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Reed Care for Oboe & Bassoon Players

Open reed case with 3 oboe reeds inside

Care must be always taken with your reeds, as chipped or damaged reeds won’t play correctly. When you follow these tips, your oboe and bassoon reeds will typically last about a month.

Oboe reeds

Diagram of an oboe reed. Top of the reed is the cane. The binding is in the middle, and the cork is at the bottom. The staple is beneath the cork.

The oboe reed is made from specially grown bamboo cane. Blowing into the top of the reed causes the two pieces of cane vibrate together to create sound.

The reed staple is a thin metal tube covered with cork that creates a seal between the cane and the oboe. The binding secures the cane to the staple.

Bassoon reeds

Diagram of a bassoon reed. The cane is shown at the top with binding at the bottom.

Unlike the oboe reed, the bassoon reed does not have a separate staple. Instead, the bamboo tube acts as a staple. The binding is more elaborate and secures the cane.

The reed is place over the bassoon crook, which creates a seal, and directs air from the player through to the instrument.

Before Playing

Oboe reed being placed in soaking cup.

If you have just eaten, make sure to either brush your teeth or rinse your mouth out with water before playing.

Make sure to remove any lip products, as these will negatively affect reeds.

Soak your reed in room temperature for 2 to 3 minutes. 

While Playing

1 oboe reed has been removed from reed case and is being held next to it.

Break your reeds in by playing them for a short time on the first day, about 5 to 10 minutes, then gradually increase the duration of playing until comfortable. This usually takes 3 to 5 days. Make sure you start breaking in new reeds before your current reeds need replacing.

Rotate between 2 to 3 reeds daily to prolong their life. When you start having multiple practice sessions per day plus rehearsals, you will need to rotate your reeds more frequently. 

If you ever need to put your instrument down, first take out your reed and place it in its box or back in your soaking cup. Also remember to lay your instrument down with the keys facing upwards and tilted to the left!

After Playing

A person with a colourful green top is blowing through an oboe reed. There was trumpets and trombones on the wall in the background.

Remove any excess water from your reed by either blowing through the cork end, or gently wiping away the water on the cane.

Always return your reed to the box when you are not using it.

The cases your reed comes in does not have any ventilation, so when at home you can dry your reed out with the box opened to ensure mould does not build up.

Tip: Reed cases allow for ventilation while stored and makes caring for your reeds easier!

A stack of oboe and bassoon reed cases. An open oboe reed case is positioned in the front with 3 oboe reeds inside.

Following these tips will keep your reeds in good playing condition for longer!

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