May, 2010 | Clarinet Reed Making

Archive for May, 2010

60+ year old cane

A few days ago I was given a tube of cane by a friend of mine. He told me that he’d only tell me what type of cane it was after I made a few reeds with it. I made a few reeds with the cane last night. It was from a good tube, very straight and fairly thick walled. The two reeds I made were both on the hard side, but had a good sound and response. I was impressed enough with the results that I gave him a call right away to find out more.

As it turns out that tube was from a batch of cane used by Simeon Bellison….in the 1940s! Simeon Bellison the principle clarinetist of the New York Phil from 1920-1948…and apparently, a reed maker.

There is often a lot of speculation as to whether the age of the reed affects the playing quality. Some players maintain that older is better, while others speculate that cane improves with age until a certain point(let’s say 10 years) and then declines. In my opinion this issue will probably never be settled, there are simply too many variables and subjective preferences to definitively say one way or the other. In this case, the origin of the cane is unknown, so it isn’t possible to compare it to more recent years(if in fact it is still being grown.) Cane from the same region can vary from year to year due to growing conditions. So even when you can directly compare aged and non aged cane from the same region, there may be other factors at play that affect the quality.

Bellison’s cane certainly still makes good sounding reeds. If it was still being sold, I would buy a pound or two to experiment further, but I guess I’ll be sticking with RDG for the time being.