How To Buy An Oboe Reed On-Line

  • by Kathy Sheinhouse

How To Buy An Oboe Reed On-Line

There are more oboe reed makers than ever before and sifting through them on-line can be daunting and often disappointing.  Here are some tips to make your search a little easier.

Start With A Player Checklist:

  • How Old Are You? Players 12 and under are best served with student oboe reeds with moderate apertures (reed openings) and medium soft to medium strength cane (never soft- it will collapse quickly and rarely stays on pitch)
  • Do You Have A Teacher? If so, think about getting some reeds one grade up for concerts or to help you establish the right habits. You can practice with reeds within your grade.
  • How Strong Is Your Embouchure?  If your embouchure is stronger, you can benefit from a reed with a larger aperture.  If it is not developed, you would probably play flat on a larger aperture reed.
  • How Much Do You Practice/Play (Including Rehearsals)? This impacts how many reeds you will need a month.  
  • What Is Your Budget?

About European Oboe Reeds:

European oboe reeds are made differently than American reeds.  They have a short scrape with different features, the slope of the gouge is different and they require a different embouchure than is normally taught here in the states.  I love the tone quality of European Artists.  But they do sound different from the American reeds and at the highest levels, players in orchestras and ensembles need to match tones with their oboe colleagues.  They are somewhat harder to play at the entry level.  Something to think about when choosing a reed.  You can easily spot them because the tip is not that defined, and the scrape is short.  You can find them a lot in big box stores and on-line.  I would stay away from them.  


Handmade Vs. Manufactured

  • Handmade reeds, when crafted well, are superior to manufactured reeds because the scrape and finish is customized to the strength and density of the cane. Every reed should be tested and adjusted before shipping.  This is not possible with high volume manufactured reeds.

On-Line Handmade Reed Makers Checklist

  • Have they been in business a long time?
  • Wait time? When do you need your reed.  
  • Feedback loop? Can you leave a note with your order?
  • Accessibility? Are they available to consult by phone?
  • Identity?  Do you know who they are and their background?
  • Are they professionally (conservatory) trained?
  • Are they dedicated reed makers, or is their attention diverted by many other professional responsibilities?
  • Oboe Reed style- do they have one option or many? Do the reeds tend to be harder or softer? What cane do they use?  Do they balance tone/response and pitch?  
  • When you buy a sample reed, do you sound better?

A Word About Oboe Reed Suppliers And Altitude

  • Think about their geographic location: Choosing the right oboe reed supplier for yourself can be narrowed down a lot when you consider your geographic location relative to the location where the oboe reed is made. This is especially useful when all other variables from your different reed maker options seem to be equal. The most important variable I would suggest you consider is geography relative to humidity. While no two geographic locations across the country are exactly the same, the closer you can match temperature, altitude and thus humidity, the better the probability that the reed will arrive with properties closely resembling what was actually shipped. When there is a serious mismatch, some beautiful reeds made in one place will be unplayable in another.
  • Some oboe reed makers address this by offering a range of cane diameters. After all, small diameters work best in high dry, and larger diameters work best is warm and wet, climates. Sometimes you can offset some of the changes you anticipate in shipping with diameter. I offer a beginner high altitude oboe reed with this in mind.
  • If you are buying on-line and are interested in a particular oboe reed maker, take the next step and find out where they are made and at what altitude. You can increase your probability of a good match when you consider these factors. If you want to try them even though it is not an exact match, find out if they have diameter options that will increase the probability of a successful relationship.


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