It doesn’t seem to get much better.

So anyway, here’s some general information on effects with specific guidelines on what I’ve found works well with the bassoon. (more…)

An automatic Ab/Bb trill mechanism retrofit

About two months ago I had a shower thought of how I could simplify the thumb Ab/Bb trill mechanism on my bassoon. On the standard Heckel system bassoon, the movement from Ab to Bb in the low octave and the overblown octave requires the third and fourth fingers to move up and the thumb to move down (all on the right hand). This makes for a rather awkward movement when an Ab/Bb trill is required. You can get away with trilling the third finger of the right hand on some bassoons, which provides a sort of solid Bb, but it’s pretty weak and that’s a difficult finger to trill all on its own. Or try any of the other fingerings here(more…)

A new straight shaper design

I’ve been using a straight shaper for about two years that I had made for me to my specifications. Due to some unfortunate circumstances the original design was lost, but I have had Chip Owen at Fox measure the cane and re-create the shaper for me. The measurements match my original design specs perfectly, so I am confident this will be an accurate re-creation of this one original.

The shape itself is a unique blade contour. The first 15mm of the blade are similar to a Rieger 1A shape, but the blade stays much fuller through the throat and tube area, with a flare at the end of the tube. I typically place the 2nd wire 40mm from the fold and the 1st wire 32mm from the fold. I usually trim 2mm off of the end of the tube, but it can be left full length, allowing for an even greater bevel.

We’re taking orders for this shaper now at Midwest Musical Imports. I will have some pieces of gouged and shaped Gonzalez cane in this shape at the IDRS conference in New York in a few weeks.


On Amplifiers

When bassoonists first explore the world of amplified playing there are some basic concepts that are taken for granted in the guitar world that translate to the bassoon, but are a bit unclear to the uninitiated. There are new things that happen to your sound when you amplify, especially when using a direct pickup like mine or even the Telex, that you have to consider when developing a sound that you like. (more…)

Little-Jake saxophone user spotted in the wild

Joel Woolf purchased a Little-Jake from Forrestsmusic and has been using it with his band since last August. Always cool to see someone really getting some good mileage out of the Little-Jake. He’s apparently a big effects user with his saxophone. Don’t worry, I’m assured that he bought a second neck so he didn’t drill into the original neck on his Mark VI.