19. May 2017 · 1 comment · Categories: Reeds

… but who doesn’t?!

Oh. Right. All those people who don’t play a reed instrument. But how boring are THEY?!

From Eastman oboists … very fun!

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.

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):

21. September 2015 · Comments Off on An Interesting Reed Source · Categories: Reeds

A while back Laura Covey of MKL Reeds contacted me, asking if I was interested in trying some of her reeds. She has a different way of handling the whole reed thing: she has a number of reed makers (twelve at this point), and you can search for the one that works for you. She identifies the reeds by colored dots. If you order three reeds she will send three reeds out to you, each from a different maker, and you can determine if one of those dots works. When you next order you simply request that dot color. Reeds are also guaranteed and returnable (exchanged or refundable) within five days of receipt. From what she says you also don’t have quite the wait time you have with some reed makers: she gets them out within a week.

She sent me six reeds to peruse, each from a different maker.


They really did differ quite a lot. One had no tip to speak of. They measure from 69mm to slightly over 70mm long. Most crowed a C for me, although one was a B. Some crowed only one higher C rather than the free blowing multiple Cs I prefer. Out of the batch she sent me I found I could play on three rather comfortably and I will continue to work with those and see if they are “keepers”.


I found the green, double black and double red dots to fit me better. The other three simply wouldn’t work with my embouchure. Not at all, really. The funny thing is that I know one of those would suit one of my students quite well, because he takes in so much more reed and likes to press harder on the things.

But that’s just it, yes? Our bodies … our lip structure, our embouchures … they all determine what we want to work with.

MKL reeds are not inexpensive. Oboe reeds are $35 a pop, and English horn reeds (I’ve not tried those, although I’d certainly love to since I play EH in symphony much of the time) are $42. Of course if you are, like me, a rotten reed maker, you will pay nearly anything if you find a reed that works for you.

Thanks, Laura, for sending the reeds my way, and may your business flourish!

25. February 2015 · Comments Off on Just Play · Categories: Reeds

So … have a bad reed?

Just play.


You will have bad reeds sometimes. It happens. Everyone complains about them. but JUST PLAY. Give it a go. Make them work. Whining does us no good (well, okay, sometimes it’s kind of fun) and makes others rather annoyed with us. Besides it sounds like we are just making excuses and it also makes us look rather unprepared. When I have only bad reeds in the case I don’t get to tell a conductor, “Sorry, but I have only bad reeds so I’m going to skip playing today.”

We just have to play.

Learn to play well on bad reeds. It can be done. It’s not a lot of fun to do it, but it’s good to have a flexible enough embouchure (and attitude) that you can deal when you open the reed box and find only the misbehaving sort residing there.

PS Playing sure is work sometimes, isn’t it?

05. February 2015 · Comments Off on Akropolis America · Categories: Reeds, Videos

For your listening pleasure (and thanks Bob Hubbard, for bringing this to my attention … what fun!):

Akropolis is Tim Gocklin (oboe), Kari Dion (clarinet), Matt Landry (saxophone), Andrew Koeppe (bass clarinet) and Ryan Reynolds (bassoon)

YouTube Notes:
Arranged by Akropolis’ bassoonist, Ryan Reynolds, Variations on “America” explores several styles of music, all based on a familiar patriotic theme. This work has been set for several instrumentations, including symphonic orchestra, wind band, and originally, organ. The reed quintet allows for additional exploration into unique colorations and textures. We hope you enjoy our take on this fun, late 19th century romp!

Special thanks to the Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library for donating their beautiful space, and to Ray Reynolds for operating our third camera.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off on RQOD · Categories: Oboe, Read Online, Reeds, RQOD

RQOD = Reed Quote of the Day

Don’t worry, I’ll probably not have any more of these … but how could I resist this?

A finished reed is 70 millimeters in length, and the part that you scrape is only from 47 to 70 millimeters. Twenty-three millimeters define our existence.

Eugene Izotov

You can read more and even see a video about his low A oboe by clicking here.

