Local startup uses machine learning to create reeds for wind instruments | Community
Like so many musicians, two local artists immediately felt the burden of separation from their audiences and collaborators made necessary since the start of the pandemic.
âNot being able to play is a big problem,â said Antonio Dowling, co-founder of Reedesign. âThis connection is such an important part of their career and their livelihood. “
Dowling, who has over eight years of technical experience, and professional oboist Logan Esterling founded Reedesign in July amidst upheaval in the music world. Dowling and Esterling, who are business and romantic partners, handcraft the reeds and run the business from their home in Redmond.
A double reed is a pair of joined reeds that vibrate together to produce the sound of wind instruments. Dowling said double reed instruments, which include oboe, English horn and bassoon, can be found in most classical music in the symphony.
âOur company makes reeds, which are an integral part of playing these instruments, using machine learning,â he said.
Technically, Dowling said, Reedesign collects data from the reeds they make and aggregates each piece of cane into a large database, which feeds into the machine learning model. Machine learning then predicts the outcome of the reeds with certain qualities, such as tone or pitch, based on data points throughout the process.
âThis marriage of technology and music is innovative and new, and we don’t see that anywhere else for reeds,â he said. âWe are delighted to see if there is any potential for growth. “
In pre-pandemic times, universities and institutions had âreed roomsâ for musicians to focus on making reeds and share tips along the way. In order to connect with musicians throughout COVID-19, Esterling began hosting an Instagram Live series called Meeting and Reeding as an offshoot of Reedesign.
On the weekly show, he interviews prominent oboist and English horn players about their approach to reed-making, Dowling said. Previous guests included Mary Lynch (principal oboist, Seattle Symphony), Claire Brazeau (principal oboist, LA Chamber Orchestra), Toyin Spellman-Diaz (oboist, Imani Winds) and Russ deLuna (English horn, San Francisco symphony).
âLogan is an exceptional oboe player and reed maker,â said Lynch. âI am always impressed with the reeds he makes for my students. They are easy to play and have a naturally beautiful sound.
Dowling said there are various pros and cons to starting this business at this time. For one thing, he noted, not many people are performing right now. Rather, it’s an opportunity to fine-tune their process and make sure customers are happy with the product, he added.
âIf COVID hadn’t happened, there might not have been as much need for certain aspects of the business,â he said. âWe take this time to achieve what our customers really want. “