Last spring I found myself in a conundrum, experiencing something which many bassoonists are all too familiar - reed inconsistency.
Living in Rochester, New York means one thing - unpredictable weather. For example, in April 2016 I awoke to a 30 degrees and a foot of snow just hours before my doctoral recital. This year’s April (2017) recital, the temperatures were over 70 degrees. The weather’s constant fluctuations (temperatures/humidity) wreaks havoc on reeds; mine were having temper tantrums, being rather unresponsive with unpredictable pitch.
I had plenty of #reeds sitting on the sidelines, but each one quickly disappointed. In a minor panic, I started looking for other options including pulling out reeds I had purchased a few months prior - I was astonished.
These reeds, slightly harder and thicker than my normal style, lasted well through the up’s and down’s of the local climate. Whether practicing or rehearsing, they delivered beautiful tone and were most responsive. Thank goodness!
With this dependable new option, my stress melted away and my recital performance was super. Best yet, I had found a knight-in-shining armor - the fantastic reed maker Maxwell Grube of Basso Vento Bassoon Reeds.
Basso Vento, which literally translates to 'Low Wind’, is a New York based bassoon reed company founded by Grube in 2016. He is an Eastman doctoral alumnus, a skilled reed-maker and developer of a superb product/service that is a boon to the industry. Typically, #BassoVento Bassoon Reeds sells three main reed styles, all of which come from FX SVH shape:
• Reed Blanks - Made from Gonzalez cane, the tip is untouched so a bassoonist can then personalize to their own preferences (the one that save the day!)
• Student Reeds - Also made from Gonzalez, it has a thicker scrape with a warm tone that is easy to play on
• Pro Reeds - Made from Danzi cane, the tone is resonant and flexible to help with nuances and dynamic control
Should these options not suit your specific needs, Grube also works with customers on special, customized orders! When I asked him why he decided to take on this unique option, he responded:
“While many successful reed makers sell a standard template, as I do myself, Basso Vento Bassoon Reeds also provides the choice of materials, reed shapes, and the difference of student and pro reed styles. In truth, I often view the field of reed making—and bassoon playing in general—to be somewhat rigid in the face of our changing musical world. With developments in instrument design, bigger concert halls, and demanding new repertoire, our reeds must reflect and ably meet these challenges. Thus, Basso Vento offers a variety of reed solutions for the modern bassoonist. I designed Basso Vento around the premise that drives much of my own bassoon reed processes: bassoonists of all levels should have a reed that responds well, plays in tune, and produces a desirable tone quality (whatever that may be to the individual player).”
Grube’s personal, hands-on approach speaks to his interest in sharing valuable information. In addition to providing quality reeds, Basso Vento Bassoon Reeds is becoming a strong pedagogical resource for reed-making as Grube aims “to share the ideas I have developed to the bassoon community and wider musical world around me.”
The website, which by the way makes the concept of making reeds look sexy and inviting, goes into great detail listing the tools he uses, providing tips on maintenance, and explaining cane testing methodology. The site also hosts a blog where Grube shares updates on eco-friendly products and recently found improvements! If you find yourself having any questions about his reeds or the reed-making process, simply post a comment on his Facebook page and Grube will welcome the chance to start a discussion, no matter what level reed maker you might be.
After exploring Grube’s resources, I was inspired to incorporate a method I haven’t tried in awhile - cane hardness testing. Chatting with Grube about his process provided some further guidance and I started being more judicious on my cane selections. The result? My reeds have not only lasted a lot longer, but have been much more durable and reliable across the board. Even after 10 years of making reeds, there was room to improve upon my style. I owe him one for assisting me in this exploration.
Even though I am now much more satisfied with my reeds, I still have a small stash of Basso Vento Bassoon Reeds for “in-a-pinch” moments for either myself or my students.
So, whether you are a professional with a busy performance schedule incompatible with the time commitment of reed-making, a learner still developing and discovering the detailed process, or someone just boarding the reed-making train, I highly recommend checking out Basso Vento Bassoon Reed’s. The long-lasting, high-quality of the reeds, the descriptions of methodology, and the communicative nature of Grube makes this service an invaluable resource to the bassoon community.