Topic: Reeds and Germs!!

I had a new student show up today.  After spending 45 minutes repairing her bassoon and getting it to play I put a new reed on the horn and gave it back to the student.  Her mother, a pediatrician, was aghast.  She asked me if I had put the reed in my mouth, when I answered "of course" she would not let her daughter use the reed.  I tried a search on this list and could not come up with any discussions on this subject.  I told the doctor mother that any reed her daughter would play had been in someone's mouth at some time.

Any comments on the safety of "sharing" reeds from anyone in the know!!


Bob Williams


Re: Reeds and Germs!!

Hi Bob,

Sometimes its just hard to be a nice guy. If you keep a bottle of Sterisol around (Forrest's sells it) you can dip "gift reeds into it before passing them along. A one minute immersion is supposed to vanquish all pathogens. Even pediatricians should be put at ease.

Best, Gene Carter
Linden Reeds

Gene Carter
Linden Reeds

Re: Reeds and Germs!!

Hi Bob --

It goes to show: no good deed goes unpunished.   :-)

Here's an article from the New Yorker to pass on to your student's mother: "GERMS ARE US: Bacteria make us sick. Do they also keep us alive?" … ct_specter


Re: Reeds and Germs!!

Bob - since I have over 30 students every summer at Blue Lake (and I like to try their individual reeds to see just what they're dealing with), I always take chlorhexidine gluconate 0.12% oral rinse.  This is the 'blue stuff' your dentist uses for a rinse in most dental clinics.  It's much stronger than listerene or other alcohol-based mouthwashes, etc., and the dentist tells me it kills all viruses, as well as common germs, etc. Probably more 'protection' than any of us really need, but in cold/flu season, couldn't hurt for either party.  I'm sure your dentist would be happy to prescribe this, as mine was. You just put 1/4 in a cup, with 3/4 water.  Don't soak the reeds too long, however, as they'll get a blue tint.

Cheers, Jim

James Jeter, D.M.A., NYC Bassoonist
"To love human beings is still the only thing worth living for; without that love, you really do not live." Soren Kierkegaard
"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Mahatma Gandhi  "Mach' es kurz! Am Juengsten Tag ist's nur ein Furz!" Goethe

Re: Reeds and Germs!!

Hello Bob, Since beginning to teach at Ohio State in 1984, I have routinely sterilized students' reeds before and after trying them. I use rubbing alcohol, (and rinse it in fresh water) but the substances mentioned in other messages are good, too. In an attempt to reduce infection, I also sterilize bocals, reed tools and machines especially if I have been sick, or students have been sick. I figure there's no point in increasing the risks of sickness transmission when we work so closely our students.

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University

Re: Reeds and Germs!!

One word.


I actually started using it to stop mold growth on my reeds.  I never stopped, because I find my reeds last longer and that I can soak them for as long as I want and they still play well.  It should do the same thing to viruses, and as a bonus, there is no sugar in it either.  Fine for diabetics.  If you are having trouble during a particularly difficult practice, self medication also becomes a possibility.  Nothing but advantages.

Bassoonist Ordinaire, all around nice guy.
If anyone needs a damn fool, I'm your man!