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Which is best – cane or plastic bassoon reeds?

April 11th, 2018

Double Reed Facebook poll with 433 votes: Which is best – cane or plastic bassoon reeds?

A simple question. So many opinions.

We held a poll on our Facebook page the other day, asking bassoonists to vote in favour of cane or plastic bassoon reeds. The results were very interesting, so we thought we would share them here.

With 433 votes before it ended, and with voters from all around the world, the poll has generated lots of debate and perhaps proves what we all already knew – that reeds are very close to the hearts of all bassoonists.

We worry about them, fuss over them, and search for that holy grail: a reed which is durable, stable, versatile, with great dynamic range, easy to play and never lets us down.

433 bassoonists voted, 95% in favour of cane bassoon reeds

433 bassoonists have voted, and the overwhelming preference is for cane reeds – 411 against 22 (95% for cane and 5% for plastic).

We did guess that cane may come out on top, but the overwhelming vote in favour of cane is surprising given that quite a few professionals use plastic and some swear by them.

It may be the price differential (nine or ten to one in favour of cane reeds) or the fact that most bassoonists have not tried plastic which sways the result so much in favour of cane.

It is clear, despite the advances in plastic reeds over the years, that cane is going to be the staple material for most bassoonists for plenty of time yet.

The debate generated is perhaps best summarised by Richard Bobo, a bassoonist, contrabassoonist and double reed teacher in the USA:

“I've heard people that sound much better on synthetic reeds than I do on my cane reeds. I've also heard people that sound awful on great cane reeds. What I've yet to hear is someone that (in my estimation) sounds better on top-notch synthetic reeds than they would on top-notch cane reeds. However, the fact that there is even room for debate here is evidence of how much progress synthetic double reeds have made in a relatively short period of time.”

And Josep Tatay, Bassoon soloist at the Balearic Islands Symphony Orchestra, further highlights the nuances of bassoon reed selection, which I think broadens the debate beyond our fairly reductive (albeit informative) ‘yes or no’ poll.

“I can't play Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel or Stravinsky with the same reed. For me, it's a question of different colours...”

 Article Author: Martin Ludlow, In-House Bassoon Specialist and Director at Double Reed Ltd.