24. November 2022 · Comments Off on And now a Video! · Categories: Reed Making

This is from Mingjia Liu and MusEcho. It shows you how to use his new knife.

22. November 2022 · Comments Off on A New Knife! · Categories: Reed Making

I have just received a new reed knife from Principal Oboist of the San Francisco Opera Mingjia Liu’s company Musecho.

This knife has replaceable blades. If you, like me, really hate having to sharpen a knife, it is a wondrous thing, and so great for taking to the rehearsal or concert hall, as carrying a sharpening stone or other device does add to the weight of all we carry. (You can use his wonderful burnishing rod to keep the burr the way you like it.) With the replaceable blades you simply swap out one blade for a new one when necessary. You can buy the thin blades in packages of 10 each, with 10 cases of those 10 (in other words: 100 blades) for $80.

The sheath has a magnet that helps remove the used blade, but also can hold a plaque, which I find so darn convenient.

Oh … and that thread? It’s so darn pretty, and so comfortable to hold while winding!

Bravo, Mingjia! And a big BRAVO, too, for your work in the opera Orpheus and Eurydice.

I am starting to teach reed making to a student today. I’ve not done this in a very long time, between Covid and the disinterest of so many students I finally gave up offering group classes. I’m not totally thrilled to teach the craft, as I just don’t find reed making tremendously enjoyable (some people actually do!), but if one is a serious oboe student it is something one must learn. There are many who don’t make their own reeds from scratch these days (sadly there is still a lot of stigma attached to that truth here in the good old USA), but the craft is still essential to learn, so the musician understands how reeds function and also so the player can adjust reeds that are purchased. I’ve never found a reed I’ve purchased something I could simply play without a few little adjustments!

So here I go … I’ve found my Reed Making Manual (I used to have it here for purchase but since no one ever showed any interest I took it down). Wish my student and I luck! Okay, okay, I don’t actually believe in luck, but it’s just something we say … right? ? Perhaps, instead, I should say “wish my student and I good skill!

28. November 2017 · Comments Off on A Different Reed Making Technique · Categories: Reed Making

Christoph Hartmann demonstrates how he makes reeds while on tour. Of course the reeds he plays on are quite different than ours, but I love that little device he has! And yes, they use box cutters rather than knives like ours. I’d heard about that many years ago, when I met up with a person who learned reed making in Germany.

Yesterday a friend dropped a reed and it proceeded to fall through a crack in the floor. This happened during a concert.

Let me tell you, this is worthy of many, many tears! I know the friend didn’t literally cry, but surely must have felt a bit like doing so.

Double reed players spend hours on reeds — it can feel like a lifetime! We are dealing with plant life. Every piece of cane is different. Every piece of cane is in a state of change. We take our knives to this material, and each tiny scrape can change a reed drastically. One bad scrape and it’s done for.

If I hear a student say “I LOVE LOVE LOVE my reed” or some such thing (always using that dangerous singular “reed” rather than “reeds”!) I sometimes respond with “I’m sorry.” I don’t say this completely in jest: if you love it that much it’s just sad because 1) it will change and 2) you are probably relying on that one reed. (I could continue to list other reasons, but for now I’ll leave it at that.)

A non-reed player can’t quite understand why we all go crazy over reeds. When we get that rare batch of really great cane it’s rather like getting a huge sum of unexpected money in the mail: it’s wonderful, you can definitely use it, but it will go away. One difference between the two, though, is that the money doesn’t change value: a $100 bill doesn’t suddenly morph into a $5, but the cane just might opt to change at some point. Maybe it’s more like a bottle of good wine. Hm.

Most of my students aren’t interested in making reeds. They are young, they are FAR too busy (oh how I wish they weren’t pushed to do so darn much: how can they do anything well and with passion when they are running from one “this’ll get me into college” thing to the next?), and, honestly, they really don’t want to bother. I have colleagues who require their students to make reeds. I don’t. I’ve taught two reed making classes in the past few years and not ONE of those students continued with the process. They merely developed great respect and admiration for the reed makers from whom they order! (That is actually one of the main reasons I wanted to teach the skill … that, and getting parents to understand how difficult the craft is.) I think I’m now done with teaching the craft: someone else can take over on that. I have hated reed making for years, and it’s better to learn from someone who doesn’t despise it quite as much as I do.

