Information Helpful to all Bassoonists! » Special Reedmaking Tools
Forming Bassoon Reeds with WW Profiled Bassoon Cane
The following is a step by step description on how I make my own reeds. All supplies mentioned are available from WWDR
Womble/Williams profiled bassoon cane can give you excellent results with a minimum of effort if you follow the following directions. The wire placement and cutoff length is critical so please use the dimensions indicated below.
Soak the cane in warm water a minimum of 30 minutes. This will make the cane easier to form and also raise the grain on the inside of the cane.
Sand the inside of the cane to smooth out the grain of the wood using 40 micron 3M Micro-finishing paper followed by 20 micro-finishing paper. Immerse the cane and sand paper in warm water and put the paper over a round plastic dowel. After sanding each piece of cane rinse the paper so that the cutting action will not be impeded by the paste created from the sanding action.
Score the cane on the outside from where the second wire will be to the back of the cane on both sides using a scoring tool. If you don't have a scoring tool center the cane on a wooden easel and make three scores on the reed, one in the center of the reed starting where the second wire will be placed and one on each side starting in the same place, then fill in the space between the original scores with three scores on each side.
Fold the reed in half; make sure the collar lines up on both sides of the reed. The profile should fold in half easily in the center of the profile. If it is slightly off center be sure to manipulate the cane so that the collars of both sides line up. If the collar does not line up the strength of the two sides of the reed will be different and it will be very difficult to make a workable reed.
Place the first wire on the reed 26 mm from the butt side. Measure from the bottom of the wire, not from the center.
Place the second wire 8 mm below the first. This is also measured from the sides of the two wires, not from the center.
Tightly wrap the blank with string from the bottom of the reed to just above the first wire. I usually make three wraps in front of the first wire and then over wrap these so that the first wire does not get in the way while forming the reed.
Heat the mandrel using low heat such as from an alcohol lamp. Insert a forming mandrel into the reed and be consistent to the depth that the mandrel is inserted. My forming mandrels have a ledge that I push my reeds to so that the throat of the reed will be consistent from reed to reed. Crush the cane behind the second wire to the back to round the blank, remove the string and place the third wire on the bottom of the reed, 3 mm from the butt end.
Let the blank dry a minimum of one day and then re-tighten all wires. I like to feel the wire stretch slightly when I pull on the wire with my pliers to tighten. Wrap the reed with hot glue using the machine provided. Use the following method.
Make sure all wires are tight and will not rotate on the blank. Shorten the third wire (the one closest to the bottom of the reed) to around an eighth of an inch and fold the wire over towards the top of the reed.
I try to make the blank look like a string wrapped reed by first putting enough hot glue on the rotating machine to make the ball at the end of the reed over the third wire and enough glue behind the second wire to seal the reed. I re-heat the hot glue with an alcohol lamp while the cane is rotating on the machine and then use a flat headed screw driver to spread the glue below the second wire and in front of the ball. Once the reed looks like you want it, take it off the mandrel and immerse it in cold water to set the hot glue.
Reaming the Blank.
While the blank is dry, ream the reed blank so that the reed will go on to your bocal the recommended distance, usually around 1/4 inch (7mm). It is possible to ream a wet reed with a diamond reamer if necessary.
Cutting reed to length.
Soak the reed for a few minutes in water. Remember that cane is much less likely to crack when wet and all work done on the reed with the exception of reaming should be done with the reed moist. The first thing you need to do to a reed blank that has been formed is to cut the tip of the reed off to length. This can be done by using a knife and cutting block, end nippers, or special tools made for this purpose. I start my tip at 31mm from the first wire. My usually playing length is 29.5mm. Try to cut the tip as perpendicular to the length of the reed and straight as possible.
First Blowing on a new Reed.
Try playing on the new reed. You may be surprised and the reed may play at this point. This is not very likely but possible. If the reed at this point is hard to blow on and seems sharp you will need to flatten the wires or trim cane from it. If the reed plays flat and the E natural and C sharp in the staff drop in pitch you will need to strengthen the reed by reaming, rounding/tightening the wires, shortening by cutting the tip or narrowing the shape of the reed.
