Charles Student Bassoon Reed Review

The following review is for Charles Student Bassoon Reeds. Brian Charles sent me two bassoon reeds for free in exchange for my blog review. All opinions are my own (or the unbiased opinions of my students). My goal with these reeds reviews is to describe the reeds I feature as thoroughly as possible so that you, a bassoonist with a different instrument, elevation, embouchure, etc., can decide if these reeds are right for you.

Charles Double Reeds offers many different bassoon reed options. This is a review of their student reed in medium strength. The reeds came in jewel cases/boxes. On the underside of the case is a label that reads “Soak in warm water not more than two minutes. Adjust opening by squeezing tip when wet.”

Charles student bassoon reed review

The intended market for these reeds is school age students without a lot of playing experience. There is a helpful YouTube video made especially about these reeds with tips for students. In the video, Mr. Charles mentions that sometimes a reed won’t fit on a bocal properly, and that they will be making a video about that soon. In the meantime, students are told to talk to their teachers about it.

Well, as the teacher who is often put in this situation, let’s talk about what I tried to do to remedy that problem. One of the reeds I received had a bocal fit problem. It went too far up the bocal (7/16 of an inch), wasn’t round, and allowed air to leak out the back of the reed. I put the reed on my mandrel (a Reiger forming mandrel, which I highly recommend) and tried to reshape it some by mashing it with my pliers, but that didn’t work. I couldn’t ream it because the reed was already going to far up my bocal. I tried to coat the inside with paraffin wax in order to create a seal around the bocal (which usually works), but this reed was too wonky. I couldn’t get it to stop leaking.2016-01-23 141703 NIKON D5100 0957 Master

*Now let’s pause for a minute.* The mass reed manufacturers (Jones, Emerald, Eastman, etc.) produce reeds with bad bocal fits all the time. I personally think if they used the proper mandrel then they wouldn’t have that problem, but I’ve never tried to mass produce reeds, so I may be missing something. With that said, when you get a lemon from one of these mass manufacturers, you have to eat the cost of the reed. That’s not the case with Charles Double Reeds. Their reeds are guaranteed. From their website:

Our reeds are used by pros and students in over 140 countries. However – they are not right for everyone. If the reeds do not work well for you – we take them back! Return the reeds within 30 days and we’ll replace them, adjust them or refund the purchase price. You will not find a better, more comprehensive guarantee anywhere.

That kind of guarantee is very rare. Perhaps one-of-a-kind. Had I purchased these reeds, I definitely would have sent back the one that didn’t fit on my bocal and been glad that I had the option to send it back.

With all of the said, the other reed I received fit on the bocal to 5/16 of an inch with no leaking and no other bocal fit problems. Yay!

Charles student bassoon reed tip

These reeds responded well in the low register. The middle octave played well, with the exception of a sagging E with both reeds. The upper register was good until I got to high A. I could only get high A and above to come out one out of every three times I tried it. This was the case with both reeds.

As with most of the other reeds I have reviewed thus far, these reeds were flat. I blame my altitude. Here are the results of the intonation test:

Reed #1

  • D in the staff: 20 cents flat
  • A at the top of the staff: 20 cents flat
  • Low F: 10 cents flat

Reed #2

  • D in the staff: 5 cents flat
  • A at the top of the staff: 20 cents flat
  • Low F: perfectly in tune

2016-01-23 141719 NIKON D5100 0960 Master

I spent nearly an hour adjusting these reeds. My main goal was to correct the sagging E problem and bring them up to pitch. I was unsuccessful. The trimming that would have been necessary to keep the Es from sagging would have made the reed too short. I came to the conclusion that these reeds don’t work for my playing situation.

Had I purchased these reeds, I would have sent them back to Charles Double Reed and requested student reeds of the medium hard strength. I think the extra cane would have helped a lot at my high altitude. (Although I have not returned reeds, I have returned GSP cane to the company before, and it was an easy process.)

Charles Double Reed offers student reeds for $16 and pro reeds for $22-28 each. Shipping starts at $7.95 and goes up according to the amount of your total order. These reeds ship from New Hampshire. Be sure to sign up for their email list, as there are often sales and free shipping offers. Last year I got a whole pile of bassoon CDs for $2-4 each.

I would love to hear others’ experience with these reeds, particularly if you live near sea level! Please comment below.

I tested these reeds on February 6, 2016 in Provo, Utah (elevation 4,551 ft). The temperature inside was 70° F, humidity 41%, and the barometer was steady. I played them on a Fox 201 bassoon with a Heckel CD 1 XL bocal.

4 thoughts on “Charles Student Bassoon Reed Review

  1. Reply
    Paul - March 30, 2016

    These reeds also did not work for me. I tried them in a quest to find a reed I liked and I initially liked them, and ordered them a couple of times, but they didn’t last and worse, I had problems with a sagging E and C-sharp. Finally decided they weren’t for me.

    1. Reply
      Jessi Vandagriff - March 30, 2016

      Do you mind saying which state you live in? Or your elevation? I’m curious if the sagging E problem is universal, or just at higher altitudes.

      1. Paul - March 30, 2016

        I’m in Lynchburg, central Virginia at about 800 ft elevation. I tried them through the fall and winter, so conditions varied.

      2. Jessi Vandagriff - March 30, 2016

        That is good information. The more reeds I try, the more I realize that a good reed is a good reed. Elevation doesn’t matter that much. If I have five good reeds, I might like a different reed better at 5000 ft than I do at 800 ft, but they will all still work at every elevation.

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