I've been playing for roughly two months(love it, by the way!)... But unfortunately I really don't know how to tell when to switch to a new reed! Can the appearance of the reed give you a clue? Another problem I've run into is that I really don't know exactly how reed hardness works...I know the different hardness levels, and I know that the reeds are thicker with larger hardness, but how does the hardness of your reeds affect the way that you hit different notes?
In a very general way, a harder reed will hit the high notes easier, and a softer one will his the low notes easier; but this is a very general comment. Each reed is different and will perform differently for you. A good all-round reed is a jewel to find.
You should be using at least three reeds so that you can alternate them. A reed that you use every day will get soft and soggy very fast, but if you alternate them, those three can last for months, depending on how much you play on them. You will know when you need a new reed as the tone will change and get worse and you may feel that the reed is getting too soft. I often give reeds a long breather - weeks or months - and they then come back and perform well again. If you take good care of reeds and rinse them out after you play, they will last longer. I have some reeds which have lasted for years because I alternate about 10 reeds when I play.
Thanks, Drew! I've been playing for roughly 2 or 3 months, and I just switched from a medium to a medium hard. And, that general statement that you made seems true in this case: I can hit a double high C, but sometimes it's challenging to hit my D below the staff :P Do you have any advice, also, on how to be able to hit low notes loud and staccato? Because I'm not sure if everybody has this problem when they start out, but I'm seeming to have a hard time with it.
I have a question for you: why have you switched from a medium to a medium hard reed? Bassoon is not like clarinet, wherein one starts out on a very soft reed and advances to greater hardness with skill level. Most people play on a medium or medium soft reed, even professionals. There is lots more cane left on a medium hard reed, which is mainly sold that way so people can scrape them to their desired playing needs.
Good job picking the bassoon to play--a wise choice.
I just wanted to add that you can't always tell reed hardness by how thick the reed is. The hardness has to do with how porous the piece of cane, so the cane can be thick and spongy at the same time! Also, sometimes they are just mysteriously amazing or terrible reeds. I'm a professional bassoonist and play at peak times of the year around 8 hours per day. I've had reeds that will last through a week of concerts and only get better (but sometimes they LOOK terrible!), and yet others that start out great but fizzle into nothingness in a matter of hours.
It helps to be able to adjust reeds to your liking. Starting with pliers and a little sandpaper can do wonders!
Good luck learning the bassoon...it's an awesome instrument!
the reed hardness thing is hard to explain but i can explain about reed lives well wen the the thread is unwinding or if the upper and lower part of the reed start touching or are to close together then its time to get a new one
For longevity, circulating many reeds is fantastic. I recently took to letting my reeds dry before putting them away so they would not start "prematurely" rotting. If you are only playing on manufactured reeds, I would stay on a medium or even a medium-soft if you are playing band music in which you mostly serve as a bass instrument. The low D can be mysteriously troublesome even when you have a reed that you happen to love. If you are having trouble with your low notes speaking, it is a sign that your reed is thick in which case someone who adjusts their own reeds would scrape the channels.