Reed (music)

From Academic Kids

A reed is a thin strip of material which vibrates to make music. The reeds of woodwind musical instruments are usually made of Arundo donax; tuned reeds are made of metal or plastic.

There are several types of reeds: double reeds used on the bassoon, oboe, bagpipes, tromboon, english horn, and some organs and single reeds used on the clarinet and saxophone. Some reed makers are Vandoren, Schopp, La Voz, Rico, Hemke, and many more. Reeds are made out of a grass (cane) or plastic. The finest cane is grown in the Var region of France.

Reeds vary in strength and those strengths vary among reed makers. It should be noted that different reeds produce different sound effects and styles, so different musicians use different types of reeds. The hardness of reeds also affects the articulation, and difficulty to produce a full sound. A good reed produces a light sound after being played for some time where a bad reed may produce a good sound instantly and wear out shortly after.

In past times, musicians crafted their own reeds from cane using simple tools. This was time consuming and painstaking, and often took hours to produce one good reed. However, this process can be shortened once the musician has learned the steps to creating the reed from the reed blank and brings his/her time down to only 30-45 minutes.

The plastic reed is still in development, and most musicians consider the cane reed to be the most professional choice. A cane reed usually lasts for no longer than 2 months. It is not uncommon for an avid player to go through a new reed every 2-3 weeks, though a continual rotation of reeds will help the reed outlast the traditional 2 month lifespan, and with regularly clipping, sanding, and shaving, the reed can last anywhere from 6 months to a year. A plastic reed can be sustained for over a year. A plastic reed needs to be given rest once every several months (unless shaving or clipping occurs, because plastic is flexible too!). Another advantage of the plastic reed is that it does not have to be moistened for a long time like cane reeds.

Reeds can also be hand-cut and trimmed with special hardware. Double reeds sound differently than single reeds. A reed is part of what gives the clarinet its mellow sound, a saxophone its edgy (or dark and rich, in classical playing) sound, an oboe its nasal sound, and a bassoon its distinctive sound.

The Di zi, a unique kind of Chinese Transverse flute, has a distinctive kind of reed (a Di mo), which is made from a paper-like bamboo membrane.

See also: Free-reed instrument


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