Reeds by Holly

What Should the Finished Reed Look Like?

Visually, it is necessary to have a mental picture of the well-finished reed before you start adjusting. Since there are as many schools of thought as there are players on styles of scraping and technique, I recommend you just crow and peep the reed, and then test play it, but there are elements that are always present in better reeds. If you want to, you can learn to use some guiding questions to make accurate adjustments in anyone’s oboe or English horn reeds that you buy.

Here are some of the things you can see by looking at photos, and the questions you will learn to ask as you shop for and try out reeds:

  1. Do the sides of the reed appear tightly side-slipped and sealed against air leakage?
  2. Is the tip opening right for me?
  3. Is the shape right for me?
  4. Do I like this style of scrape?
  5. Are the regions proportioned well within the reed?
  6. Are the blades, and the left and right sides of the reed, scraped symmetrically?
  7. Is there enough cane left in the critical areas for me to adjust this reed to my comfort level and still have good overall pitch reliability?

The playing test questions follow:

  1. Are the tip and blend thin enough to respond well?
  2. Is the reed in tune with itself?
  3. Is the resistance comfortable?
  4. Do I like the overall sound?

If you get all of these fundamentals in a reed someone has made for you, you’ve hit a homerun. The honest reedmaker will tell you, we usually don’t even get it all in the reeds we make for ourselves! But we keep trying.