How should I take care of my reeds?
Firstly, keep them in a proper reedcase. Reedcases can seem expensive at first but a reedcase for three reeds only usually costs about the same as a couple of reeds and it can save damaging many reeds. You should never keep them in the plastic tubes that some reeds are supplied in -
If you can, always soak the reed in clean water before playing it. If you always use your saliva alone to soak it whilst warming up, the many chemicals in your saliva will be absorbed into the cane, and the reed will thicken up more quickly.
Ideally always rinse the reed in clean water after you’ve finished playing. This can be done by running tap water through it whilst holding it upside down under a tap, or by carefully swishing the cane part in a small pot of water. This helps prevent the build-
If you have to store the reeds for a long time, try to ensure they are not in a humid or wet environment. Normal indoor room air is perfectly suitable within the UK.
When you first receive the reeds, soak the reed blades in clean water for at least 1 minute before playing. If the reed is too hard at first, soak it in warm water for 3 minutes and gently but firmly press the scraped part of the blades flat for 5 seconds (in the same way that the lips do whilst playing). This may help weaken the resistance in new cane. If the opening at the tip is too open, soak in warm water for 5 minutes, then gently squeeze the wire to close down the tip opening (be careful here -
The tips of my reeds seem to break or split after quite a short time. Why?
If you are a new player this may be because of accidental damage. The tip of the reed is only paper-
I recommend all players form two habits to help avoid this:
1. Always keep the reed in your visual field (within eye-
2. Stick your tongue out. It’s not rude, it’s just what players do. When you’re putting the reed in your mouth, avoid accidentally hitting your teeth and breaking the reed. Stick you tongue out, lay the reed on your tongue, and then let your tongue bring the reed into your mouth. This way you will never hit your teeth.
My reeds are too tight in my oboe. What can I do?
It is best NOT to sand the cork down as this may create flat spots and cause the reed to leak around the cork. It is also messy and time-
A better result is easily got by rolling and squashing the cork. Place the reed on a firm table with the tip of the reed hanging off the side of the table. Holding a reedcase or similar hard flat object, place the reedcase over the cork part of the reed and roll it back and forth ten times whilst pressing firmly down onto the cork. Then try the reed in your oboe. It should be noticeably easier to fit in as you have compressed the cork a little. If it is not compressed enough after this, repeat the process until the reed cork is compressed enough to slide comfortably into the oboe. You should only have to use this method the first time.
I seem to play sharp all the time.
I normally deal with problems of playing consistently sharp by delving into the area of breath support and embouchure as this is almost always the problem. I'll suggest remedies that may help in rough order of likelihood:
1. If the breath support is not great the player will tend to inadvertently pinch the reed a little more in order to make it speak and hold its pitch. After a while this playing "position" can become such a habit that the player is unaware they are doing it. One key indicator of this situation is a tendency to close up the reed after it has been played for a while. The remedy is to use a newer reed which still has a reasonably open aperture, take a very deep breath to stimulate effortlessly strong breath support, and play a long note. As soon as the player has settled on the note, they must start to lower the jaw to loosen the embouchure. The pitch should lower, the reed resonate more freely, and the tone become more mellow. In this case this exercise proves to the player where the problem stems from, and helps them see how to practise to re-
2. The player may have unusual mouth and/or nasal cavity dimensions and so play sharp on every reed/instrument combination. This is rare. One solution is to try a wider reed (eg. Blake, Minster, Berlin, Kavinski). This may solve the problem, in which case look no further. However, changing to a wider reed also changes the tone colour and pitch stability so you may not find this comfortable. If so, you will perhaps need to keep the same reed you are used to but lengthen the staple to lower the pitch. Longer staples are not generally available so a recommended solution is to have a reed-
3. The oboe's bore may be warped, or of very unusual proportions. This is very unlikely but could be tested by having another oboist play the oboe (using their own reeds). If the other player (using their own reeds) plays sharp only on your oboe then we would suspect the oboe has a narrow or unusual bore. You may need to have the instrument tested by us. Alternatively you may need to have a reed-
My reeds keep closing up. What can I do?
Many players presume they should have a stronger reed, believing that, since the reed cannot cope with the pressures it is being put under, a tougher version is needed. I would not recommend this. This would indeed close up more slowly, but would be harder to blow and to control with the embouchure, so the player would need to work harder generally. It would also encourage a tighter embouchure (when an already tight embouchure may be causing the actual problem).
The root cause of the problem is almost certainly with the breath pressure. But don't worry, it should be easily solved. When breath pressure/support is lower, we instinctively play with the reed held more closed by the lips, because only in this more closed position will the reed speak with low breath pressure. Over time, un-
Use a reed which hasn’t closed up yet. Start each playing or practise session with long notes as a warm-
The next time, BIG breath, long note, and this time lower the jaw only until the pitch drops noticeably. The tone should be better, with the reed resonating more fully. This is approximately the playing position you are aiming for. If you can do 10 -
The only bad (?) news is that I would recommend you keep up this method for ever in order to prevent the natural slip back into bad habits that we all suffer from if we don't keep it up.
How do I maintain my oboe?
Firstly I’d recommend having it serviced regularly. This means a full general service which involves much preventative maintenance as well as putting faults right.
How often you should do this depends on how much you play. If less than 1 hour a day, service it every 2 years. If 1-