First Peek: Legere American Scrape Synthetic

Today, Legere posted images on their Facebook page and website of the prototype synthetic American scrape Oboe reed, along with an English Horn and Bassoon reed!  Here’s what they said:

Here is the first look at three of our double reed prototypes! All three are good, stable reeds that play very well in their current state. There are still improvements to make (both to manufacturing process and reed design) but we are excited to share some of the progress.

We are committed to releasing the new reeds as soon as possible, but it is critical that development and testing is not rushed. We will update you as development progresses but do not have estimated launch dates at this time.

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I reached out to Legere to see if I could snag a prototype, but they advised they aren’t ready to release them into the wild as yet.  But at least we have a glimpse of what the American scrape reed looks like, and that it indeed exists!

Legere Synthetic Oboe Reed – American

Coming soon!  I checked in with Legere Reeds Ltd. of Canada the other day to discover what the latest is on their synthetic oboe reed with the American scrape – they released a logoEuropean scrape last year – and they advised that it will be coming soon, like this year!  Last year, they were challenged in developing a double reed and this one in particular,  as it is a longer scrape than the Euro:

These reeds are manufactured in an entirely different way compared to the singles so while we were able to make them in the past, we could never do so in a way that was actually profitable. These developments were almost entirely ironed out by the time we released the oboe reed in June but there has still been a lot of work in making sure reeds are completely reproducible….(but) the foundation has been built for easy American Scrape development.

Today, Legere updated me about the American scrape reed through Messenger:

lot’s of progress! We are in testing and fine tuning right now. We could reasonably release the reed today with no other changes, but there are still improvements we’d like to make. It will almost certainly be announced in the summer, but there should be some prototype images published soon!

Legere also committed to send me a prototype for testing and review right here on Sacred Oboe!  It will be quite exciting to get this new reed and try it out.

Product Review: GruvGear Club Bag

I have to admit that I am very particular with regard to certain things, likely how my OCD manifests itself, so looking for the perfect gear bag has been a challenge.  My perfect bag has to fit my oboe case measuring 17 inches long, small accessories including an instrument stand, reed case, music, swabs, light, metronome, mic, and other personal items like glasses and wallet. I have tried many, many bags.  Some have carried my oboe case quite nicely, along with some accessories, but not my music.  Some have carried my music and accessories ably, but not my instrument.  Some are too small, others are too big.  And among pure oboe case manufacturers, there really isn’t one that makes a case that fits everything.  And yes, I did say beforehand that I tried a trumpet bag! So its been a search.

I’ve tried the Namba Gear Big Namba Studio Backpack, the Manhattan Portage Black Label Trinity Messenger, the Fusion Bags Premium Trumpet Gig Bag, and L.L. Bean’s Custom Boat & Tote bag, to name a few.  Most were problems of size; typically too small.  Notice that none of these bags identify as an oboe or woodwind bag.  And, I really wanted a backpacky style, that would make for an easier carry.  Enter the GruvGear Club Bag.

On first glance, you might think that the Club Bag is on the small side.  GruvGear, and Orange County, California-based company, describes it as “a jetsetter’s ultimate carry-on… first-class storage for all your tech and travel essentials.”  It was designed “to be the ideal travel bag also padded for gear.”  But it’s really so much more than that.  See the exterior and internal specifications below:


As you can see from the second image, the Club Bag comes configured with removable horizontal divider “shelves” that compartmentalize the bag into three compartments, the top “glove box” compartment, and two others.  These compartments perfectly fit GruvGear’s Bento Boxes, mini cases to further organize your stuff.  All of my gear including my oboe is readily accessible and in its own space, meaning you don’t have to unearth anything from being buried underneath other gear. The breathable air-mesh shoulder straps are padded and fully adjustable, and quite comfortable; I like to carry the bag on one shoulder and have done so for entire days comfortably.  Another feature which GruvGear created is their exclusive “ScanFly™ tethered laptop system” that is compatible with their optional laptop sleeves up to 15″ in size – all you do at the TSA checkpoint is simply fold out your laptop for scan, no having to remove it from your bag.  You’ll notice in my gear photo below that I make use of them for things like my metronome and cables.

The Club Bag is a very attractive bag, made in China and of 1680D heavy nylon, and was originally released in 2013. I chose the Elite Pewter color; GruvGear currently offers three color combinations, and I really would’ve liked the Limited Edition Red, but could not find it anywhere in stock.  I also removed the shelves and made the interior totally open so that my oboe case would fit, which it does snugly.  Here is my bag and most of the stuff I pile into it – excluding other personal items like wallet, cellphone, keys, glasses:

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My “stuff”

An so after many months of trial and error, my choice for carrying my $4000 oboe and all of its accessories is the GruvGear Club

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ScanFly Laptop System

Bag.  It’s durable, it’s not too heavy, it’s stylish (I might get a different color one day… lol), and, at $149, it’s not overly expensive, a bargain really.  Compare that price to $200 for the Namba Gear or $250 for the Fusion bag.  I highly recommend the GruvGear Club Bag for its versatility, protection, storage capacity and organization.  Get a GruvGear – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  Please also note that I was not reimbursed in any way for this review.

