… and sound okay. Sometimes they look fantastic and even crow great, but don’t work at all. Reeds are a mystery and I don’t care what anyone else says. They are a mystery and that’s that.

For opening night of opera this past Saturday I played on three reeds. La Traviata is a three act opera, but we are doing it slightly differently. We do Act One as is and have an intermission. Then we do Act Two but we don’t get all the way through it before we take our second intermission. We stop right after Alfredo has his little fit about Violetta leaving him. After that intermission we do the remainder of Act Two (now renamed Act Three) and after a short break we do what Verdi called Act Three (unless he, too, had this all done differently and I don’t know about it) and we now call Act Four. Yeah, crazy to try and explain … mostly because I’m not good at explaining things!

So for Act One I used the purple reed on the right that you see below. For the second I used the red (middle) reed. I do the final two acts with the purple reed on the left. All three of those reeds look mighty awful, but they were the ones that worked so there you go. Most important with a reed is response. If it doesn’t respond well, I don’t care how good it sounds. It doesn’t get used. Of course pitch is also important, and finally we do want a reed that has a good sound. I’ve had students use reeds that are just awful when it comes to response but they like them because of their tone. The struggle isn’t worth it. Really. Make sure reads respond!

Sunday I planned on doing the same thing with my reeds, but when I pulled out the pink reed for the second act it had a crack in it. How that happens to me I don’t know. Seems as if I’m the only one who has reeds that just crack all of the sudden. I’m guessing it’s my rotten reed making technique. I pulled out another reed but I only used it when I wasn’t worried about response, since I didn’t quite trust it, so I used Act One guy for the majority of Act TWo.

Reeds. They are a curse, as far as I’m concerned. For the most part, though, I deal (and complain and whine). At least not so far.

Now we have a long break: no opera until Thursday night. I suppose I should work on reeds for the next few days. And maybe practice a bit ‘o Mahler, too! I’m still trying to figure out a reliable fingering for high-high A (you know, the one higher than the “normal” high A). Why would anyone write that for oboe? Ugh!

4 Comments

  1. those reeds look very weird to me… I’m still wondering about the different scrapes sometimes.
    I hate how the weather will mess with reeds… I had a final rehearsol on friday, played everything on one reed that played really well. Sunday was the concert, and on the rehearsal before it the reed just wouldn’t work on anything below the tuning a. I played the rehearsal on a different reed, on which I couldn’t get said a to sound and the b was way too high. Then I finally decided to try an old reed that missed a corner, and it worked fine.
    I love winter, I love ice and skating, but I hate what it does to my reeds…

  2. Do they look weird because of the scrape, Eefje, or because of the chips on them? They are the long scrape reeds, contrary to what you might play. I’m guessing you use the short scrape?

  3. I’m used to the chips, it’s the scrape :p I know about different scrapes, but it still looks weird to me. I have played on reeds like this: bressers-reparatie.nl/te%20behouden%20mappen/image/catalogus/achtergrond/Dia6.JPG and now play on reeds like this: www.schall-quelle.de/images/1003332.jpg
    Both reeds look different from yours, but the second is shorter. ‘german scrape’ my old teacher used to call it, I have a book (in german -_-) that describes how to make them.

  4. Yep, very different than here. We do a long scrape, and it’s like a “W”. Most of us never use wire for oboe reeds. (Many of us do use wire for English horn, but we still do the “W” long scrape.) Some day I’d like to try and short scrape reed, just to see how it feels and hear how it sounds. I doubt I would sound good on them, but who knows?!