How to Replace a Broken Bassoon Reed Wire

Broken wire? Here’s how to fix it.

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Required wire and tools


Having the right kind of wire is essential. You cannot go down to the craft store and buy any old kind of wire. Amazon isn’t even a good option. You will get the right stuff if you buy it from a double reed supplier. It needs to be:

Soft Round Brass Wire

Soft round brass wire comes in different gauges (thicknesses). The higher the gauge, the thinner the wire. Most bassoonists use 22 gauge soft round brass wire. The word soft is important. (Some teachers like 21 gauge and others like 23 gauge. Check with your teacher.) Here are some links to proper wire:


Click the plus signs below to learn more about these essential tools.

Any old set of pliers will get the job done. Go out to the tool shed and poke around. You can probably find something that will work. If you are willing to invest $8–30, then head to the hardware store (or Amazon) and look for a pair of lineman’s pliers. Lineman’s pliers have a blunt end. It’s easier to grasp wires with a blunt end than it is with needle nose pliers. The 5–6-inch-long ones are good because they fit well in a bassoon case. You can also get fancy pliers made specifically for bassoon reed making. They are available at Midwest Musical ImportsForrests Music, and other double reed suppliers.

Holding Mandrel
If you put a wire on a reed without putting the reed on a holding mandrel, you run the risk of cinching the wire too tightly around the reed and deforming the tube of the reed. You also use a mandrel when you use a knife or a file (or sometimes sandpaper) to make adjustments to the blade of the reed. There are lots of mandrels available. You don’t need a fancy holding mandrel. I recommend the regular Fox holding mandrel.

How to Put the Wire on Your Reed

Tying wires takes a lot of practice. If you’re frustrated at first, stick with it. It becomes a lot easier with practice. Wires can be tightened in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Over 60% of bassoonists use a clockwise twist. Here is a video that shows how to put on a wire with a clockwise twist. (Skip to video.)

  • Make sure that you know the exact location this wire will go on your reed when it is tightened. Mark it on your reed with a pencil, if needed.
  • Put your reed on your mandrel.
  • Turn your reed so that any wires remaining on the reed are pointing up toward you.
  • Cut a length of wire 4 inches long.
  • Hold the wire behind the reed and line up the center of the wire with the pencil mark you made in step one.
  • Wrap the protruding parts of the wire around the front of the reed (make sure the wire coming from the left side is on top of (or above) the wire coming from the right side as you wrap the wire around).
  • Turn the reed over and fold the left wire over right wire again. Stop when the wires cross and create an X.
  • Pinch this X and twist the wires away from you (clockwise).
  • Keep twisting away from you until the wire is loosely twisted up.
  • Take your pliers and grasp the twisted wire. Pull the slack (stretchiness) out of the wire by pulling on the twisted wire firmly away (perpendicular) from the reed.
  • After you have pulled out the extra wire, then tighten the wire with the pliers by twisting clockwise until the twist of the wire is snug up to the reed.
  • Use the wire cutters on your pliers to trim the wire to about a third of an inch.

How to Know if Your Wire is Adjusted Properly

You will know if your wire is adjusted properly by checking two things.

  1. Can you wiggle the wire up and down after it is on your reed?
    1. If it’s the first wire, a tiny bit of wiggle is fine.
    2. If it’s the second wire and it wiggles at all, it is too loose.
  2. How is your tip opening? Is it too open? Too closed?

The brief slideshow below will take you through some examples of reed wires that have not been put on properly. Do you see any of the same issues with your reed wires?

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