Skip to main content

Reed Pro Tip: Rotate!

Does this sound familiar?  You have a favorite reed.  It feels great, and you play it all the time - at school, at home, in lessons.  The response is right where you want it, all the time, and it just seems to get more and more comfortable for you the longer you play.  It's a GOOD reed.

Then, tragedy strikes.  A flute player jostles your instrument and the reed breaks.  Or it cracks against your teeth.  Or it just finally gets too old to play on.  And you are left looking at a case full of unfamiliar reeds - some too new and hard, some too old and close to death, and inevitably there's a concert or a competition coming up that very week.  In a panic you order a reed from your teacher, or the store, or your favorite online reed-maker - and even though it's new, and customized for you, it DOES NOT feel as blissfully comfy as that sweet older reed did.  It feels hard.  It makes your mouth hurt.  The response is unexpectedly slow, or alarmingly fast.  It distracts you and causes you to make mistakes.

This is why ROTATION is so important. In my case right now I have about twelve - okay, ten -  playable, good oboe reeds.  I recommend that every player have AT LEAST THREE.

Here's how the process might work.  Your case contains three reeds: A, B, and  C.  On Monday you play A.  Tuesday, B.  Wednesday, C.  On Thursday, when you come back to reed A, you might find that it feels wimpy or sharp and edgy compared to the other two.  You don't like it.  So you order a new one, and begin to rotate your new reed, D, in with B and C.  Reed D gradually gets broken in and comfy, and as B ages out you bring in a reed E to replace it.  On concert day or lesson day you choose the one which feels or sounds the best - which is something that you already know because it's only been a few days since you last played each choice - then resume your rotation.

This is useful for several reasons. Since it is inevitably the case that every reed feels different on the oboe, and that every day and in every venue the instrument itself, as well as the reed, reacts and changes, you might as well get accustomed to that variability. Don't be the oboist who can only play in optimal conditions, because having those when you really want them is RARE.

And since a brand new reed will never feel quite as broken in and comfy as an older one, it makes sense to keep reeds in a few different stages.  You can use older ones for chamber music or teaching days, brand new ones for practicing, and slightly broken in ones that still have lots of body in the orchestra.

And finally, If you only use a given reed twice a week, say, each one will last much longer than would otherwise have been the case.  I can only play a reed heavily for a week or so - at most! - but I have options in my case right now that were made back in October.  They've got a few more services in them, and it's nice to have a safety net of reeds that are well broken in and safe when all else fails!

Happy Oboe-ing!







Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

We took a vacation this summer.This is not news to anyone in my life - anyone who knows me or especially Steve on Facebook followed along with all of our pictures.We took our travel trailer out to Arizona - via St Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Roswell, Santa Fe - and then stayed a week in Clarksdale and Flagstaff and visited some ancient pueblo ruins, Sedona, Jerome, the Lowell Observatory, the Grand Canyon.We swam in swimming pools, lakes, and icy mountain streams.We hiked.Eventually we came home again, via Albuquerque, Amarillo, Tulsa, and St Louis. (our inventiveness had somewhat worn out).After a week at home we took another trip, and drove to Vermont via western NY and the Adirondack Park (stayed an extra day to hike a mountain), lived four days in East Franklin VT, and came home via Catskill and eastern Ohio.
This vacation felt different from all of our previous ones.In the 21 years we’ve been married, I can name only one - maybe two trips we ever took that were not For Work or For …