Tuning A Short Reed Goose Call
...by Zink® Calls Z-Unit Member Rusty Hallock
Last month, I discussed choosing a short reed goose call and how call design effects call performance. Besides call design, call tuning plays an important role in call performance. I work a lot of shows and seminars during the year for Avery Outdoors® and Zink Calls®. I am asked to retune calls more than other waterfowling question. In the following paragraphs, I am going to discuss how I tune a short reed goose call. This will not work for every short reed goose call. Some calls do not allow you to reposition the reed and other calls utilize different reed thicknesses in place of reed shaving.
The first thing you need to know, before you start tuning goose calls are the parts of a short reed goose call. A short reed goose call consists of 5 basic parts: barrel, end piece, tone board, wedge, and reed. The barrel is the portion of the call that you place to your mouth to present air for call operation. Sometimes this is referred to as the mouth piece. The end piece is the portion of the call that holds the guts and where the sound exhausts from the call. The tone board is the part of the gut system where the reed lies. The tone board also contains a tone channel. The tone channel is the portion of the tone board that the reed dips down into to create notes. All gut systems are not the same. Some tone channels are wider then others. While other tone boards have different angles of drop, be it ever so slight. The wedge is a tapered piece that sits a top the tone board and sandwiches the reed when the gut system is being assembled. The wedge is the part of the gut system that holds the reed in place on the tone board. The last piece, but most important piece is the reed. The reed is constructed from Mylar. At a casual glance, the Mylar reed looks simple, but there is a lot going on in that little piece of plastic that we will discuss a little later.
The first step in disassembling your short reed is to remove the guts. Before you remove the guts from the call, mark the reed and guts as a reference to assist in reassembly. Some tone boards have lines on the tone board to use as a reference. The new Zink guts do not have marks on the tone board, but I line up the rear of the wedge and tone board as a starting point for reassembly. (See the picture below) There are two ways to remove the guts from a call. The method I use is by pushing down on the gut assembly, so the reed, tone board, and wedge fall out the end of the end piece. Another method to use is to use a piece of wooden dowel rod. Place the dowel rod into the end piece. Push the gut assembly out. Some people will grasp, twist, and pull the gut system out of the call. This will work, but you run the risk of breaking the tone board especially if the tone board is “broken in”. “Broken in” guts are delicate compared to a new set of guts.
©Rusty Hallock, Zink Calls®
Reed placement is crucial to your call’s performance. The rule of thumb is that the more exposed the reed the deeper the tone of the call. The call will also take more air to operate. The less exposed reed the higher the tone of the call. The call will also take less air to operate. But as with any adjustment to the tuning of your call, you will reach a point of diminishing return where the call will be so deep or so high that it will not sound like a goose. Most of the Mylar reeds that are used by call manufactures are punched from rolls of Mylar. Since it is coming from rolled Mylar, each reed will have a natural curve. If the natural curve of the reed is not obvious, you can place the reed between your finger and flat surface and push down. The reed will always bend with the reed’s natural curve. (See the picture below) When placing a reed on the tone board, I place the reed so the tip is curved upward from the tone board. Some reeds will be more curved then others because of where they come off of the roll. The reeds punched from the material closer to the center of the roll of Mylar will have more of a curve. Reeds from the outside of the roll will be flatter. From my experience, flatter reeds will take less air to operate and produce sounds that are clearer. Reeds that have a more pronounced curve will take more air to operate and produce sounds that are raspier. Personally, I prefer reeds with a more pronounced curve to the reed. One of the biggest reasons I chose to discuss call tuning is because sooner or later you will need to replace the reed in your call. Reeds will eventual blister. The blister will appear as a small milky white spot on our reed. This blistering is unavoidable and you can not predict when the call will start to blister. The call will usually sound the best when the reed first blisters. The call will have a natural buzz, but all good things will come to an end when the blister expands and sound of the call deteriorates to a point of being to buzzy. Mylar appears to be a simple piece of plastic, but it is laminated layers of thin plastic similar to the construction of plywood. The delaminating of these layers is what causes the blister to form. There is no way of predicting the life span of a reed. I have seen reeds last two years and others last two days. Of course, usage will reduce the life span of a reed.
Altering reed placement is not the only alteration you can perform to a reed to enhance your calls performance. Shaving a reed may allow you to produce the sound that you desire without having the call tuned so heavy that it takes to much air to operate. I shave all of my goose reeds no matter if it is a hunting call or a comp call. You can use either a sharp knife or a nail file with high grit. The knife is the quickest way to remove material from a reed, but it is also the quickest way to ruin a reed when you are just learning. A nail file is a great way to remove material from a reed, but it takes a little longer to remove unwanted material. When shaving a reed, I always place the reed on a round surface with the tip of the reed curved upward. I have a piece of acrylic with a clamp attached to hold the reed in place, but a simple shotgun shell will work just as well. For most of my calls, I will shave the part of the reed closest to the wedge and take less of the reed off of the tip. I like to leave the tip fuller. (See the picture below) In the picture, you will see a red section colored on the reed. That is the portion of the reed that I like to remove. By shaving the reed in this manner, it takes less air to operate the call, but keeps a deeper/fuller sound. Certain calls such as a LM-1 are higher in tone. When I want the call to be higher in tone, I will remove more reed material from the tip of the reed. The call will be easy to operate and will produce a higher pitched notes. When I complete shaving the reed, I will lightly run the nail file across the top and around the outside edge of the reed to remove any burs. If the burs are left in place, they will prohibit the reed from travelling down into the tone channel when reassembled. The call will lock up and not be operational.
Now that you have your reed shaved, you are ready to reassemble the call. The best advice I can give for reassembling a call is to have patients. Sometimes, I can get the call perfect the first attempt and other times it may take me a dozen attempts, before it is perfect. It is very important to pay attention during reassembly to the reed placement. Make sure the shaved side of the reed is up with the reed tip curving up off of the tone board. Align the reed onto the tone board so that the reed and tone channel are aligned so the reed can dip down into the tone channel. Do not allow too much space between the tip of the reed and the end of tone board. Too much space will increase what I call “dead air”. “Dead air” is wasted air that goes into a goose call and does not do anything except go out the end of the call. A properly tuned call will maximize the use of air and minimize “dead air”. You want to be able to move the reed with least amount of wasted air. This will maximize each breath of air, which is extremely important to contest callers. Some reeds will take more air to operate because the reed itself is stiffer. It is a fine line when positioning the tip of the reed in the tone channel, but the time spent will be worth it when it comes to call performance. Make sure the reed can freely dip into the tone channel without hanging up. This is even more important when retuning a call that is “broken in”. “Broken in” calls will have grooves on the tone board from the repeated slapping of the reed against the tone board. The more you use your call, the quicker your call will break in. Remember, you will have to change your reed, but never change your guts unless they break. With “broken in” guts, align your reed so that the reed will dip into the grooves of the “broken in” guts. “Broken in” guts are worth their weight in gold due to their range in sound they allow a caller to produce. They also allow callers to produce advanced goose notes easier.
Call tuning is very important to call performance. Just like a car, to get the optimum performance, you need proper tuning. There are three important facts to consider to for proper call performance: call design, call tuning and air presentation. We have discussed call design and tuning. Next month, I will discuss air presentation. Air presentation is often overlooked, but it is equally important as call design and tuning and can not be overlooked if you want to achieve the most out of any call.
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