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A reed is a thin strip of material that vibrates to produce a sound on a musical instrument. Most woodwind instrument reeds are made from Arundo donax ("Giant cane") or synthetic material. Tuned reeds (as in harmonicas and accordions) are made of metal or synthetics. Musical instruments are classified according to the type and number of reeds.
The earliest types of single-reed instruments used idioglottal reeds, where the vibrating reed is a tongue cut and shaped on the tube of cane. Much later, single-reed instruments started using heteroglottal reeds, where a reed is cut and separated from the tube of cane and attached to a mouthpiece of some sort. By contrast, in an uncapped double reed instrument (such as the oboe and bassoon), there is no mouthpiece; the two parts of the reed vibrate against one another.
Single reeds are used on the mouthpieces of clarinets and saxophones. The back of the reed is flat and is placed against the mouthpiece. These reeds are roughly rectangular in shape and taper towards the thin tip, which is rounded to match the curve of the mouthpiece tip. All single reeds are shaped similarly but vary in size to fit each instrument's mouthpiece.
Reeds designed for the same instrument look roughly identical, but vary in thickness ("hardness" or "strength"). Hardness is generally measured on a scale of 1 through 5 from softest to hardest. This is not a standardized scale and reed strengths vary by manufacturer. The thickness of the tip and heel and the profile in between affect the sound and playability. Pieces of cane of different density or stiffness, even if cut with the same profile, will respond differently due to those differences.
The cane used to make reeds for single-reed instruments is grown in the southern coastal regions of France and Spain and, in the last 30 years, in the Cuyo area of Argentina. After the cane is cut it is placed in direct sunlight for about a month to dry. The cane is rotated regularly to ensure even and complete drying. Once dry, the cane is stored in a warehouse. As production requires it, cane is taken to a factory's cutting department, where it is cut into tubes graded by diameter and wall density. The tubes are cut into splits and made into reed blanks. Blanks are tapered and profiled into reeds using blades or CNC machines. Completed reeds are graded for strength by machine.
Double reeds are used on the oboe, oboe d'amore, English horn, bass oboe, Heckelphone, bassoon, contrabassoon, sarrusophone, shawm, bagpipes, nadaswaram and shehnai. They are typically not used in conjunction with a mouthpiece; rather the two reeds vibrate against each other. However, in the case of the crumhorn, bagpipes, and Rauschpfeife, a reed cap that contains an airway is placed over the reeds and blown without the reeds actually coming in contact with the player's mouth. Reed strengths are graded from hard to soft.
Double reed manufacturing begins the same way as that of single reeds. Arundo donax cane is collected, dried, processed, and cut to manageable sizes. Similarly to single reed production, the cane is separated into various diameters. The most common diameters for American-style oboe reeds are: 9.5–10 mm (0.37–0.39 in), 10–10.5 mm (0.39–0.41 in), and 10.5–11 mm (0.41–0.43 in). Many American oboists prefer one diameter at one time of the year and a different diameter at other times.
The tubes are split into three equal parts and the pieces that are not warped are chosen. A reed made from warped cane will not vibrate consistently on both sides.The split pieces are gouged by machine to remove many layers and drastically decrease thickness, which eases the scraping process for the reed-maker.
Finally, the gouged pieces of cane are soaked, shaped on a shaper with razor blades, and allowed to dry before the final steps. The shaped piece of cane is then re-soaked and tied onto a "staple" for oboe reeds or formed on a mandrel for bassoon reeds. Double reeds are tied in place with thread. Finishing both bassoon and oboe reeds requires the reed-maker to scrape along the cane section of the reed with a scraping knife to specific dimensions and lengths depending on the reed style and the musician's preference. Bassoon and oboe reeds are finished when the reeds play in tune or can make a sufficient "crow"-like noise.
Quadruple reed instruments have four reeds, two on top and two on bottom. Examples of this include an archetypal instrument from India, the shehnai, as well as the pi from Thailand, and the Cambodian sralai. Having four reeds instead of two produces a very different tone and set of harmonics.
There are two types of free reeds: framed and unframed. Framed free reeds are used on ancient East Asian instruments such as the Chinese shēng and Japanese shō, ancient Southeast Asian instruments like the Laotian khene, and modern European instruments such as the harmonium or reed organ (consisting of reed pipes), harmonica, concertina, bandoneón, accordion, and Russian bayan. The reed is made from cane, willow, brass or steel, and is enclosed in a rigid frame. The pitch of the framed free reed is fixed.