I trim my reeds by using three check notes to see how the reed performs on the bassoon. The first of these is E flat in the staff fingered only with the whisper key and the first and third fingers of the left hand. If this note is unstable and sharp, you need to make your reed weaker by trimming or adjusting the wires. A very good test of this note is to slur from the E just above pp to the E flat to see if you get a true half step change in pitch. Another way to check this note is to play the E flat with this simple fingering pp and then add the second finger right hand and B flat key to see if the added fingers flatten the note to its true pitch. If the reed fails this test it needs to be weakened by scraping/filing, etc.
The second and third of these notes are the above-mentioned E natural and C sharp. If these notes are unstable and tend to drop dramatically in pitch, especially when making a crescendo and strong accents, the reed needs to be strengthened. This can be accomplished by doing some or all of the following. Cutting a small amount off the tip of the reed, narrowing the sides of the reed, rounding and or tightening the wires and checking that the reed is reamed so that it goes on to the bocal the normal distance.
Evening out the Collar.
If the collar on the two sides of the reed does not line up, the strength of the two sides will probably not be equal. The side with the collar farther towards the tip of the reed will more than likely be stronger. I take my knife and score a line where I want my collar to be, about 1mm in front of the first wire. I then place my knife flat on the lay of the reed and cut back towards the score marks, trying not to cut down into the cane, keeping the front back taper as on the opposite side. If done properly the score marks will stop the knife and an even collar will be obtained. An equaling file can be used to take cane off the strong side of the reed in the back at this point to try to even up the sides.
The placement of the collar is up to the individual player. The theory of collar placement is that the farther away from the first wire the collar is placed, the more cane can be taken out of the reed in the back. Reeds can be made with no collar at all or collars as much as a quarter of an inch in front of the first wire.
Trimming the Reed to Weaken and Flatten its Pitch.
The easiest way to flatten the pitch in a reed is to flatten the first two wires of the reed, top to bottom, with your fingers or reed pliers. This may be enough to get a reed to play if it was close to playing before. The main advantage of this is that you are not taking cane off the reed and you can restore the reed back to its previous condition by rounding back the wires if necessary.
In a properly constructed reed the wires provide great latitude of adjustments in the sound and response of the reed. The first wire can be closed down by squeezing top to bottom, with pliers or your fingers, if the reed seems hard to attack. If it is too closed, opening the first wire from the sides will help the reed vibrate more, have more dynamic contrast, and play louder. I like my tip opening to be around of an inch or 1.5mm.
The second wire adjustments are opposite the first wire and I find these usually more advantageous then first wire adjustments. Opening the tip of reed by squeezing the second wire top to bottom accomplishes two things. The reed will play flatter in pitch and gain resonance. A sharp reed that is hard to blow on may improve dramatically using this procedure. Squeezing the second wire from the sides will raise the pitch of the reed and make it darker in sound by damping its vibrations. A bright flat reed can be improved using this procedure.
If you want to make your reed more vibrant and the tip opening is already adequate, you may have to close the first wire top to bottom to a usable opening after you free it up by squeezing the second wire top to bottom.
Scraping the Reed
I try to scrape the reed using the following approach. The reed has two tapers from back to front and from center to sides. Hopefully the reed blank will start out being symmetrical and of equal strength on both sides. Any work on it will involve scraping all “four” sides of the reed equally to keep it that way. You should make the same number of scrapes with your knife or file on each of the sides when scraping. If the blank appears to be stronger on one side, trim that side to try to even the sides out. Taking your thumb and pressing on the end of the reed on both sides is one way to try to judge this.
Always have a plaque inserted into the reed when scraping, filing or sanding. This helps prevent the cane from breaking from the inside out and also gives you a curved surface on which to scrape on.
Beginning reed makers tend to scrape the sides of the reed, especially at the tip, excessively. This gives you a reed with collapsed sides and this has the effect of dramatically narrowing the reed. The reed ends up with a heavy center and becomes a reed that tends to play sharp and ugly if it plays at all.
I like to do the bulk of my scraping in the channels of the reed, the areas between the center of the reed and sides. Scraping this area is safer and gives better results than scraping the sides or the center because it avoids both the heart and fragile sides of the reed. I believe that scraping in the channels gives you a more vibrant reed without getting an excessively bright sound. Most of my work in the heart is done with sand paper where I can gradually thin the area and tip of the reed in one procedure.
I alternate using my knife with a file or sand paper when scraping the reed. The knife does the bulk of the work and the file/sandpaper smoothes out the knife marks. The knife allows you to take cane out of specific areas. The file/sandpaper is less discriminatory and will take cane out of a larger area.
