James Kopp & Associates
Reedmakers for Bassoon


The Bassoon by James B. Kopp

Tutor Chart Etude by William Waterhouse

The Proud Bassoon by William Waterhouse

The following copyrighted articles are reproduced here for use by interested readers. Teachers wishing to reprint articles in quantity should contact the author, James B. Kopp, for permission.

Tube, Tip, and Aperture: The Functional Geometry of your Bassoon Reed
The tip-to-tube width ratio of a bassoon reed has a predictable effect on the reed’s aperture—the opening at the tip. The aperture in turn determines the basic personality of the reed’s response. This discussion, reprinted from The Double Reed 36/1 (2013), focuses on the geometric interplay of these elements—tube, tip, and aperture, together with management tools like wire adjustments and bindings. The text is accompanied by numerous line drawings illustrating geometrical relationships.

Physical Forces at Work in Bassoon Reeds
Bassoon players and reed makers never cease debating the effects of length, width, shape, profile, gouge and scrape upon the working bassoon reed. This article, reprinted from The Double Reed 26/2 (2003), explains how each of these design factors contributes to the reed’s vibration. Other topics examined include control of the tip aperture (through wire adjustments and otherwise), the four-phase cycle of reed vibration, sources of tension in reed design, and the interaction between embouchure and reed vibration. This theoretical foundation allows reed makers to begin to predict the effects of design changes on reed sound and response. The text is accompanied by numerous line drawings relating reed design to scientific principles of mechanics.

Counting the Virtues of Bassoon Reed Cane
Bad cane, good cane, old cane, new cane – reed makers voice so many opinions about Arundo donax (the material of bassoon reeds) that they sometimes seem to hold no beliefs in common. In fact, a good deal of common ground can be found (much of it supported by scientific understanding), once the reader understands certain concepts and terms. This article, reprinted from The Double Reed 26/4 (2003), defines, compares, and contrasts the many varying qualities of cane, including hardness, stiffness, resiliency, density, flexibility, resonant frequency, color, and “feel under the tool.” Some disagreement about cane quality is seen to result from the varied reed styles cultivated by individual reed makers. This article also examines the effect of soaking (hydration) upon the reed’s performance and aging. The text is accompanied by line drawings and photographs.

Risk Management in Bassoon Reed Making: Three Examples
Some reed makers are swash-buckling speed demons, shunning measurements, safeguards, and tedious routine in the heat of the creative moment. Other reed makers show the icy composure of brain surgeons, seeking every precaution against fatal mishaps as they soberly wield their tools. This article, reprinted from The Double Reed 27/4 (2004), will stimluate the thinking of both types. Specific examples -- suggested techniques for cutting the reed collar and narrowing the blades -- show how work habits borrowed from machinists can reduce risk and reveal the true strengths (and weaknesses) of various reed designs. The text is accompanied by color photographs.

The Not-Quite-Harmonic Overblowing of the Bassoon
The upper registers of the German-system bassoon are produced by overblowing -- the use of higher vibrational modes of the instrument. In the third and higher modes, the patterns of overblown fingerings are complicated by various factors, including pipe resonances that are not precisely harmonic. In this article, reprinted from The Double Reed 29/2 (2006), this topic is explored, along with the relevance to the bassoon of such acoustical concepts as ancestor fingerings, cross-finger vents, mode shifting, regimes of oscillation, full-system resonances, and overtone compression. Numerous figures of acoustical spectra and bassoon fingerings accompany the text.