Hi,  I have recently returned to oboe playing after resigning from a full time orchestra job in the US and have had to have  much dental work and crowns.  All of this has affected my playing.  I am a much better player than reed maker but when my reeds are good I prefer them to commercial reeds.

But here's the problem.  I have been working hard, going back to my old breathing and embouchure lessons and I find my reeds are opening at the sides near the top.  My playing is better, my reeds are worse. They don't start out that way but as I scrape they get worse and worse!  any ideas? Some of the commercial ones I have bought do not have this problem.


Dear Marianne

That IS great that you are returning to the beast! Well done you. The oboe is the greatest challenge but isn't it worth it?

It is a bad experience having dental work done. I know most players dread having to undergo this sort of extensive treatment myself included.
Others seem not to worry about it and go through the process of implants and crowns and hardly lose very much playing time in the process. The thought makes me shudder!!!

Right your problem. I wondered first off if you are using cane that has been stored gouged and shaped over the period of your "sabbatical!"
Sometimes extensive drying out in storage will cause the blades to flatten and therefore part company close to the tip of the reed spoiling the seal.

If you are gouging and shaping yourself are you confident that your technique of shaping is ingot order? If the sides are not quite even that could cause these gaps. Are you slipping the blades? Something we never do in Europe. A slipped reed is thrown away as being unreliable in sealing and also reducing the throat dimensions making the sound less round and sometimes causing poor F's in the first octave.

Another possibility could be that you are scraping too much off the centre of the tip in relation to the sides of the tip. This would make the blades bow outwards and cause this opening. Try tying on with slightly less pressure on the final turn before the overlap of the twine so that the tightness is slightly less at the end of the staple. And of course you will NOT being tying past the end of the staple!!

Are you over soaking the cane? Try a minimal soak. Some reed makers in the UK never soak in water and just "mouth moisten" the reed. Overlooking can be a bit of a curse. My old teacher would tear her hair seeing reeds soaking for an age in a pot of water!! But as you probably use a long scrape you do need to have a small amount of soaking to re-constitute the cane and retrieve the good oval opening and shape of the blade. All being well a short soak will achieve that for you.

Get back to me if you need to and best of luck. Read these observations and see what you think.
If in doubt I always go back to basics. Get some more cane, take care in the selection and processing and usually the battle can be won - for a short while anyway!

Best wishes



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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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