I use a diamond triangle file for taking cane out of the back of the reed. Try to avoid making the back of the reed thinner then the area in front.
When thinning the tip of the reed with a knife, always scrape towards the middle of the reed. This will help keep the cane from tearing at the tip. A fairly safe way to thin the very tip of the reed is to use a sapphire fingernail file, cutting straight up and down with the grain right on the tip of the reed. You must remove the plaque from your reed to perform this procedure.
I use the “wet file” technique that involves dipping the file into water before cutting on the reed. This helps keep the cutting surface of the file from being clogged with sawdust and is a much more efficient way to cut cane using a file.
A Few More Thoughts on Trimming!
Consistency is the thing that we all strive for when working on reeds. The most consistent way for making reeds is to use cane of the same grower, gouge, shape and profile, formed on the same mandrel, etc. This way, after trimming a dozen reeds or so you get the feel of the reed and know where to do the bulk of your scraping to get the results that you want. The cane will be the inconsistent part of the process because all cane is different. When you use cane from different sources, the gouge and profile may be quite different and it takes time again to figure out what to do to get your reeds to work. Try to stay with consistent cane when starting out. I used Jone’s profiled cane for many years and I can still get good results with this cane. Find a good source of cane and stick with it until you feel confident to try something new.
The top half of the reed controls the “sound” of the reed. The sound of the reed will darken as the sides are thinned in relation to the center. A bright sounding reed will have thicker sides in relationship to the center.
You can get a good idea if your reed is on the right track by observing the tip opening for symmetry and how the sides of the reed close as the reed is squeezed top to bottom. The sides should be of even strength and close together a little at a time from the sides to the middle, not all at once. If it closes all at once scrape the channels and sides.
The back half of the reed controls the blowing qualities of the reed. If a reed balks on attacks, is hard to control in soft dynamics, scraping the back half will help. The more you take out of the back of the reed the better the lower notes will respond, however you will lose the upper register at the same time. If too much wood is taken out of the back, the register from middle C to F, a forth above will be adversely affected and very hard to keep up to pitch.
Work slowly and try not to get frustrated. It takes a long time to learn this undertaking. Try to copy reeds from your teacher or other sources that work, keeping the tapers and tip thickness similar. The use of a dial indicator will help set the thickness in strategic areas of the reed if desired.
The tip is most fragile area of the reed. Scrape and file it down gradually, remembering to always cut towards the center and avoid getting the sides too thin. Scraping the channels straight down to the tip is another “safe” way of thinning the tip. Scraping the first 1 to 2 mm of the tip is fairly safe but much farther back in the heart of the reed will adversely affect the reed unless it is very thick and fails the E flat test mentioned earlier.
Here are a few reed basics to remember!
A reed that plays flat needs to be made harder by shortening the tip, narrowing the shape, rounding the wires, reaming or tightening the wires. The critical notes for checking a flat reed are E and C# in the staff.
You cannot make a flat reed harder by scraping the cane!
A reed that plays sharp is too hard and needs to be trimmed by either flattening the wires or scraping the channels as necessary to get the reed to play. The critical note for checking a sharp reed is simple Eb in the staff.
If you have problems playing sharp go to a wider shape or longer reed.
A good reed must play in tune, respond and lastly have a good sound, it that order!!
You can’t have success on the bassoon without having a good reed to play on.
Good luck, go out a make great reeds!!!
The following list is an explanation of the tools and supplies used in the making of bassoon reeds and sources for their acquisition.
Cane: For beginning reed makers I suggest the purchase of cane that has been gouged, profiled and shaped. I recommend Womble/Williams profiled cane that has a current price of $40.00 per ten. If you have the machinery (and time) to gouge, profile and shape cane you can make reeds for as little as $0.20 per reed.
Brass Wire, 22 gauge: This is used to hold the reed together, to adjust the opening of the reed, and to keep the butt of the reed round. It can be purchased by the ounce, the quarter pound and pound. It can be found at your local hardware store, at double reed specialty shops and jewelers supply stores. WW sells 1/4th pound spools for $12.50.
Shoestring/Butchers Twine: You use this to wrap around the reed blank prior to forming the reed to keep the cane from excessive cracking. I suggest fairly narrow shoestring because if it gets to wide it is difficult to get enough wraps around the reed to properly support the cane.
