There’s no way around it—if you’re going to be a serious oboist, you have to learn to make your own reeds. Even fine handmade reeds purchased from an excellent reedmaker can’t compete with reeds made to your own personal specifications, suited to your highly individual combination of embouchure, instrument, playing style, and performance situation. A reed is in a constant state of change, from initial scraping until eventual retirement, and needs the daily ministrations of a skilled reedmaker to keep it playing at its best.
Woodwind doublers who take up the oboe as a secondary instrument will need to learn at least basic reed adjustment techniques in order to have reeds they can count on in professional situations. But if you’re going to learn the mysteries of fine-tuning “finished” reeds, you’re most of the way toward learning the whole process—consider at least learning to tie blanks from cane that you purchase already gouged and shaped. Starting from tube cane gives you even more control over the finished product, but requires the use of gouging and shaping equipment ($1200+, all told).
There’s no real substitute for learning reedmaking at the feet of a skilled oboe teacher, but here are some of my hand-picked favorite guides and tutorials online. These can serve as a good introduction for a beginner, and more experienced reedmakers may like to cull a few new ideas from the wide variety of opinions and approaches represented here.
Online oboe reedmaking resources
- Martin Schuring’s outstanding reed adjustment guide and diagram, and some warm fuzzies for beginning reedmakers.
- Really excellent stuff by Sarah Hamilton on general principles of reedmaking (part 1 and part 2), tips for beginners, and suggestions on testing reeds.
- Patty Mitchell’s detailed tutorial, adjustment guide, glossary, and suggested tools and materials.
- A tutorial by Michael Ericson.
- A brief description of the reedmaking process by Sonny Burnette.
- A course in Making Oboe Reeds 101 by MKL Reeds.
- Joseph Shalita’s site dedicated to making oboe reeds. Geared toward selling his e-book, but includes some good free resources including a newsletter and some articles.
- An overview of the reedmaking process by oboist/analytical chemist George Yefchak.
- Another overview, by Samantha Copeland.
- Reed FAQ by Stellar Oboe Products.
- A reedmaking bibliography by David Bourns.
- The reedmaking section of Sprenkle and Ledet’s The Art of Oboe Playing. Not all pages are available on Google Books.