ReedCast™ scientific reed forecasts on Alexa

I was hoping to announce this a week ago, on the anniversary of the ReedCast™’s debut, April 1, 2015,but things got a little delayed. Anyway, you can now get your guaranteed-accurate, highly scientific ReedCast™ on your Alexa device. Check it out!

You can, of course, still get your classic ReedCast™ on the web.

Reedcast™ version 2.0

A couple of years ago I introduced my Reedcast™ tool on this site, which uses my proprietary software code to predict reed quality for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone based on environmental factors:

I have spent the past few months compiling and studying as much research as I could gather about environmental factors’ effects on woodwind reeds, and developing an algorithm to process this information into reed quality “forecasts.” It’s not perfect, of course, but so far I have found it to do a surprisingly satisfactory job.

Today I’m pleased to announce the release of version 2.0. Reedcast™ is now more accurate than ever before, and has a polished new look as well. Go try it out, and have a great reed day!

Reedcast™ version 2.0

Follow @woodwindtips on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter (@woodwindninja) you know I have not been a terribly active tweeter, mostly just auto-tweets of my newest blog posts. But I have started up an additional account, @woodwindtips, which I encourage you to check out for several-times-per-day tips on woodwind playing. Enjoy!


Introducing ReedCast™: scientific woodwind reed quality forecasting

I’m pleased to announce a new tool available on this site. Woodwind players know that the way a reed plays is subject to factors like elevation, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. There’s never a guarantee that a reed will play the same way today as it did yesterday. While break-in methods or storage systems may help mitigate some of this, being forearmed with as much information as possible is key to consistent reed performance.

I have spent the past few months compiling and studying as much research as I could gather about environmental factors’ effects on woodwind reeds, and developing an algorithm to process this information into reed quality “forecasts.” It’s not perfect, of course, but so far I have found it to do a surprisingly satisfactory job.

So, I built a web application, ReedCast™, around it. It is rough around the edges but pretty simple to use: you select your instrument (oboe/EH, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone) and your location. ReedCast™ uses your location to retrieve elevation and current weather conditions. Then you press the “Go!” button, and ReedCast™ does its thing.

Go try it out! If you are interested, you can also check out the science behind the forecasting algorithm (warning: technical, with math).

Report: NNFA Conference, Southeastern Region, 2014

I’m back from the outstanding NNFA regional conference, where I spent the week rubbing shoulders (or should I say noses?) with over 700 very fine musicians from the Southeastern US.

I gave a brief presentation on my Fingering Diagram Builder and its potential applications to the instrument’s pedagogy. I think that’s an interesting problem, considering, well, you know, and I fielded some questions on the topic and got some excellent input.

Photo, Pierre-Alain Dorange
Photo, Pierre-Alain Dorange

But mostly I was there to learn, and learn I did. I attended workshops on vibrato, Baroque ornamentation, nasal hygiene, and building a private studio. I also audited several masterclasses, and, of course, attended fabulous evening concerts. Thursday was “jazz night” at a downtown club, and I worked up the nerve to take a few choruses on “Donna Lee” during the open jam portion. Of course, I usually play jazz on saxophone, so this was definitely outside my comfort zone!

The vendor exhibits were a conference hotspot, as usual, and I must have tried several dozen instruments. The usual makers and retailers were there, but I was also very surprised to see Conn-Selmer; they are apparently entering the market in a big way, and held a fancy reception to celebrate their new line. I tried a few and I think they have a solid intermediate-level “horn” which should do pretty well if they price it reasonably.

I hadn’t planned to buy an instrument, but I fell in love with this model from Trophy and ended up bringing it home. The one pictured has a red finish, but as I am fairly conservative about my instruments’ appearance I picked out a classy purple. I find that the purple has an appealing depth of tone but doesn’t lose anything in terms of response.

I hope to see some of you at the national conference next year in Des Moines. Last year’s national had attendance of almost 4,000 and some really incredible concert headliners. Join the National Nose Flute Association

Review: Vandoren “Maestro” score-marking pencils

I am always pleased to hear from companies that want feedback on their products. And as you regular readers know, I try to be as thorough and honest as I can in my reviews. A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a Vandoren representative at a conference, and he offered to let me bring home some samples of a new product line for review. These haven’t shown up on Vandoren’s website or social media yet (though they do seem to have appeared on the Woodwind and Brasswind, a little prematurely!), so as far as I know this is an exclusive scoop. Update: WWBW has pulled the product listing. Update #2: read to the end for details on getting a free sample!