Wrapping Thread: Any strong, thick string can be used for wrapping the butt end of the reed. Some people prefer nylon, others cotton string. One thing to remember is that the thicker the string, the quicker it will be to wrap the reed. You can pick the colors you want for the reed of your choice! Costs can be from one dollar for enough string to wrap 100 reeds to $25.00 for Rieger nylon thread. Thread can be purchased anywhere that sells sewing or craft supplies. Michael's crafts sells crochet thread in a multiple of colors for less then two dollars a roll. I have switched to using glitter hot glue to wrap my reeds in the past three years. It seems to work very well, has no odor and is much easier on your hands!
Thread Sealer: I use DUCO Plastic Cement over and under the wrapping of my reed to cement the wrapping to the reed and seal the wrapping thread. This is available at most hardware stores in the area. Other materials for this include nail polish, both clear and colored, enamel paint, and Bee's wax for those who are more organically inclined.
Pliers: I use Rieger reed pliers for forming reeds and a pair of miniature linesman pliers for day to day reed work after the reed has been formed. The local hardware store is the most economical place for the purchase of pliers. It should be remembered that when forming a reed, a great amount of pressure is put on the bark of the reed and the smoother the jaws of the pliers the better. When adjusting the wires of a reed, a pair of pliers with an oval cutout will help keep the wires in proper shape. Pliers sold by double reed specialty shops come at a premium. We sell the Rieger pliers for $50 each and believe they are worth every penny!
Holding Mandrel: This tool is used to hold and support the reed when working on finishing the reed. It has a larger diameter tip then a forming mandrel so that it does not go into the reed as far as the forming mandrel. This allows the plaque to be inserted fully into the reed. Mandrels can only be found at specialty shops and sell for $15.00 and up. The WW holding mandrel is a copy of the mandrel made by the machinist Fred Pfiefer in the 1960's. We sell it for $15.
Forming Mandrel: This tool is used in the forming of the bassoon reed. It is narrower than the holding mandrel and comes in many different designs. Some have marks for inserting the mandrel into the reed so that a uniform butt opening can be made. These are also specialty shop items and sell for $20.00 and up. If you use the hot mandrel technique for forming your reeds you will want to be sure that the handle is "heatable" and will not melt or induct heat. The WW forming mandrel is made from stainless steel with a phenelic handle that can be used with heat. It sells for $20 and is a copy of a similar mandrel made by Fred Pfeifer.
Alcohol Lamp: This tool is used for heating the forming mandrel when forming reeds. It leaves no carbon residue on the mandrel or in the reed and heats at a low enough temperature as to not scorch the reed if used carefully. These can be found in shops that sell scientific supplies, specialty shops, and good hardware stores. We sell these for $10 and you must use denatured alcohol found in hardware stores in these lamps.
Plaques: Plaques are used to support the reed from the inside when scraping, filing or sanding the outside of the blade. They come in many shapes. I prefer the arrowhead, thin belly syle. Guitar picks can be used, but they offer no inside support and I don't recommend them. We sell an excellent metal plaque for $15 and the Rieger plastic plaque for $3. Both work well.
Rulers: Rulers are necessary to ensure consistency in wire placement, blade length, etc. I prefer stainless steel rulers, 6 inches in length in 64th inch increments. These can be found at your local hardware stores for around $2.00 to $5.00. We sell a very fine ruler with english measurements one side and metric on the other for $5.
Reed Knives: The knife is the most important tool in your tool box. Knives come in many different styles; beveled, hollow ground, folding, straight, etc., and you can pay from $20.00 to $100.00 for them. My favorite knives are an old straight razor I use for scraping that I bought off my barber when I was 16, and a Victernoix pruning knife that I use for everything but scraping. A good knife can be sharpened and will hold its edge. We sell straight razors mounted in a wooden handle for $75 and the Victernoix knive for $25.
Sharpening Stone: It's important to be able to sharpen your knife. A good sharpening stone is necessary for this. I use a Norton India stone that is available from good hardware stores and shops specializing in cutting tools. An eight inch by two inch india stone costs around $15.00.
Reed Files: I use a Revlon diamond nail file bought at CVS Drug for $5.00 and a Grobet Swiss pillar file that cost me $20.00 from a jewelry supply store as my day to day files. Files are used to take cane out of the back of the reed and to even out knife cuts. WW sells diamond triangle files for $20.
