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On many occasions, I have been asked about the various English Horn shaper tips currently available. The following is a brief discussion about this very important matter.
Choosing the proper English Horn shaper tip is as critical as choosing the proper oboe shaper tip. There are numerous English Horn shaper tips available for purchase from various dealers throughout the world. As is the case with oboe shapes, choosing the proper English Horn shape is subjective and a matter of personal choice. I recommend that one test a variety of shaper tips by making several reeds on each shape prior to purchasing a shaper tip. As is the case with oboe shapes, a wider shape will generally result in a "richer" tone quality, but can be more difficult to play "up to pitch". Conversely, a narrower shape will generally result in reeds that are "up to pitch", but can lack a rich tone quality.
The question often arises as to what length to tie an English Horn blank. The answer varies depending on what shape is being used. The manufactureres of shaper tips usually list a "suggested tie length", but experiment within a millimeter or so to see what works best for you. Generally speaking, the wider the shape, the longer one should tie the reed. Cane shaped on a wider shape usually works well when tied at 60-61 mm. Thus, the "throat" is at a narrower part of the cane which in turn, will help to keep the reed up to pitch. In addition, the opening of the reed will generally be more relaxed and easier to control - without using wires.
When using a narrower shape, it is generally necessary to tie the reed shorter to insure that the reed seals properly. The length of a blank tied on narrower shape is commonly 59 - 60 mm. In the case of a very narrow shape, the blank may need to be tied shorter at 58 - 59 mm. However, this can create other problems controlling the size of the opening - specifically making an opening that is too large and difficult to control.
There are numerous English Horn shaper tips available for purchase from Double Reed shops throughout the world. Information about the specifics of the shaper tips is generally available from the manufacturers and dealers. Some of the more narrow shapes are the Weber, Coelho and Jeanné. Several shapes that could be considered in the medium range are Minsker-Lickman, RDG -1, Brannen and Giocobassi. The Falstaff, Mimi, RDG +1 and Stacy are generally considered to be on the wider end of the spectrum. The above mentioned shaper tips are only a few of the numerous English Horn shapes on the market today, so I advise asking various Double Reed Supply dealers which shaper tips they have in stock, whether they are willing to make "special orders", and details about their trial/return policies.
The Westwind Double Reed company has posted an interesting chart on its website comparing the dimensions of several of the English Horn shaper tips currently available.
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