The ancient bullroarer is an unframed free reed made of a stone or wood board tied to a rope that is swung around through the air to make a whistling sound. Another primitive unframed free-reed instrument is the leaf (the bilu), used in some traditional Chinese music ensembles. A leaf or long blade of grass is stretched between the sides of the thumbs and tensioned slightly by bending the thumbs to change the pitch. The tone can be modified by cupping the hands to provide a resonant chamber.
Most woodwind instrument reeds are made from cane, but there are synthetic reeds for clarinet, saxophone, double reed instruments, and bagpipes. Synthetic reeds are more durable and do not need to be moistened prior to playing, but many players consider them to have inferior tone [ citation needed ].
Recently, synthetic reeds have been made from synthetic polymer compounds,and from a combination of cane and synthetics.
The dizi, a Chinese transverse flute, has a distinctive kind of reed (a di mo), which is made from a paper-like bamboo membrane.
Musicians originally crafted reeds from cane using simple tools, a time-consuming and painstaking process. Specialized tools for cutting and trimming reeds by hand reduce the time needed to finish a reed. Today, nearly all single-reed instrument players buy manufactured reeds, though many adjust them by shaving or sanding. Some professionals make single reeds from blanks, but this is time-consuming and can require expensive equipment. Among double reed players, advanced and professional players typically make their own reeds, while beginners and students often buy reeds, either from their teachers or from commercial sources.
The playing characteristics of cane reeds are susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity.
Manufacturers produce reeds in different strengths, indicated by a number (most commonly 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5).The strength is determined by a machine that presses against the vamp (the part that includes the tip and the "heart" just behind the tip) of the reed and determines how stiff the reed is. The machine separates the reeds according to hardness. Individual reeds graded with the same strength/hardness will vary in their playing characteristics. Sections of a reed that is too hard can be adjusted using blades, scrapers, or abrasives.
Musical theatre orchestras call for woodwind players to each play several different instruments from the single-reed, flute, and double-reed families. In this context, these players are commonly referred to as "reed players". An individual part may call for only one or two instruments, or many more (the "Reed 3" part in Bernstein's West Side Story calls for piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor and baritone saxophones).
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that plays music written in the bass and tenor clefs, and occasionally the treble. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band, and chamber music literature. It is known for its distinctive tone colour, wide range, variety of character, and agility. The modern bassoon exists in two forms; Buffet and Heckel systems. One who plays a bassoon of either system is called a bassoonist.
The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments. It has a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight, cylindrical tube with an almost cylindrical bore, and a flared bell. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.
Embouchure or lipping is the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument. This includes shaping the lips to the mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument or the mouthpiece of a brass instrument. The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche, 'mouth'. Proper embouchure allows instrumentalists to play their instrument at its full range with a full, clear tone and without strain or damage to their muscles.
The oboe is a type of double reed woodwind instrument. Oboes are usually made of wood, but may also be made of synthetic materials, such as plastic, resin or hybrid composites. The most common oboe plays in the treble or soprano range. A soprano oboe measures roughly 65 cm long, with metal keys, a conical bore and a flared bell. Sound is produced by blowing into the reed at a sufficient air pressure, causing it to vibrate with the air column. The distinctive tone is versatile and has been described as "bright". When the word oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the bass oboe, the cor anglais, or oboe d'amore.
Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. Common examples include flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. The main distinction between these instruments and other wind instruments is the way in which they produce sound. All woodwinds produce sound by splitting the air blown into them on a sharp edge, such as a reed or a fipple. Despite the name, a woodwind may be made of any material, not just wood. Common examples include brass, silver, cane, as well as other metals such as gold and platinum. The saxophone, for example, though made of brass, is considered a woodwind because it requires a reed to produce sound. Occasionally, woodwinds are made out of earthen materials, especially ocarinas.
Hornbostel–Sachs or Sachs–Hornbostel is a system of musical instrument classification devised by Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs, and first published in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie in 1914. An English translation was published in the Galpin Society Journal in 1961. It is the most widely used system for classifying musical instruments by ethnomusicologists and organologists. The system was updated in 2011 as part of the work of the Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) Project.