Reamers: Reamers are used to round out a poorly formed reed to seal around the bocal and to allow the reed to fit on the bocal further. They are basically a drill that have the same taper as the bocal. It's hard to find a reamer that cuts with the correct taper cleanly. Reeds should only be reamed when they are completely dry. Fox sells a bassoon reamer for $24.00 while the Reiger and Popkin reamers sell for around $95.00. You usually get what you pay for in a reamer. WW has both spiral and diamond reamers that are made for us that we believe are the best available for $85 diamond, $95 spiral.
Easel: The easel is used for supporting cane when scoring and hand profiling. it can be as simple as a 6 inch piece of wooden broomstick to a commercial hardwood easel. I use a 1 1/8" hardwood dowel cut up into 6 1/2" lengths.
Tip Cutter/Cutting Block: There are several ways to cut the end of the reed off when finishing. I have used a flush cutting end nipper for several years that I purchased from a jewelry supply store for around $50.00. These can be purchased for less if you do not need them to be flush cutting. The use of a cutting block and knife is the old fashioned way for cutting the top and the least expensive. Fox sells cutting blocks for $11.95. My wife uses scissors for her oboe/english horn reeds but I have never had good results using them on bassoon reeds. Rieger has come out with a beautiful machine for this that sells for $225.00. The advantage to this tool is that it cuts the reed off straight.
Sandpaper: Sandpaper is used to put a smooth finish on the reed and to free up a nearly finished reed when you are afraid to scrape or file it. It's an equaling tool that takes out file and knife marks and thins the tip of the reed fairly safely. I use 320 and 400 wet or dry paper in small pieces. It can be found at your local hardware store.
Tool Case: If your bassoon case has a box wtih a top that closes well you can keep your tools in it. If you wish you can purchase a tool case for this purpose. Cavallaro makes one that sells for $18.50.
Sanding Easel: WW sells a sanding easel made of plexiglass and sand paper in 20, 40 and 60 micron grits. This is used for sanding the inside of the cane before the reed is formed and sells for $10.
With the above supplies and tools you should be able to turn a piece of cane that has been gouged, shaped and profiled into a finished reed. How that reed plays is up to you and your reed making skill. Have patience, work slowly and you willl succeed. I would try to not buy the most expensive items unless I was going into music as a profession. Satisfactory results can be had with any of the above mentioned items. Remember it takes time to learn this difficult but rewarding task. Good Luck and Happy Reed Making!
I have six extra keys on my Fox 601 Bassoon that are very useful in giving me additional fingering and trill possibilities.
Little Finger Whisper Key: This key is placed under the Db left little finger key. It is one of the most useful keys I have on my bassoon. It frees up your left thumb on passages like the opening of the Marriage of Figaro Overture. It is also very useful in slurring down to notes not involving the Eb or Db keys, for example a slur from low F to low C and back. This was the way the whisper key was positioned on the French bassoon so it is sometimes called a “French” whisper key.
Right Hand E-flat Trill Key with alternate C# Position: The E-flat trill key is very popular on European instruments. It is usually placed between the second and third fingers of the left hand. This gives you a very good D to E-flat trill. You can do the same trill by trilling the thumb C# key. If the E-flat trill is placed on the top of the boot joint (right hand E-flat trill) it gives you the following trills: D to E-flat, C to D and C# to D in both octaves. If you have this key it also moves the position of the C# trill key down so it can be used by the second finger right hand. This makes the high G to A trill much easier if using both the G key and C# trill.
Articulated A-flat to B-flat Trill Key: The installation of this key involves making a post connection between the right hand third finger “G” key and the thumb B-flat key so that when the G key is depressed it closes the Bb key. The B-flat key is sprung differently than normal in that the thumb B-flat key mechanism has two springs, a heavy one on the thumb key to close the pad and a much lighter one on the pad that functions to open the pad when the B-flat key is depressed. There are no additional tone holes bored into the bore with this mechanism but it needs to be well taken care of to function properly. If the B-flat pad becomes sticky it may not open when the B-flat key is depressed. This key gives you the following trills and tremolos: F to B-flat, F# to B-flat, G to B-flat and A-flat to B-flat in both octaves.
