Trevor Robinson suggests that a modern oboe reed could work, or that a bagpipe reed can be experimented with. I already knew that a bassoon reed did work, but guessed that it might be a bit "heavyweight" to be ideal for a soprano instrument. Also, these reeds are quite expensive, relative to the rest of the shawm.
So I splashed out $30 or so for an oboe reed and fitted it to the shawn. What a disappointment! All I could get was a high squeak, that was not affected by the presence or absence of the shawm tube. I surmised that there was some acoustic mismatch between the reed assembly and the shawn bore that prevented the shawm resonance from controlling the reed.
- Modern oboe reed - not very effective.
- Bagpipe chanter reed - serviceable, and relatively cheap.
- Bassoon reed - quite a good sound, but not at all cheap!
On the extreme right is the staple I made to take the bassoon reed. The body is an offcut from a brass door hinge, rounded down in the drill-press. There is a brass washer and a tapered tube of copper shim soldered to the end of it.
The oboe reed on the left has an inbuilt staple, but there is too much transition between the internal tube and the inside of the shawm, which is about the diameter of the cork outer.
The bagpipe reed has a small internal staple.
The bassoon reed on the right has no internal staple, but seats on the tapered tube of the staple when it is fitted in the shawm.
Budgetary constraints recommended that the the bagpipe reed should be made to work if at all possible.
The body of the staple has some clear tape wrapped around it to make it fit the body of the shawm. This is not very satisfactory for repeated insertion and removal, and might be replaced with some nice arrangement of cork, one day.
And so to tuning it!