The playing qualities of these reeds are far superior to, and easily distinguished from, those of the long-stapled reed. Above all, the Diderot reed does not squeak, one of the most annoying problems associated with the long-stapled reed. Expressivity no longer need be tempered by the terror of squeak. The Diderot reed also has a wider dynamic range, and its disarmingly soft low register is particularly impressive. The tone quality is generally more robust, if sometimes less focused, than that of the long-stapleg reed.
The Diderot as well as other short-stapled reeds also solve another frustration encountered when one uses the long-stapled reed. I have often wondered why so many baroque oboes have an identical defect, i.e. an unreliable middle D, D# and E; in fact, there are original instruments on which these notes will not respond at all when played with this reed. It is inconceivable that instrument-makers throughout Europe all made exactly the same mistake, especially one of such magnitude. Far more likely the long-stapled reed is the culprit, a contention supported by the fact that the reeds I have described play these notes securely, with no risk of squeaks.

I've only heard about Nora Post having made such reeds, and what she says about its fantastic qualities, through mechanical wave propagation appears to be just true. I want to encourage oboe players to go for this way of reed making because it promises a lot of good things:  a more sensitive reed, which means that your intentions while playing will become sound much easier. Further, a much clearer articulation and a richer sound.  And another one, not less important: I believe that this type of reeds will live much longer, for this kind of reeds, while being lighter to play on, will probably need to be thicker than regular reeds. I'm always looking for volunteers willing to make these "Diderot" reeds. You can ask Nora Post for advice, I'm sure she will be very glad to help you making Diderot reeds. You can find her here.

Let me explain a little experiment I did with bassoon, clarinet and saxophone reeds, because, while being so little, brings a lot of light on a new vision of how reeds work. It consisted in cutting the end of the reed in an angle of 45°, instead of the normal 90°.

Something like this:


The result of this was every time a much brighter sound, a clearer and easier articulation, and that less air pressure was needed in order to get the reed to work. It was not specially good, but that's now not important. What now is important is to realize the big influence that such a cut in such a place has on the reaction of the instrument. 

Mechanical wave propagation gives a new explanation of how reeds -and the whole instrument- work that explains the influence of such a cut in such place:
The reed vibrates at the tip. Those vibrations create mechanical waves that will propagate all along the reed. Those waves will get refracted into the staple or crook, or in the mouthpiece or directly into the instrument. The waves coming down the reed parallel to its longitudinal axe, when being reflected on a 45° surface, change their direction of 90°, which means that they get refracted into the crook or the mouthpiece and do not stay in the reed, getting it "clean" for the new coming waves that while playing are constantly produced in the reed. When the reed ends in a 90° surface, those waves coming down the reed get reflected back, staying in the reed much longer.
You will find more on this subject in the page "
New musical acoustics". 

Thinking that mechanical waves product of the vibration of the tip of the reed travel through the whole reed before they reach the crook, staple, or when that is the case, the instrument itself, the role of the carving
1 of the reed appears to be of critical importance: by carving the reed new surfaces are created, surfaces where mechanical waves will rebound on, modifying so their direction.

The next picture is a sketch of what could be a Diderot-type reed, picture which I got from Matthew Peaceman's website, american oboist, who unfortunately already passed away. His website is no longer online.


In the next picture I've marked two parts: the tip of the reed and a cut int the middle of the so called windows.


Following the principle of how mechanical waves travel through the matter I think that the reed should be in those two places as the next pictures show. Please don't take literally the thicknesses and angles of the pictures, just the idea.

  1 The tip

        This tip makes the tip of the reed able to vibrate, while making waves rebound right down towards the instrument.

  2 Transversal cut of the windows


The windows are to distribute those waves created at the tip all around the reed. The next picture shows what will happen to the waves rebounding on them:


If the windows are not there,


most of waves get to the instrument in a way like this,


being black where most of them will arrive, which is not necessarily bad, but I think that it suits better the idea when they arrive like this,


uniformly distributed all around the reed.

Further, it is said that ancient reeds were inner gouged so to be thinner at the tip of the blades, thicker at the bottom.


This helps waves to propagate towards the instrument, for the resulting shape of its profile is formed by opening straight lines: opening straight lines give waves at every rebound a more parallel trajectory to the longitudinal axe of the reed,

minimizing so the number of rebounds outside-inside of the blade .

I would try to cut the sides of the blades in such a way that they fit perfectly to each other, just as the feet of a bridge fit perfectly with the front of a violin, so that sound waves can get refracted from one blade to the other. 

Such a reed will probably have to be thicker than a modern one, for mechanical waves, when helped in their way make quicker the response of the reed, and its sound will have more overtones. So, being reeds in this matter the same as bridges, the thinner the reed is, the more overtones has the sound it will produce, and the thicker it is with more pressure must blow the player to make it vibrate.

A last consideration, this one concerning wires: a wire is a solid material, and by touching the reed mechanical waves get refracted into it, and this is not really needed. So I understand that, as it was in that time recommended, the less wires the better.


1 Carving is to the baroque reed what scraping is to the modern one, since I understand that baroque reeds should not be scraped but carved, for carving gives the cleanest surfaces. Scraping produces rough surfaces.



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