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When is it a good time to start making oboe reeds?

hi i am oboe player and when i went to band camp last year i learned a little bit about making reeds and i really want to learn more. oh and i am in eight grade.

I would love to hear from instructors out there about this. I know of someone who begins teaching reed making extremely early. Others don’t. Do you wait until a student reaches a certain level, or a certain age? Do tell!

I prefer having my students learn from someone else, although I will teach reed making if necessary. I just think others might be better at teaching the craft since I really despise it so much!


  1. I have a sort of flexible level + age policy. At least high school age, and usually not until the junior or senior year (so usually age 16+, maybe as young as 14 for a particularly motivated and able student). And they have to have some maturity and depth in their tone, reasonably reliable response, and the ability to play nuanced dynamics. I figure if they can do those things they can make at least basic reed judgments/diagnoses.

  2. I think that’s a good plan, Bret. I know someone who starts them even as young as elementary school. I’m quite uncomfortable with that!

  3. It depends on if they are advanced enough players that learning to make reeds can be of use to them, and if they are serious enough to want to invest in buying reed tools, which can be pretty expensive (decent ones, anyway–and since having bad reed tools just makes an already difficult task even harder, I think it’s worth it to invest in decent tools). Other than some lessons here and there, I didn’t start learning how to make reeds til late in high school, and I wished I’d learned earlier. It made my freshman and sophomore struggles with reeds in college very stressful. I occasionally teach reed lessons to some very serious middle school oboe students of another teacher here in LA, and they seem OK with it (though I wonder if starting later would be easier since their fine motor skills might be more developed). With my own students, I wait til later, but perhaps that should also correlate to how advanced they are on the oboe.

  4. Btw, I DO, on occasion, ask students if they like to do crafts. Some of them do stitchery. I think those students would be able to begin reed making a bit earlier, as they are usually better with fine motor skills. I also take into consideration their behavior. I have one young student whose father wanted him to learn reed making. The sweet kiddo can’t sit still, and his attention drifts frequently. That, for me, makes it clear that he’s not nearly ready to hold a sharp knife! 🙂

  5. One word: fly tying.

    Wait, that’s how many…oh well. Maybe if I hyphenated it? Anyhow, find out if anyone in the family (including the student) is into tying their own flies.

  6. I fully agree with Gabrielle and Patty, but, if the student is really motivated, I hate to frustrate that energy.

    I’m only teaching adults these days, but if I had a seriously motivated kid I would ask them to read a few online sources (Martin Schuring’s pedegogy on the Arizona State website, for instance) and talk through the process until the student understands what they should try to do to make the appropriate scrapes. If they don’t have sufficient motor skills, so be it, but if they do, they can get a jump start on probably the most frustrating efforts known to Man…

  7. I’ve yet to HAVE a motivated student when it comes to reeds, Bob. So far, in fact, it’s been nearly impossible to even get my older students to attempt reed making. Sigh.

  8. Hmmm. Hadn’t thought of that one, Tim! That would help with the winding. Then I guess I should ask them if they ever skin a fish or something.

    (AS I mentioned to Bob, though, I rarely get students who ARE interested in reed making. They are all so darn wise ….)

  9. I started in 9th grade as part of a double-reed summer camp. We had reed class during the day, then at night we would have impromptu “reed making parties” with the councilors (or in friends’ rooms after lights out). I think that was a great introduction because while I do still have issues with my reed-making, it’s not as much of a terrible chore as some people find it. Plus it’s a good excuse to hang out with other double reed friends and be somewhat productive at the same time.

    I’m still a student myself, but it seems like the time to start would be as soon as the player is fairly proficient, and I doubt they would be if they couldn’t sit still and pay attention. Personally I think making reeds has helped my playing ability and visa-versa, especially learning how to deal with weather changes and that sort of thing. John Mack said something along the lines of “when you have a laundry basket full of reeds you’ve made, you can start making decent ones.” I don’t know about everyone else, but I’d want to start on that laundry basket as soon as possible.

  10. I’ve had some students who could start reed making rather quickly if only they wanted to. Sadly, most are so darn busy their parents say no. Then others simply refuse. I suppose I should become a stubborn teacher and not fix their reeds up after a certain level.

    Thanks for filling me in on your story, Jaclyn! It’s great to read your comments!