Kopp Reeds

Your Reed: Obstacle or Opportunity

MAKING REEDS can be a quicksand of poorly invested time from which a bassoonist struggles to emerge. Alternatively, reed making can be a stepping stone toward more expressive playing and increased confidence. James Kopp & Associates, a firm of reed makers for bassoon, contrabassoon, and early bassoon since 1991, offers in-depth answers about reeds and reed making in the form of consultations, lessons, and master classes. Past clients include established professionals in New York-area symphonic, operatic, theater, and early-music ensembles, and amateur and student players at many levels of experience.

Lessons: Reed Making Z to A

Reed making lessons follow an established syllabus and method. A full course consists of fourteen hours of lessons, broken into two-hour segments. These are taken in reverse order of the construction process, so that the student’s lessons begin to pay off immediately:

1. Final Adjustments
2. Finishing techniques
3. Blank forming
4. Profiling and shaping
5. Pre-gouging and gouging
6. Cane selection and matching
7. Reed design: size, proportions, style, feel

The student can schedule lessons at short or long intervals, as convenient. The number of tools required is minimal in the early lessons, but increases later. We can recommend and provide tools and supplies from Fox Products Inc., or the student can view a listing of tools for individual purchase.

Consultations: Answers for experienced reed makers

Consultations are problem-solving discussions devoted to matters of personal concern to the bassoonist already experienced in reed making. Issues we have successfully addressed in the past include: adjusting to a new instrument, improving projection, improving response, general or specific tuning concerns, cane quality and selection, improving yield in reed making, adjustments to reed making machines, and extending reed life.

Master classes: Collaborations with artists and instructors

Master classes are available for schools and other groups of bassoonists. These typically focus on standard reed making procedures (as described above, under Lessons). Alternatively, they may focus on specific questions (as described above, under Consultations). Master classes are often presented in collaboration with a resident or visiting bassoon instructor. Recent classes have included the Juilliard School of Music, New York University, the Royal Academy of Music (London), the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Wisconsin (Madison).

Big reeds and early reeds: Contrabassoon and historical bassoons

We make contra reeds in both traditional and innovative styles, and we have probably made more reeds for early bassoons than any other commercial reed maker in the world. Our insights are now available to clients. The present-day player of a historical instrument can obtain excellent results in either of two ways: (1) with modern-style reeds of appropriate dimensions, or (2) with short-scrape designs based on examples from historical sources. Either approach can be adapted to work with baroque-, classical-, or romantic-era bassoons, or with bass dulcian (curtal). Consultations on particular topics or lessons on basic techniques are available.

James B. Kopp

has performed with The New Jersey Symphony, Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra, American Classical Orchestra,and The Sebastians. His modern reeds have been used in the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera orchestras, among many others. His reeds for early bassoon are used in period-instrument orchestras throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. He is the author of numerous articles on reeds and reed making in The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments and The Double Reed. (An expanded collection of these articles will appear in book form in the near future.) He is also the author of The Bassoon, a history of the instrument published by Yale University Press. He earned a Ph.D. in music history and theory from the University of Pennsylvania, and studied bassoon with Carl Nitchie, Jesse Read, Dennis Godburn, and Chuck Holdeman. He also studied contrabassoon with Thomas Sefcovic.

Contact information and Fees

Lessons and consultations ordinarily take place in the firm’s studio in Portland Oregon. Master classes are typically hosted by a music school or conservatory. Fees for lessons and consultations are currently $80 per hour. For scheduling, contact James Kopp by telephone at 201.656.0107 (office hours are Monday-Friday, 10 – 6 Pacific time).

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