Toward Reed perfection

With reference to the posting concerning reed perfection, the first correction to be made quite strongly is, one never selects a special concert reed on the day of the performance. It is an ill advised decision. A cane reed is especially unstable on the first day. Synthetic reeds are exponentially less so.

Years past, I studied with Fernand Gillet, then principal oboe with the Boston Symphony. He was perhaps the definitive solfege and chamber music teacher, and he knew all of the orchestral repertoire, and premiered many of the most outstanding works of the 20th century with the Boston Symphony.

One of the most startling things about Gillet was, he never made a reed, but ordered them from some friend in Europe in exchange for a couple of suits, as I recall him saying.

As to his playing, it was simply the most perfect one can ever hear, if one discounts (his) oboe sound, as characterized by the quality of Tabuteau, who was principal in Philadelphia at the same time, and truly the founder of the so-called American school of oboe sound, and embouchure ,for that matter.

But Gillet was extremely thoughtful and was always prepared, and, he was the oboe soloist in many of the works written for the Boston Symphony, works, by Ravel, Prokofiev, and of course, Bartok.

Back to what Gillet said about reeds and performance.
“Never change a reed just prior to the performance”

His explanation was that it is better to use a reed , well broken-in which will insure a modicum of success to the performer, rather than one brand new, which will always be different, than its predecessor. Advice well given, and rceived.

That concert from so many years past is rather striking in my memory, because I would never repeat such a completely frustrating process. The subjugation one suffers attempting to find a reed which pleases one in all ways is really somewhat similar to playing the lottery. Again and again, we play, we try to win, but the chances of winning are so small, the stress brought on by anxiety hope erases all ability to truly discern, and the cane reed is changing all the time, especially in its initial stages.

One must make the process less frustrating and more of a success. Remember the music always comes before anything and on the music, mustbe placed the most attention. We must free ourselves from being trapped by a changing piece of wood.

The answer considering todays technology, is to limit the variables. In accepting to limit these variables, the synthetic reed is first,available, and second, has been improved upon , especially in the last several years.

It is quite true that one can choose a synthetic that has been cut, one that may be moulded or manufactured is some hopefully careful way. And one of them may play very well indeed.

But there is one process in the manufacture which is variable, regardless of the diamond cutting device: the reed is cut by a blade of some sort in the final finishing.

That is why these reeds can differ, one to another. No matter how superb the cutting process is, it cannot assure total consistency from reed to reed. This is why we choose synthetic. We hope to limit the variables.

If a player is asked to choose a synthetic, by stating that a certain reed plays better, or a certain cut of that reed, he is actually attesting to the fact that they do in fact, vary

There is only one quality synthetic that is manufactured completely, from beginning to end, and that reed is completely moulded, with the tip made in the same manner, rather than cutting it with some kind of knife at the conclusion of the process.

My morning(long ago) apent in utter frustration, subjecting myself to endlessly trying reeds, desentitizing musical instincts, limits musical results.

If one is able to utilize the same synthetic through multiple rehearsals and performances, musical instincts become more focused. We are able to control most of the many variables in preparation, and therefore, we secure better control over the entire performance, the music first, then , the sound. (when we begin, we learn sound, but the ultimate goal is to play and perform musically.

The shortest distances between two points is a straight line. Playing a completely moulded synthetic is that straight line.Or, as close as we can come.That is why we practice.

Keep practicing that music.

stay well.
sherman

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