11. July 2014 · Comments Off on Wowzers · Categories: Reeds

IF this works, you can bet it’ll be a stress reliever for so many. I will be attending the IDRS convention again this year. Guess what I’ll be looking for first?! Legere already makes sax, clarinet and bassoon reeds. They were saving the best for last, maybe?! (How did I miss this last year in Redlands? Oh … yeah … I was so overwhelmed I missed nearly everything!)

17. April 2014 · Comments Off on Reed Cases · Categories: Reeds

I have this thing about reed cases. I want them to stay like new. Of course that’s rather difficult to do, but at one point I used to sew cloth cases just to keep them looking nicer. How silly can I be? THAT silly!

Or even sillier. But oh well!

Right now I’m on the hunt for a new case that has the wire clip type holders. I love those. I bought one years ago at a local dealer, but they stopped carrying them. The latches on that case are fried so I have to use rubber bands to hold it shut, and it’s pretty beat up in any case. I occasionally go on a “reed case hunt” online. These days I’m not finding the kind I want. Are the wire clips that uncommon, I wonder?

I DID run across a site that has a number of cases. One of them (the typical ribbon holder sort) has “Semi-professionale Oboe reed case” written underneath.

Hmm. What makes a reed case “semi-professional” I wonder?

By the way, if you buy the “mandrel” sort, be cautious! They don’t all hold the reeds securely. I had students using those (the plastic ones are very inexpensive so they are provided by the stores that rent oboes) and they’d open the little case and all the reeds’ tips were damaged horribly. Sad stuff. Just don’t even bother. Trust me.

Ooh … I see that there is a double sided case that holds reeds in the clip fashion here. I wonder, though, about the double-sided. I prefer to access my oboe and English horn reeds on one side, for the most part, since I frequently double. I’ll have to ponder.

And $110.00!!?? Yikes!

22. March 2014 · Comments Off on About Reeds · Categories: Ramble, Reeds

… and about the the Twitter Quote of the Day posted right below this, I have a few things to say:

A damaged reed? Toss it.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.
Always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.

Well, you get the idea … right? My studio students are required to have three working reeds in their cases at all times. (Although not all are following that policy which can drive a person batty.)

Stay ahead of the game!
We all need to stay ahead of the reed situation. If you have three working reeds in your case don’t just sit there … order the next batch! Don’t wait until all the reeds are dead.

Toss the bad reeds!
I have students come in with a reed case of broken reeds. For some reason students can’t seem to toss them. As I told a student the other day, “You have a closet full of shoes but there’s not one pair you can fit into. You will be going to school barefoot!” That’s what far too many students do with reeds. If the reed isn’t any good just toss the darn thing! Save the staple, of course, if it’s decent, in case you learn to make reeds, but otherwise either throw the darn thing away or use it for a craft project. (Oboe reed Christmas ornaments, anyone?)

Learn to adjust reeds
I know some instructors require all of their students to learn to make oboe reeds. I’m not in that camp — probably because I hate to make oboe reeds! The majority of my students have no intention of majoring in music in college. Some plan on playing during college, but that’s all. (Some don’t even plan on that and are using oboe as a “college entrance magic key” … more on THAT in a blog entry, I think.) I’ve decided that the reed equipment to make one’s own oboe reeds, and the time it takes to master reed making (Hmmm. For me that time has yet to come!) isn’t worth it for them. I know some of you will roll your eyes at that, but I just can’t bear the thought of these students, all of whom are already over busy (but that’s another blog entry!) spending hours on a craft they will really not use in the future. I do think every oboe student should learn to adjust reeds, though; even if you find a great reed supplier (and I have a few I really, really like) you will have to do adjustments on occasion. A few scrapes can turn a reed that won’t crow into a thing of beauty. Okay. Maybe not beauty, but at least the thing will work! Don’t always rely on a teacher to finish them up for you; if you go to college and plan on playing in a group there you won’t necessarily have someone to do that work for you and you might be very embarrassed when you can’t get something to work at all.

Oh … and did I mention: always have more than one playable reed in your reed case. Always.