But I ramble. Mostly I wanted to share this quote from the wonderful oboist Aaron Hill:

Reed making is what it must feel like to try to keep an endangered species from going extinct. We cling to a few precious living specimens for hope and guard them with every bit of strength we have. Many attempts to reproduce good reeds either fail entirely or don’t reach maturity.

Here is a nice interview with Aaron and this link takes you to some great YouTube videos by him. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He’s a great player and I have no doubt that he’s also a great teacher.

My friend — the fantastic oboist Mingjia Liu — has a company, MusEcho, that is making some wonderful reed making tools. He sent me some to try, and I’m mightily impressed! Below are images of these tools. Not only are they very high quality, but they are beautiful. Yes, I like things that look lovely!

Here is an image of what I received. He does have one more tool there — a twin splitter — but I don’t split my own cane, so I had no need for that.

Burnishing rod, ruler, knife and waxed thread:

The following links will take you to the page talking about the item.

The “Bev-LLow” knife feels fantastic in my hand! It is comfortable, a great weight, and works very well when carving. Look at that gorgeous wood and great sheath! Oh … and there’s a magnet in the sheath so you can attach your plaque. Handy!

This is waxed thread. Yes. Waxed. How cool is that? Read more about these spools at his site. VERY clever!

FINALLY! A gauge ruler for both left handed and right handed people! This is one brilliant ruler. Both sides are marked. I’ve been dreaming of something like this for a long time! And of course there’s the gauge to measure cane diameter. Handy!

The burnishing rod is a handy tool too: the magnetic rod fits inside its handle. This is not a lightweight tool, but I love it. And of course it’s also a lovely tool to look at … plus I love that it comes with a holder. I like my tools to be neat and tidy.


BRAVO, Minjia, and thank you so very, very much. These are fantastic!

20. July 2016 · Comments Off on Reed Making 2016 · Categories: Reed Making

For the first time in quite a long while I decided to teach a reed making class this summer. I had a class of four, and the students did a very good job. Now, of course, the hard work begins for them: to really learn the craft takes a lot of determination and a lot of hours. (Along with a lot of cane and a rather aching back, as they learned!) All said they were very surprised at the difficulty, and one commented on now understanding why reeds cost what they do!

I enjoyed it so much I think I’ll do it again next year! Each student received a copy of my reed making book, included in the three session fee. I do have it for sale in pdf form for a mere $15 via PayPal if anyone else is interested.

Great job, Brenden, Jerily, Korin and Timothy! Keep working at it!







22. February 2016 · Comments Off on Dwight Parry & Reeds · Categories: Reed Making, Reeds, Videos

Here’s a fun video (if it shows up — we’ll see when this posts, as I’m not seeing it at the moment. **Update: it’s working!) about reeds:

“Dwight Parry, the Principle Oboe for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra talks about literally carving out his own sound.”

Here’s another in case that one doesn’t work (but the above video is a bit more informative):

14. December 2015 · Comments Off on Ah, Reedmaking · Categories: Reed Making

There is a “fun” (if that word can be connected to the craft) article about reed making here.

And then there’s this snippet (I’d heard of issues about taking reeds on board … I can see them being weapons, but only when it comes to making painful sounds!):

Once, when he was passing through an airport, Mr. Rodgers’ bassoon reeds were nearly confiscated by a security officer who believed the sharp pieces could be used as weapons. After demonstrating how the reeds worked, the bassoonist was allowed to take them on board.

“I was on my way to an audition. If he had taken those, I might as well have just gone home. He might as well have just thrown out my bassoon,” he said. “It’s like taking a singer’s vocal cords.”

19. May 2014 · Comments Off on Ah, Reeds! · Categories: Reed Making

Reed from Dorian Warneck on Vimeo.

From the Vimeo page:

The reed is considered the part of Oboe playing that makes it so difficult. Slight variations in temperature, altitude, weather, and climate will change a perfectly working reed into an unplayable collection of cane.
Reed is a silent documentary short, in which Petrea Warneck takes the viewer through the process of making an oboe reed.
Petrea Warneck is a Yamaha Performing Artist.
Directed by Dorian Warneck
“Sonata for Oboe and Piano” composed by Daniel Schnyder.
Performed by:
Petrea Warneck on Oboe
Lucinda Shields on Piano