I strongly suggest that if you consider adding this key to a new or present bassoon you get it with a clutch mechanism that disengages the key when it is not needed. Normal fingerings that involve both the right thumb B-flat key and right third finger (G) key will not function with this mechanism engaged. You also should consider getting extra guards for this key to keep any clothing from touching the Bb key and keep it from opening. The normal thumb A-flat to B-flat trill key gives you a good Ab/Bb trill in three octaves but not the additional tremolos mentioned above. This key involves drilling a secondary tone hole in the boot joint and the adjustment of the key is also fairly critical for the bassoon to function properly.
Hi G#/A Ring Key: This mechanism allows you to finger high G# and A using the F key instead of the usual G key. This lets you avoid the cross fingering in scale passages from G to A /A-flat to B-flat/B natural and also gives you the following in tune trills: G to A-flat and A to B-flat.
Alternate Low C# Key or Low C# to D# Trill Key: Measure 74 of the first movement in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is a low C# to D# trill. This is an impossible trill on the bassoon unless the bassoon is equipped with a C# to D# trill key, a mechanism that opens the low C# key and closes the low C key so you can make the trill by opening the low D# key. This key is available two ways. The C# touch can be soldiered directly to the C# rod or there can be a separate key that opens the C# key and closes the C key when depressed. I recommend the latter. This trill can also be achieved with an articulated C#/D# mechanism that is a single key for the left hand little finger that opens the E-flat key unless the low C key is depressed which then opens the low C# key and closes the D# key. The disadvantage of the articulated C#/D# is that you can not use the C# key on low E and middle G. If you depress the single key the D# key will open with these notes. If your bassoon has a Little Finger Whisper Key installed on it you can slur down to low C# using this key without the whisper key coming up.
High F key with Double High E Key: I have this option on my newest bassoon. It does give you an easier way to play high F and I have used it when playing the Bernstein “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story”. I do not like the double high E option that adds an additional spatula over the high Eb key because the key gets in the way when I use the high Eb key for F (above middle C) to G trills. I have had an additional high E key made that does not have this extra spatula and use that on my bassoon.
Cork Tenons: Fox sells its bassoons with string wrapped tenons. I usually get my tenons wrapped in cork. I have been told that cork tenons offer more resonance than string wrapped tenons. String does offer more structural support than cork and can be adjusted by adding of removing string. You can only sand cork if tight or add string on top of it if the tenons become loose.
Rotary Whisper Key Lock: The standard lock on a Fox Pro Bassoon is the Pro Type II “Slide” Lock. I find the Type III Rotary Lock easier to use and quieter. There is no cost difference for switching locks.
C# Trill Guard: I don’t use a crutch on my bassoon, instead I have the C# trill guard install over the C# trill key on the boot joint and rest my right forefinger on it when playing.
Bell Choice: I prefer the white bell ring but that choice is up to the individual. My newest bassoons have a gold plated metal ring on the bell.
Wood Choice: Most Fox professional horns are made of Yugoslavian Mountain Maple. I recommend this wood. Black, Big Leaf and Red Maple are the other choices for a 601. Fox has recently been making more pro horns in Red Maple that seem to increase the fundamental sound of the bassoon.
601 vs. 660: The 660 is pitched slightly higher, A-442 than the 601 at A-440.
Two Piece Bass Joint: This option is getting much more popular now that airlines are getting pickier about the size of carry on luggage they allow on planes. This option actually helps the action of the low B and Bb keys; the only draw back is that there is almost no space inside the case for reeds, tools and accessories. This is the only option that I know of that is actually less expensive now that when it first was introduced.
Extra Rollers: I usually order rollers on my right thumb Bb and F# keys. This is because I find it is easier to slide between the low E key and these two keys with a roller than without. This is from experience. Double rollers here will just increase the distance between these two keys and are not recommended. I ordered a right hand little finger F# wide roller on my last bassoon and found it to be a useless option. When thinking about rollers remember this fact: adding rollers increases the extraneous noise of your bassoon exponentially with the number of rollers you add.
Plating: My last three Fox Bassoons have been gold plated. This sounds very expensive but the amount of gold used is very little and the cost is less that $1000. Gold plating is a bit “slipperier” than the standard silver plating. Gold plated keys are silver plated first. Nickel plating is much harder to replate if it wears through, the keys have to be totally stripped of their remaining nickel plating before they can be re-plated. My experience with nickel plating has also included skin reactions with the plating when it wears out. Silver plating is the standard on Fox pro horns. It lasts a very long time and if the plating does wear through it is very easy to re-plate with silver.