An aerophone is a musical instrument that produces sound primarily by causing a body of air to vibrate, without the use of strings or membranes, and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.
The Great Highland bagpipe is a type of bagpipe native to Scotland. It has acquired widespread recognition through its usage in the British military and in pipe bands throughout the world.
Reed is a common name for several tall, grass-like plants of wetlands.
Overblowing is a technique used while playing a wind instrument that causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one primarily through the manipulation of the supplied air rather than by a fingering change or the operation of a slide. Depending on the instrument, and to a lesser extent the player, overblowing may involve a change in the air pressure, in the point at which the air is directed, or in the resonance characteristics of the chamber formed by the mouth and throat of the player. In some instruments, overblowing may also involve the direct manipulation of the vibrating reed(s), and/or the pushing of a register key while otherwise leaving fingering unaltered. With the exception of harmonica overblowing, the pitch jump is from one vibratory mode of the reed or air column, e.g., its fundamental, to an overtone. Overblowing can be done deliberately in order to get a higher pitch, or inadvertently, resulting in the production of a note other than that intended.
The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor and the alto are the two most commonly used saxophones. The tenor is pitched in the key of B♭ (while the alto is pitched in the key of E♭), and written as a transposing instrument in the treble clef, sounding an octave and a major second lower than the written pitch. Modern tenor saxophones which have a high F♯ key have a range from A♭2 to E5 (concert) and are therefore pitched one octave below the soprano saxophone. People who play the tenor saxophone are known as "tenor saxophonists", "tenor sax players", or "saxophonists".
A double reed is a type of reed used to produce sound in various wind instruments. In contrast with a single reed instrument, where the instrument is played by channeling air against one piece of cane which vibrates against the mouthpiece and creates a sound, a double reed features two pieces of cane vibrating against each other. The term double reeds can also refer collectively to the class of instruments which use double reeds. The timbre of a single and double reed instrument is related to the harmonic series but only including the odd harmonics, due to air column modes canceling out the even harmonics. This may be compared to the timbre of a square wave.
The term double clarinet refers to any of several woodwind instruments consisting of two parallel pipes made of cane, bird bone, or metal, played simultaneously, with a single reed for each. Commonly, there are five or six tone holes in each pipe, or holes in only one pipe while the other acts as a drone, and the reeds are either cut from the body of the instrument or created by inserting smaller, slit tubes into the ends of the pipes. The player typically uses circular breathing.
A bagpipe practice chanter is a double-reed woodwind instrument, principally used as an adjunct to the Great Highland bagpipe. As its name implies, the practice chanter serves as a practice instrument: firstly for learning to finger the different melody notes of bagpipe music, and to practice new music.
A single-reed instrument is a woodwind instrument that uses only one reed to produce sound. The very earliest single-reed instruments were documented in ancient Egypt, as well as the Middle East, Greece, and the Roman Empire. The earliest types of single-reed instruments used idioglottal reeds, where the vibrating reed is a tongue cut and shaped on the tube of cane. Much later, single-reed instruments started using heteroglottal reeds, where a reed is cut and separated from the tube of cane and attached to a mouthpiece of some sort. By contrast, in a double reed instrument, there is no mouthpiece; the two parts of the reed vibrate against one another. Reeds are traditionally made of cane and produce sound when air is blown across or through them. The type of instruments that use a single reed are clarinets and saxophone. The timbre of a single and double reed instrument is related to the harmonic series but only including only the odd harmonics due to air column modes canceling out the even harmonics. This may be compared to the timbre of a square wave.
Vandoren is a manufacturer of mouthpieces, reeds, and accessories for the clarinet and saxophone families.
The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not. The characteristics of a mouthpiece and reed can play a significant role on the sound of the instrument.
Reed aerophones is one of the categories of musical instruments found in the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification. In order to produce sound with these Aerophones the player's breath is directed against a lamella or pair of lamellae which periodically interrupt the airflow and cause the air to be set in motion.
A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into a mouthpiece set at or near the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of the effective length of the vibrating column of air. In the case of some wind instruments, sound is produced by blowing through a reed; others require buzzing into a metal mouthpiece, while yet others require the player to blow into a hole at an edge, which splits the air column and creates the sound.