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About IDRS

Established in December 1971, the International Double Reed Society (oboe and bassoon family), is a member-based organization made up of professional double reed players, amateurs, hobbyists, university/college instructors, music teachers, institutions, instrument manufacturers, double reed product retailers, reed makers, and enthusiasts. The society has over 3,000 members from 56 countries. Learn more about IDRS.

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Explore The Double Reed

An Analytical Guide to the Variables That Affect High-Altitude Oboe Reeds

Khara Wolf | Durango, Colorado

There are several challenges that affect the way an oboe reed plays as you rise in elevation, especially as you get above 5,000 feet (1,500 m). In addition, a dry climate is often a consideration in the mountains and may further alter the way the reed reacts in your new location.

The main variable that changes on an oboe reed as you rise or decline in elevation is how much the reed vibrates—this being defined as how much the two pieces of cane vibrate against each other and how large or small the opening is. Respective to your starting destination, the higher the elevation and lower the humidity, the less the reed will naturally vibrate, and the lower the elevation and higher the humidity, the more it will vibrate.

As the reed begins to vibrate less, the result will likely be a reed that is more stuffy, sharp, closed (small tip opening), and/or suddenly starts to have leaking sides (especially in dry climates). There are several variables that can be altered to accommodate for these changes. A less-is-more approach will bring these areas into balance without requiring a complete change in your current setup.

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