(Updated 2/19 to reflect manufacture/material)

New Oboist Book

Outside of Laila Storch’s book about the great late Tabuteau or Blair Tindall’s “Mozart in the Jungle,” there aren’t many tell-alls written by oboists. I’d say classically-trained, which is what Marcia Butler calls herself – and is – but is there any other kind of oboist? Besides myself?  Ah…. no.

theskinabovemyknee_600pxMarcia Butler, an oboist for 25 years in the wonderfully creative climate of New York, is releasing her book, “The Skin Above My Knee – A Memoir,” later this month. Reviewed in the New York Times, it details her relationship with her manipulative and abusive father, her foundation in oboe, and her career in 1970’s New York City.  It sounds like a great read, I’ve ordered it, and will provide a review at a later date.  Here is the link to Ms. Butler’s personal site.  Ms. Butler retired from playing in 2008 and is now an interior designer.

Product Review: Hercules Flute/Clarinet Stand

Yes, a Flute/Clarinet stand.  Hercules does not advertise an instrument stand specifically for oboe, but this is it and the one you want.  Period.

I just recently bought this instrument stand after having an accident with my Loree oboe; loreeobstand__04804-1340134262-1280-1280though not blaming it entirely, I do believe part of the problem was in using a flimsy plastic Loree oboe stand, which I have found to not be as secure and steady as I would like for my AK.  I did some research on other instrument stands on the net, including K&M, but felt the Hercules looked the most stable.  And it is.

The Hercules Model DS640BB comes with a telescoping velvet-covered peg which is advertised as for a clarinet or flute, but fits an oboe perfectly.  The fold-out legs are made of sturdy metal, and are extremely stable and I would argue completely prevent the stand from tipping over.ds640bb_1_hr

What I really like, however, is the peg that comes with the stand.  Because the peg is longer than most other stands, it provides added stability for you oboe while on the stand.  It has a snug fit to your oboe – the tip of the peg telescopes up and down – eliminating any sort of wobble whatsoever, and providing an extremely stable platform for your instrument.

The Hercules DS640BB is not expensive either.  You can purchase one at Midwest Musical Imports for only $31.00, well worth the price in protecting your valuable oboe investment.

The end to scraping? Synthetic Oboe Reeds

This past June, Legere Reeds Ltd. of  Canada introduced their very first synthetic reed for oboe.  legere-oboe-reed-unpackagedI first learned of it while at Youngstown State University for a week-long oboe intensive, got to take a look at it, but did not try it.  This first synthetic reed is modeled on the European short scrape, and is of a medium hard strength.  This currently is the only model available.

Back in June, excited at the prospect of not having to make reeds, I did speak with company reps via Twitter and Messenger.  They advised that while they are indeed focused on making an American long scrape, they do not anticipate releasing anything until 2017, “at the earliest.”  Officially on their website, they say they “are developing an American scrape reed in collaboration with some very prominent players in the US, but it is not ready for release, and we do not have a target date.”  I messaged with them again this week, and while they say they are making progress, they stated the American scrape “is not as far along as we would have liked.”  And while there are prototypes out there in the wild being play-tested, the reed “is not ready or close to being released.”

Apparently, the manufacture process, as one could imagine for such things, is highly sensitive, and they are experiencing much greater difficulties in making the American scrape reeds.  Manufacturing double reeds as a whole likely was quite problematic from the get-go, and presented significant technical challenges to Legere versus a single reed, and they have spent the better part of “this year overcoming our double-reed production issuesmaking sure reeds are completely reproducible.”

The Legere Oboe Reed currently retails for $149.99 through Amazon.com.  That’s a hefty price in an already quite pricey undertaking where quality oboes sell for upwards of $9,000 new.  But, consider it for a moment; how much are you currently paying for your reeds monthly?  Or how much personal time and expense are you investing into making your own reeds?  Imagine if Legere creates the perfect American scrape?  Imagine all that time you would get back from constantly making and tweaking reeds, having a reed that is impervious to environmental changes, and is purely non-tempermental?  Imagine all that time playing? I, for one, would love this, even at a price point of $200.

I figure most people spend well over $150 within months, let alone over a year.  I myself have spent upwards of $28 for a new reed, and have been not too happy with some of those to boot.  I’ve begun to learn reed-making, but then there’s the expenses of tools and supplies, with quality reed knives priced at least $100, not to mention sharpening stones and other tools.  And if you would like to start from unprocessed cane, you’ll need a gouging machine, which is $1,500-2,000 for a quality one.  But most importantly, factor in your time, which simply put is time away from playing.  A great synthetic reed would be well worth the $150 every four months; heck, I’d argue it’d even be worth it monthly for my time alone!  If the reed is entirely stable in all environs and at all times, I, for one, would love this, even at a price point of $200.

As for now, I’ve decided to try the currently available reed and ordered from Innoledy – $135 – and will take it for a test drive myself, and plan to write a review of it here.  In the meantime, here is a great review of the “European” scrape by Aaron Lakota.