My doubling bag

November 10, 2008

Today I found myself in the embarrassing situation of arriving at a rehearsal, contrabassoon in tow, without a single contrabassoon reed. Luckily the problem was easily solved—the reeds were literally just a few moments away, and I didn’t miss a note of rehearsal.

The problem, of course, is that the contra is a university-owned instrument, used by several student bassoonists, and so I don’t like to leave my reeds in the case. I just keep them in my bassoon case, with my bassoon reeds, and usually this works out fine since it’s rare that I go anywhere with the contra unless I have my bassoon along, too. But on the rare occasion that it happens, like today, I can easily forget to bring the reeds with me.

A number of years ago, when I started to get really serious about the doubling thing, I decided I needed a bag in which to keep my non-instrument-specific stuff. For example, in prior years as a dedicated alto saxophonist, I kept my accessories in my saxophone case: a metronome, a tube of cork grease, and so forth. When my instrument cases began to multiply, I found myself sometimes without an accessory that I needed. Buying more tubes of cork grease isn’t a big deal, but multiple metronomes can turn into real money for a college student. So I invested in a cheap messenger-type bag.

In my instrument cases, I keep things that I use for that instrument only. So my clarinet case has my clarinet reeds, a clarinet swab, a clarinet reed trimmer, clarinet tuning rings, a couple of extra barrels, and that’s it. In my bag, I keep a metronome, tuner, some emergency repair items, a few reed tools, and cork grease. I also keep all the sheet music for my current practicing and gig projects in there, mostly because I like to keep my instrument cases compact rather than buying larger cases with sheet music pockets. So, whatever rehearsal or gig I’m running off to, I always grab my bag along with whatever instruments are coming along.

One weakness of this system manifested itself today in the brief contrabassoon reed crisis. If I owned my own contra, I would keep my reeds in the case. But I don’t, so the reeds currently cohabitate with my bassoon reeds. My oboe reed case also has English horn and oboe d’amore reeds in it. I’ve also got a stash of baritone saxophone reeds and reeds for the larger clarinets. I could possibly keep all those in my bag—that way I would always be sure I had them. But who wants to carry around oboe d’amore reeds for years on the slim chance of playing a borrowed d’amore again? Clearly, I’m going to have to buy a contrabassoon, an English horn, a d’amore, a bari, and some big clarinets so that my reeds will have permanent homes.

Another issue is that when I’m on my way to a gig with a saxophone case in each hand and several smaller woodwinds slung over my shoulders (case covers with shoulder straps are essential for a doubler!), I’ve got an additional bag to lug around, with lots of things in it that I may not really need for the situation.

For now, I’m putting the contrabassoon reeds into the bag, since contra is on the docket through December for sure, and likely through spring. The d’amore reeds will have to continue to bunk with the oboe and English horn reeds until further notice.

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