Vandoren has been doing some innovative things lately, and their new line of Maestro score-marking pencils is no exception. These are pencils specifically designed for the needs of the performing musician, and this focus is apparent in every detail. The pencils have a nice heft and balance to them, which the Vandoren rep tells me has to do with the hand-selected juniper wood harvested in the French Var Valley.

Click for larger
Click for larger

The premium erasers are some of the best I’ve used for score erasures—easy on valuable sheet music while removing the most stubborn pencil marks, with almost no smearing. They are currently available only in medium-soft, but my Vandoren source tells me they are “working on a medium-hard eraser, and a hard eraser geared toward professionals.”

But, of course, the real question is: how do they write? I’m happy to report that, when it comes to writing, these pencils have exceeded my expectations in every respect. The “lead” (graphite, actually) is, I understand, a proprietary formula designed for smooth, even writing on a variety of papers. But this is only part of the story.

My Vandoren source tells me that the real “secret” is the collars—the little metal ferrules that hold the erasers in place. While some “researchers” have suggested that the collar has little actual effect on the pencil’s writing characteristics, years of experience accumulated by some of the most respected woodwind players in the world say otherwise. And so I was not at all surprised to find that each collar has its own unique, shall we say, signature.

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Breaking: Rico to produce bizarre double-tipped reeds

Okay, folks, hang onto your hats: I have stumbled onto what appears to be some truly weird news about things going on at Rico Reeds.

I use Google Alerts to keep track of lots of woodwind-related topics on the web. Most days they don’t turn up anything especially interesting, but this morning I awoke to an alert of a new patent, just filed by Rico. Check it out here. [UPDATE: The PDF appears to have been removed from Google Patents. Rico must have connections!] [UPDATE #2: I managed to retrieve a partial copy of it from my web browser cache. Here it is.] It appears to describe double-ended clarinet and saxophone reeds. Yes, you read that correctly.

I assumed at first that the filing of this patent must be some kind of odd business practice required by Rico’s legal department. Maybe Rico held a brainstorming session on new products, and patents got filed on every idea, no matter how ridiculous, just in case.

But, out of curiosity, I Googled some of the other patents referenced in the PDF. And one of the patents listed as related to “specialized adaptations to existing machinery” used in reed manufacture turned up something surprising. Check out the search results, for the patent number in the domain. [UPDATE: The single web document that previously showed up in this search appears to have been removed or otherwise secured. The document appears to be an archived email message, intended for internal use within Rico (located at the subdomain “”, now inaccessible). I have retrieved the document from my web browser cache. The formatting is lost, but it is still legible. Read it here. I have removed the names of Rico employees.] Here is a summary, based on my best guesses from the document:

  • “Duality” appears to be either a brand name or an internal code name for the double-tipped reeds.
  • Conversions of some existing machines to produce double-tipped reeds seem to be in process already.
  • “Duality” is due to launch (as in a new product release?) in “late 2012.”
  • The email refers to 15 “units” in all, with 12 being converted. I don’t know if this represents all of Rico’s reedmaking machines; if so, it seems they are converting 80% of their production capacity to Duality, with 20% to continue producing “legacy” products. If this is case, Rico is betting big on the Duality reeds.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. Let me know what you think in the comments.

[BIG UPDATE: Rico has responded to my blog post with a “press release” on their Facebook page. Apparently somebody is working over the weekend. Check it out here!!]

A farewell to woodwind playing

Well, it has been a great ride studying, teaching, and performing on the instruments of the woodwind family. Thanks everyone for your support here at

I’ll leave this website up for now, but I hope you will all check out my new project:

Bret Pimentel, brass

New endorsement deal

I am pleased to announce that, after several weeks of exciting and productive talks, I have signed on for an endorsement and development deal with an up-and-coming reed manufacturer. Here’s the official press release:


April 1, 2010

Bret Pimentel Signs On As First FLAVOREEDS™ Artist

FORT WAYNE, Indiana.—FLAVOREEDS™ Flavored Clarinet and Saxophone Reeds, Inc., is pleased to announce the first in what it hopes will be a series of “fruit”ful relationships with professional woodwind players in developing and promoting its new professional line of premium cane instrument reeds.

The first FLAVOREEDS™ Artist to join the roster is multiple woodwind performer and educator Bret Pimentel. Dr. Pimentel has performed with such acts as Dave Brubeck, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the O’Jays, and is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Delta State University. He is an experienced performer on all the major woodwind instruments, and expects to bring this expertise to bear in consulting on new and current product lines.

“As soon as I made a verbal commitment to the company, I forwarded them some thoughts about their new Papaya-Mango Bass Saxophone Reeds™,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview. “I found them to be a little overpowering in the papaya department, with not enough mango. I’m working closely with FLAVOREEDS™ to better balance the flavors.”

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