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date: 27 October 2020


  • Philip Bate
  • , revised by Geoffrey Burgess


An elastic lamina of natural vegetable tissue (bamboo, leaf, straw or wood), metal, plastic or other material which, under the influence of an airstream from a wind player’s lungs or from bellows, will vibrate at a frequency determined by its dimensions, mass and elasticity. This vibration is used to excite periodic pressure waves in an air column within the tube of an instrument. The frequency of these waves and hence the note sounded is mainly determined by the form and dimensions of the air column which are the more important factors in such a coupled acoustic system. Reeds are categorized as ‘beating’ or ‘free’, the former being again divided into ‘single’ and ‘double’. For instruments used in Western art music, reeds are made from the large semi-tropical grass Arundo donax or Arundo sativa, commonly called ‘cane’, which is indigenous to many countries but is grown for this purpose chiefly in the Var region of France. The earliest discussion of the cultivation and preparation of cane for musical reeds is found in Theophrastus, ...

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