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Oboe/which setup for reeds?


QUESTION: Dear Mr Bridge,

Thank you for all your extensive and clear answers on this site. They have helped me before. However, I would like to ask you a question regarding my personal set-up with reeds.

After years of buying my reeds from teachers, I have started making my own reeds. I'm enjoying the learning process, however I don't have a fixed set-up. I'm really looking for a standard so any differences in sound will be due to scraping/tying. I hope you could give some advice.

I play a Marigaux 901. Pitch at 442.  I use chiarugi 2 staples and prefer 45mm length, since I never really got the high notes with 47 mm. I like "hard" cane, for instance Rigotti. And I use a Rigoutat -2 shaped cane, gouged at 56-58.  My scraping is french style (well, I try to). I was advised to aim for a total length of 25 mm from end of tying to the tip of the reed.

Would you consider this to be a good setup? Am I using the correct staples? Or would you recommend any other staples or setup, keeping in mind that I prefer the "french" sound?

Thank you in advance for your reply. Your help is much appreciated!

Kind regards,



Great that you have started to make your own reeds. You will have many years of trying to get better ones!! It is good though because you can try many different set ups. BUT standardise something before you go MAD!

I would standardise your staples and cane if you can find a supplier that you get on with. If that be Rigotti stick with them.
Chiarugi 2 are fine for the Marigaux and the length of 45mm will let you use a longer scrape and softer cane if you get some.
A useful rule of thumb is try for a cane length of 25mm or 24.5 giving you an overall length of 70 mm. This should give you a decent pitch margin, so there is room to pull out if you are getting too sharp.
Aim for a crow of the reed of a C or a C sharp at worst. Not anything lower as you will find your pitch lowers and although the reed may be easier to blow, sagging first octaves can result. This is something that our American long scrape colleagues always stress  - crow no lower than C. I adopt this principle too with French/German styles of scrape and I can get away with 47mm staples to achieve A=440 or 441.
I used to scrape way too much of the back I feel and the pitch would drop significantly and require a 45 or even a 42mm staple. Clip the tip and scrape a little further back if you need to but get the balance right so that a C is crowed!

I think I am much more comfortable with a longer piece of cane - say 25mm - on the reed than very short reed made by cutting back the cane on a longer 47mm staple. For one thing if no other, the shape of the cane is compromised as the sides and "neck" of the shape are out of balance. Reeds just vibrate better I think with more cane and less staple at these short lengths of reed. The Rigoutat -2 is a great shape I think and so do lots of very great players with their Marigaux oboes. So that's another one to stick to. Standardise!!

So yes I think the set up is fine but experiment with staples. Have you tried a Chiarugi 5 for example? That is a Glotin copy. I find them a little more open but less focussed. A good staple for me seems to be the KGE no 1. They use these on their French style reeds with dark blue thread. They seem to work for my 901. Worth a try. I have also successfully used brass staples from the USA and Chiarugi's set of different length staples made of brass are often very useful to change the pitch slightly. They come in 45, 46, 47 and 48mm lengths.

Best of luck with everything


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Geoffrey,

Thank you for your quick response. I would like to ask you one more question, which I forgot to mention in my previous email. Sorry I have to ask you twice.

What is your advice regarding cane diameter and gouge (given the set up in my previous email)? I use cane with a diameter of 10.5-11 mm, gouged 58-60 (although I have soms gouge 56 as well).  

Again, thank you for your time!


Dear LH

The diameter of the cane you say you have, 10.5 - 11.00mm, is fine and should give not too big an aperture.

I would be inclined to keep to a 56 - 58 gouge but much depends on the centre to side ratio of your gouging machine. If it is about 15 difference this should work well.  So the 58 in the centre goes down to 43 on the extreme sides. 56 is pretty standard in the UK down to 41 about, on the sides. 60 can be tough and stay open needing much more embouchure pressure. It can give you a heavier sound and fine if that isnwhat you are after. But hard work!!
Some machines give you a centre/side difference of 10 and then it is definitely best to go down to 56 in the centre.  
Some German players use 55mm down to 45 or below on the sides and have good results but with 10 mm diameter tubes. The more open reed is not too tough with a thinner gouge. So many variables!!
It is however surprising what a difference to the feel of blowing the reed that 3/100ths of a millimetre can make. Going from 60 down to 57 is very noticeable.

Best wishes and thanks for your kind comments.



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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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