Photography & Written Word

Eric Arbiter is a professional musician, photographer, Zen person and writer. His interests include reading, gardening, travel and working on machines—cars, motorcycles and reed making machines for his instrument, the bassoon.


He retired from his long-time position (45 years) in the Houston Symphony last year and loves being a housewife, while his wife Amy still works. He is also enjoying being a new grandfather.


His book on reed making for the bassoon, The Way of Cane, was just published by Oxford University Press and is available through Amazon.

Order prints--loose or matted and framed--directly from Eric's Heights Artisan Market Zenfolio. Or order from Eric's full portfolio of exquisite photography.

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The Way of Cane


Eric Arbiter

As the sound-producing mechanism for the bassoon, the reed is a vital component in the sound of the entire instrument. While pre-manufactured reeds are widely available for purchase at music stores, this one-size-fits-all option hardly does justice to the unique needs of the musician and the piece. Many bassoonists, including seasoned professional bassoonist Eric Arbiter, instead choose to craft their own reeds. A nuanced and difficult craft to master, reed-making involves specialized machinery and necessitates special attention to the thickness, and even topography, of the reed itself. When done correctly, however, this process results in a reed that not only produces a more beautiful sound, but also holds up to even the most demanding musical performances.

In The Way of Cane, Arbiter demystifies this process for bassoonists of all levels of experience. Drawing from his decades-long experience as both musician and reed-maker, Arbiter provides a comprehensive yet accessible overview of the craft, from the differing sound qualities produced by changing the dimensions of the reed's blades to the changes in the reed's behaviors as it passes through cycles of wetting and drying during production. Small changes in each of these variables, Arbiter explains, contribute to the ultimate goal of producing a bassoonist's ideal sound. With step-by-step instructions, detailed photos that further illuminate the reed-making process, and a companion website featuring the author's own recordings. The Way of Cane emphasizes the importance of the reed to the bassoon's sound, as well as the harmony between reed and musician.