Tuning a Duck Call.
This question seems to come up more and more that I'm on this forum. "How do I tune a duck call?"....Well, after a little reading, a few bucks, on new reeds, and a little patience, you will now be able to change the pitch and tone of your duck call. This will help each person learn there own air pressure, and give you the benefit of strengthening your knowledge on how a call works.
There are two main parts of the call, the insert and barrel. The barrel is the top of the call. It is usually outfitted with a brass or aluminum band.
The insert is the piece that your hand is placed on while blowing the call. It slides into the barrel of the call. Once disassembled, you will notice the tone board has thin white sheets on it, known as reeds. These are the "tongue" of the duck call, and we will further discuss these later on. The reed lays on the tone board where the cork, or wedge holds the reed in place. This is referred to as the cork slot.
Different people tune calls for different reasons. Some may have a cracked reed, or have a permanent bend in it. Others will find there cork has dried out or shrunk so that it can't hold the reed solid against the tone board any longer. Comp callers run into this problem allot. You may be just be curious to see what a call sounds like with a different setup, or the pressure doesn't fit you properly. Whatever the reason these steps should help you with successfully tune your call.
The first step will be to slide your insert out of your barrel. Like listed above, you will see the interior of the call and be ready to completely disassemble the reeds, and wedge.
After getting some extra reeds from whatever call company you are using, you will need to find the bend in the reed. This is the most important part of tuning your call. Reeds have a natural curve from where they were stamped on the roll of Mylar. Some might not be as distinct as others, but all will have a bend. To find the bend, place the reed inbetween your thumb and pointer finger. SLIGHTLY squeeze on the reed until it makes a bow or C shape. This bow is the bottom of your reed and is placed on the tone board. If you are having trouble doing this, place the reed on a smooth table, and try to spin the reed. If the reed spins freely, flip it over and spin again. Whichever side the reed doesn't spin will on is the bottom of the reed.
Place the reed on the tone board, and make sure it's centered and hold in place by you free thumb on the top of the reed. You should also check with your manufacturer to make sure they don't use different size wedges for single or double reed setups. Foiles Migrators uses a different size for their calls. The double reed wedge is a little thinner than the single reed wedge. A single reed wedge has an outward or flush dimple, a double reed wedge has a recessed dimple. Noticing the different sizes is extremely important because you don't want to run the risk of breaking the outside of the cork slot. Slide the cork or wedge into the slot centered about 3/4 of the way down. Then, while still holding the reed in place with your thumb, use the shaft of a small screw driver or the blade of you scissors to gently push wedge all the way to the back of the cork slot. This will put even pressure on the wedge to make sure it goes in flush.
Now, if you are using cork wedge it should be cut to length before you install the new reed (s), this can be done by placing the new cork into the cork slot with an old reed and gently cutting it with a sharp knife till its flush with the end of the cork slot. Place the cork in your mouth for a few seconds to loosen it up where it will slide into your cork slot without allot of force, once you have your cork in place you will need to trim the excess off . This can be done using an Xacto knife or sharp razor blade. First trimming the excess off the sides, be careful as not to cut into your insert.
Only experienced tuners should attempt to cut the cork while the new reed is in place, if your unsure on doing this, the call should be tuned by an experienced staffer or sent back to the shop to be tuned.
The next step is the most time consuming, and will take the utmost attention and patience. We are now ready to trim the reed(s). You will need to use a sharp pair of scissors to do this. I use surgical scissors, and try to keep them away from moisture to prevent rusting. Before you get started, please remember this quote. "A Little is a lot"...With every cut you're about to make, you will completely change the calls pitch. Also, you will need to know what you want out of the call you are tuning. Like, I stated before, the reed is the tongue of the duck call. The longer the reed the deeper the call will play, the harder it will be to blow. The shorter the reed the higher it will play and easier it will be to blow.
Once you have your new reed(s) held down by your wedge, put the call back together to see how the call functions. This will give you a reference point to how much of the reed you may need to take off. Start by trimming about 1/16 pieces of the reed and each time you do so, put the call back together and see how it is sounding. Smaller cuts means you won't run the risk of ruining a good set of reeds by taking off too much. Each trim means you will need to blow a few notes. Like I said, its time consuming, but well worth it in the long run. Remember, the more you take off, the easier the call will blow, and the easier it will be to squeal the call out, or stick it. Once you have the reed trimmed to your likings, its now time to add rasp to the call if you like the call to have a little Cajun built in. This process is also very sketchy because you can ruin the reeds if you take too much off on this step off also. To do so, you will need to lift the reed off the
tone board with your finger nail, and hold with your thumb and pointer finger. I like to make 45 degree cuts on each side of the reed, make sure when your dog-earing the reed to only take a very small cut “just the very tips” and that is usually all the rasp you will need. If you are tuning a double reed, you will need to dog-ear the top reed also.
Now that you have new reeds, and wedge in you call, you should be good to go. If you are tuning a double reed call, the top reed should be a little shorter than you bottom reed. Make sure you establish the bow in the reed, just as you did above. You will also need to take extra care in making sure the reeds are centered together when placing them on the tone board, before you slide the wedge in the cork slot. You should only need to trim the longer reed, but if you need to cut the top reed, make sure you start will small cuts. "A Little is allot" Now that you have your call sounding like that ole sassy hen again, you might want to polish that band from all the use you've put into it from laying greenheads on the water. I use Mother's Mag polish, and a polishing cloth. Its a pasty form, and really works wonders on aluminum bands. Take a small portion and rub on the band with the cloth until it turns black. Then with a clean section of the cloth, rub the band again until the call shines like new.
I hope this helps answer the questions on "How to tune a duck call", and further acknowledges everyone that has put off doing so for so long. Tuning
your call may make that old call sound new again, or may give you the edge you were looking for in you call. Whatever the case, I hope this helps, and if you
have any questions please feel free to shoot me a pm, and I'll help as much as I can. If you have tuned your call, and still are having trouble getting that perfect sound out of it, get in touch with one of our great customer service reps at the shop, and they can help you get your call sent in and retuned to your standings.
Two basic parts of a your call, Barrel and Insert.
Finding the natural curve of the reed.
Installing the new wedge or cork.
Trimming the reeds.
Dog-earing the reeds.