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?

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 · 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 · 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 · 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 · 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.

18. October 2012 · 2 comments · Categories: Reeds

Richard Woodhams talk about our impossible quest …

Can you hear the differences in the reeds? For me the huge issue is about how reeds feel. If it feels rotten, I will struggle horribly and I’ll be miserable.

Yeah, I go by feelings … whoa whoa whoa feelings ….

03. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Reeds, Videos

Jane frequently whips me at Scrabble. Here she talks about reeds. I’m guessing she’d whip me in a reed making competition too.

PS I make my reeds last longer. When you are as bad as I am at reed making you just learn to force ‘em to last!

Jane Owen: A Reed in the Rough from Erik Clapp on Vimeo.

01. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Reeds, Tools

I received a lovely email from Ryan Walsh, the owner of the company ReedsInCase, and he sent me a sample reed and a Tool Kit Reed Case made by Jen Case. The latter is quite clever, and wonderful way to carry both reeds and tools in a lightweight case. My Landwell won’t fit because it’s handle is a bit too thick, but the Jende barely works, and my Vitry knives fit easily. The reed plays well. I really should purchase a few others from Ryan just to see about the consistency of them, but I was impressed. It’s a rather long reed (over 71mm), and I did a wee bit of carving. It’s not uncommon to need to fine tune a reed, especially when it was made in another part of the country, so I have no problem with that. I may end up clipping the tip a bit, but we’ll see. I’m going to take some time with it to allow it to adjust to California. After all, it’s had a long trip!

Here are some photos … both sides of the case, and below that the reed in the case:

There are other reed cases as well, so be sure and check out all their products!

Thank you, Ryan and Jen, for your wonderful generosity! I think your products are great, and I hope your business is very successful!

… 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!