Choosing the Right Diaphragm Reed

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By: Michael Batease
By: Michael Batease

My passion is truly calling in elk. But with so many options in diaphragms reeds today, how do you know which one is right for you? Should you go with a raised angle palate plate, a dome reed, a traditional reed or maybe a modified domed reed? It doesn’t matter what style of reed you choose. What truly matters is choosing the right sized frame for you. Choosing a diaphragm reed is much like choosing a shirt. If you wear a large shirt you certainly won’t buy a size small. The same goes for diaphragm reeds. If you have a wide pallet you won’t have much luck using a reed that is built on a small or narrow frame. The opposite is true as well. If you have a narrow pallet then a wide framed reed will feel really large and you will struggle to seal off the air and get good tones from the reed.

We are all different when it comes to the shape and size of the roof of our mouth. Just because you are a large guy does not mean you won’t have a narrow pallet. I remember working a sport show in Utah when a father and son came to our booth to buy some diaphragm reeds. The father wasn’t sure what size the son needed so I looked at the roof of his mouth and determined that a medium frame would fit him the best. The father then went on to tell us how many of each reed they wanted. I asked him if a medium would fit him and he responded that since his son could use the medium he should be that size as well since they were father and son. This is not always the case. I had the father open his mouth so I could take a look and make sure before they spent a bunch of money on reeds. I could see the blow to his ego when I informed him that he had a narrow palate and needed a reed with a small frame. This just goes to show that even within a family, the size and shape of the palate can vary.

Get the right call, master it and like the author, the reward of a good bull is possible.
Get the right call, master it and like the author, the reward of a good bull is possible.

Why is it important to get the right sized fame? You want the air to be forced over the latex portion of the reed only. If the frame is too large or you will have a tough time getting a good seal and air will leak around the tape portion of the reed. When air leaks around the tape portion of the reed you won’t be able to get good clean notes. If the frame is too small the reed will not stay in place and will shift around in the roof of your mouth. If you are buying reeds from a manufacturer at a sport show, I recommend asking one of the people at the booth to look at the roof of your mouth to find out what sized frame you need. If you are not comfortable with asking, or buying reeds at a store, then choose a medium sized frame to start with. If the reed feels large, then you need a small frame reed. If the reed feels small, then you probably need to go with a large frame on the reed.

Phelps Game Calls is one company that offers their reeds in narrow, medium and wide frames allowing you to use the same exact reed as your hunting partner or friends in the size that works best for you. Not all companies do this. Several other companies merely produce the reeds in the size they do and you are forced to make it work. I really like the options that Phelps offers and it shows that they really care about their customers and certainly don’t want to eliminate anyone from using their calls. Another option you have is to purchase a variety pack of reeds that includes different sized frames so you can be sure to find the best reed for you.

A variety pack like this provides a better choice to fit your individual needs
A variety pack like this provides a better choice to fit your individual needs

Another mistake I see people make is they go off the suggestion of their friends without trying anything else. If you never try another style or size of reed, how do you know you are using the best reed for you? I have used a palate plate style reed for years but a couple of years ago I gave a traditional reed from Phelps a try. Right away I could tell they fit my palate better and the notes I produced supported that finding. Clean transitions from low to high with little effort and complete air seal.

This is the Traditional Reed
This is the Traditional Reed

Now, how about the number of latex layers or even the thickness? This is a whole other subject and really comes down to personal preference. The only way to know what you like is to try different reeds out. You might like how a single reed performs while your hunting partner prefers a triple reed. My personal preference is to carry a mixture of reeds so that I can achieve different pitches and tones that I can vary from day to day while out in the field. Just because I carry a few different styles with me doesn’t mean I don’t have my favorites. The biggest thing I hope you take away from this article is that you really need to find the frame size that works best for you.

Domed Reed
Domed Reed
Modified Dome Reed
Modified Dome Reed
Raised Angle Palate Plate Reed
Raised Angle Palate Plate Reed

Without that foundation you will end up being frustrated and start to think that a diaphragm reed is not for you. I’ve seen it too many times where someone states that they just can’t get a diaphragm reed to work. It’s not that they can’t. They’ve merely been trying on a reed that didn’t fit them properly. The look on their face when they start making proper sounds with the right size frame is priceless. If you are struggling to use a reed you really should pay attention to how the reed feels in the roof of your mouth and make the adjustment to a smaller or larger frame. I guarantee it will make all the difference in the world. Good luck!