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Oboe Reeds: Why Are the Blades Different Lengths?

When I clip my reed to shorten or balance it, I always offset the clip so that the two blades are slightly different in length.










I do this very intentionally, because we don't play the oboe straight away from our face
)____
)

But rather, angled downward

)
) \
    \
      \

So as I approach my mouth with the reed, I want the shorter blade facing towards me:

  \
\   \
  \   \

So that the longer back blade, or upper blade, can "catch" the air as it flies from my mouth into the oboe, and funnel it down into the instrument

=====  \
         \ \\ \
           \ \\ \

Instead of interrupting the air and forcing it away from the oboe

====]    \
               \  \
                 \  \

To accomplish this, I angle the reed against the cutting block as I clip

which forces the blades to offset, so I can clip straight down and wind up with an appropriately uneven result.



















Occasionally, to make the articulation a little zingier, I will clip straight, and try to minimize that difference between the blades.


But I seldom find that result to be perfectly pleasant.  It may solve the immediate articulation problem, which may be the thing I needed, but in my experience this technique sacrifices depth and warmth in the tone.











My close up photos might make it seem like there's a BIG OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE between the blades, but sometimes I have to hold them up really close and squint to figure out which side goes on my lower lip and which on my upper.



To solve that I always choose the side of the reed with the "crossover" in the thread to be the lower blade.  This gives me a visual and tactile clue as to which way to play the reed.  I can plop it in without looking and know that I'm doing it right - which in turn makes it really look like I know what I'm doing.  It makes me appear unfussy.











Has this been useful or interesting?  I've made a PDF of it - for your reference, or for your students.  You can download it HERE!

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