Begin by taking a piece of cork and a reed (or two if making double reed) and inserting them into the cork notch. Tuning a call, with no experience is going to be tough the first couples times. You are better to listen to some good callers calling and listen for the sounds, pitches, and tones that they make. Your call typically should be able to have all of those sounds made on it. I am a firm believer that the best way to learn how to tune is by trial and error, but also learning how the call actually works to produce sound. Experimenting is the best way to really learn.
Tuning the call itself really isn’t hard to do. It involves sanding lightly in spots, and shortening, or lengthening the reed. Sometimes sanding the reed, just in front of the cork notch also helps to let the reed flex easier. Sometimes you also may want to put a slight bend in the reed by flexing it up or down.
First insert your insert into the barrel and blow. Does sound come out? Does it sound like a duck? If so, you are on track. If not, don’t fret, there is still hope.
If your call doesn’t sound like a duck, what is it doing?
If the air is going right through the call with hardly any resistance, your reed is not vibrating or is locking UP towards the top of the call. This could mean your reed length is too long or too short, you drilled your tone channel too deep, or the angle of your radius is too steep.
If hardly any air comes through the call, either tone channel is not drilled deep enough, your reed is locking down, onto the toneboard, or your toneboard is too flat. Usually, just a little bit of sanding on the end of the toneboard will fix it. You can also run your finger between the toneboard and reed to “flex” the reed up slightly, allowing air to get under it. You can also try to blow very soft and see if you get some sound. Another cause of this is exhaust port being drilled to small, not allowing enough air to escape fast enough.
If you call sounds sorta like a duck…
If the tone is too high pitched, your reed is most likely too short. If the tone is too low pitched, the reed is most likely too long. When lengthing or shortening a reed, do it in VERY small increments. It takes VERY little difference to change the sound.
Practice, Practice, Practice…
The info above is NOT a fix all. There are other problems you will run into that you can only learn how to fix by doing it over and over again. Experiement. Try a longer reed, shorter reed, thinner or thicker reed. Sand more, sand less. You WILL ruin some toneboards so I suggest not putting a ton of time into them until you get the hang of it. No sense in spending hours finishing a beautiful toneboard to realize you drilled too deep and it is junk. Time, patience, and practice is the only way to truly become a great call maker.