After studying the process of making reeds from tube cane for years, on his own and with such renowned reed makers as Robert DiLutis and Stanley Hasty, Randall Paul certainly had a wealth of knowledge to share at his lecture Saturday morning. The former clarinet professor at Wright State University and current dean of the School of Music provided a hand-out outlining the steps to making reeds with the use of a knife, sand paper and the Reedual, and he demonstrated the last step of making a reed over the course of the one-hour period.
Paul stressed two habits for success with reed making: Avoid trying to make one reed, from start to finish, in one sitting. It is best to perform one step of the reed making process in one sitting, on several tubes of cane. Also, when working with sand paper, it is best for the cane to have been soaked and dried completely. When working with a blade, like that found in The Reed Machine equipment, it is best for the cane to be wet. This soaking and drying process actually breaks in the material and enables hand-made reeds to last for a few months as opposed to a few weeks with commercial reeds. In fact, Paul made making reeds from scratch sound like fun, mentioning that he frequently hosts reed-making parties where he and several students meet and work on large amounts of cane for a few hours at a time.
Paul recommended several distributors for buying tube cane, saying he’s never bought a batch of bad cane. Commercial reeds amount to about $2.50 – $3.00 apiece, but reeds can be made by hand for $0.50 apiece, which adds to the argument for purchasing the pricey equipment. Even though a Reedual runs for a whopping $1000 and The Reed Machine, a slightly more modest $675, the equipment pays for itself in a short amount of time.
The informative class concluded with Paul performing the last step of making a reed on the Reedual as the participants gathered around his worktable. Class members were surprised to learn that Paul leaves the corners of his reeds square rather than rounding them out with a reed clipper. Over all, the lecture was a thorough overview of the most efficient, cost-effective way to keep a steady supply of reeds readily available. Paul provided a convincing argument for the investment in making reeds by hand.
–Notes by Alaina Pritz
Alaina Pritz is a recent graduate from The University of Maryland and currently plays with The United State Air Force Band – Band of the Golden West.