I watched a Quicktime video of a very good oboe player. One who recently won an audition. And I looked at the embouchure. I see absolutely no speck of the reed, only the thread is visible.

I frequently say “less reed!” to students. “Corners forward,” my students will recognize. “Think “oooh” or ü!” They’ve heard ’em all.

And now I’m thinking I need to lay off of that. If this excellent oboist swallows the reed (and really, the oboist is swallowing the thing) who am I to say, “less reed!” Right?

But I really do want to see the reed that oboist is playing on. There is no way I could take the whole reed in my mouth and make a decent sound. Absolutely no way.

So what I want to know from you reeders out there: do you swallow the reed? Can you see any of the cane at all? Am I a total nutcase, thinking less reed is a good thing?

Yes, I have been in this biz since the 70s. Yes, I should just shut up and trust I know what I’m doing. And yes, I still doubt myself.


  1. I played horn with a trumpet embouchure for about 10 years (there is a significant difference in where the mouthpiece is placed on the lips – for trumpet it’s about 50/50, for horn about 65-75% is on the upper lip). My sound was affected enough (and not in a good way) that Tim Smith could tell without even looking. I eventually changed it, which was very difficult, but resulted in a great improvement tone-wise. Some professional horn players, however, do play with a trumpet embouchure and sound fine. But not very many, I don’t think.

    I’m finding with my current reeds that I’m worried about scraping the back of my throat when I go above a D, though 8-).

  2. I can still see some cane when I’m playing. otherwise, with my current set up, bad things happen.