An important part of any successful English horn performance is not just having a great reed, but also the right bocal. Just like with bassoons, finding a good match for your English horn or oboe d'Amore is a process that takes some time and effort, and there are a lot of questions that come up along the way. The most common question we receive is what are the differences between the makers and the different styles? We're proud to stock a wide selection of new and used bocals by Hiniker, Ross, Laubin, Dallas, and Loree, and we're hoping this guide can answer a few of these questions for you if it's time to consider a new English horn bocal!
Bocals by Tom Hiniker are probably the most popular English horn and d'Amore bocals on the market. We try to keep on hand a wide variety of the most common selling numbers that Tom actually recommends for himself. The numbering of the different bocals is as follows:
Length of bocal: Either 1, 2, or 3. The #2 length bocals are by far the most popular, but the length will depend on your specific needs. The shorter the bocal, the higher the pitch will be and conversely, the longer the bocal the lower the pitch will be.
Bore size: 10, 11, 12, 13 . This refers to inner bore of the bocal. In general, the wider the bore the bigger the sound and the more projection. Hiniker bocals are also available with the B bore or the Brilliant Bore. These bocals are designed to increase the projection of sound. The most common B bore bocals are 11 & 12.
Tip length: 11 or 12. The tip length describes the distance the bocal will extend into the reed. The farther the bocal extends into the reed affects the overall pitch and the resistance of the sound.
An example of a Hiniker bocal would be as follows: 2-B12-11 (bocal length 2; Brilliant Bore size 12; tip length 11)
These are bocals produced by Phillip Ross (son of Dan Ross - Ross gouging machines) which are machine lathed with no seams or soldering. We stock 4 different kinds of Ross bocals -
L2 or L3: These are the two standard lengths available for the Ross bocals, 2 being shorter than the 3. These also have a standard tip length, which is different from the 's' models of the Ross bocals (see below). For the standard lengths, more of the bocal will go into the reed.
LS2 or LS3: The S model Ross bocals are shorter in length than the standard 2 or 3 lengths. This means that less of the bocal will extend into the reed resulting in pitch which will ultimately sit higher than the standard lengths.
Dallas Bocals (formerly Lickman)
These bocals are available in either sterling silver or gold plated. We stock a variety of Dallas bocals in several lengths and bore sizes.
Length: 0, 1, 2. Midwest Musical IMports usually stocks only the 1 or 2 length Dallas bocals, with the 1 being shorter than the 2 in length. Depending on your needs, the shorter bocals will generally sit higher in pitch and help reduce the risk of the 'sagging' third space 'C'.
Bore: 7 or 9 . A bore of 7 is designed for a full sound and stable upper register, better response above high D, and improved downward slurs. 9 has the same characteristics but a lower-pitched high register.
Laubin bocals are handmade by Al Laubin. These bocals are sterling silver and provide a very even scale and a warm resonant tone.
Lengths: 1, 2, 3. Depending on your needs, we usually stock 3 lengths of the Laubin bocals at any time. The 1 being the shortest and the 3 being the longest. The 2 is the standard length and probably the most popular of these particular bocals.
Loree bocals are available in a wide variety of models, typically they are silver-plated but are available in gold-plated by special order.
Lengths: 1, 2, 3 or 1H, 2H, 3H. The standard length bocals (1, 2, & 3) allow for a deeper sound and slightly more projection but generally will sit lower in pitch. The H bore bocals have a shorter tip length, which means more of the bocal will extend into the reed. This will improve the pitch in the high register for each of the lengths.
Whatever your English horn bocal needs, we're pleased to keep a wide variety in stock at all times. We have a quick and easy trial process available: we can ship you a trial up to 4 bocals for a week to best determine if one of our stock best suits your needs. Remember, our oboe department is always here to help with any questions or concerns you may have. We want to make sure you find the right match for you!