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Oboe/Breaking in new reeds/Embouchure/Reed problem


Hi Geoffrey,

Just a few quick questions regarding breaking in new oboe reeds, embouchure and reed adjustment.

What's the best way to break in an oboe reed as soon as you get it in the mail so it has a warmer, darker sound and increased endurance?

Also, I find that I need to press down a tinsy bit on the reed to improve reed stability. This causes the reed to eventually close down (increases reed sharpness). Is there anyway to compensate for this?

Finally, some of my reeds sound incredibly breathy and airy, especially with B and A (second and first octaves). Is there anything I can do?

Thank you a lot!

Dear James

The best way to break in a reed is wet it, blow it a little then let it dry out and stabilise. If the opening is too large, squeeze it down between thumb and first finger of both hands along its whole length. Try not to put a knife to it at this stage just blow it for a few days and see how it develops. If it is too bright then a sliver off the tip will darken the sound. If it is quite a short scrape say 10mms, then lengthen the scrape a millimetre and see how that helps. Or take out little 3mm long windows on either side of the midline behind the end of the scrape on both sides of the reed. Dig a little out of the cane and see how that works for you. The reed could flatten so watch for that.

If you find you need to press to keep the stability then try wiring the reed to hold it slightly closer. Although after squeezing down this may not be necessary. Then your embouchure can relax a little more and allow the reed to vibrate using your deep breathing to produce a good warm sound with plenty of resonance.

Breathy reeds means too open or the tip is too thick and out of balance. The tip should be the thinnest part of the reed and not too long. A long thintip will give you problems "holding" those top notes especially with the second octave key. If both octaves are breathy make sure that your oboe is in good adjustment in the top joint.

Try running through these videos of adjustment. A series of six very useful guides to getting the oboe in top adjustment by John Peterson of RDG winds.

ON this website:

Best of luck




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Geoffrey Bridge


Professional oboist with many years experience. Former pupil of Leon Goossens. Solo artist for Arts Council of Great Britain. Freelance recitalist/broadcasting/orchestras. Former Head of woodwind teaching in Hampshire, England. Questions on repertoire, playing styles, reeds, cane selection and processing.


St Andrews University Royal College of Music, Aberdeen College of Education Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music General Teaching Council certificate Broadcast solo recitals/performed with major symphony orchestras/Music Club recitals/writings on double reed matters

Chairman and Trustee of the British Double Reed Society International Double Reed Society Association Hautbois Francais Orchestral Manager of Southern Pro Musica Orchestra/Aberdeen Sinfonietta

Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine/International Double Reed Society

LRAM, Cert Ed

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