Friday, January 1, 2010

First Shawm - About Reeds

Up to this point, everything has been relatively straightforward woodworking. However, before I could go much further, the matter of the reed had be resolved, and I was rather out of my comfort zone.

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.

These are the reeds that I tried. From left these are:

  • 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.

A close up of the reeds from the other end.

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.

Here's another staple I made to suit this bagpipe chanter reed. Not a wonderful shot of the inside of the new staple, but it sort of shows the fairly uniform taper inward to where the reed sits. This view is looking up the staple from the inside of the shawm toward the reed.

And here is the bagpipe reed fitted to the staple.

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.

The reed and staple fitted to the shawm.

And so to tuning it!

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