Topic: playing oboe reeds (without instrument)

Hello all,

I posted this on the general discussion board, but since it pertains to oboe reeds, I thought I would post it here as well.  I am a bassoonist, but I have been asked to play one of the double reed parts (which, as far as I know, are always performed on oboe reeds) for PDQ Bach's "Iphigenia in Brooklyn." As for the oboe reed, I managed to get a couple of old reeds (that were once good) from an oboist friend.  I wanted to ask advice from oboists about playing the reed alone.  I wasn't as successful as my oboist friend at producing a wide range of pitches consistently.  She suggested putting my lips very close to the thread and even putting both my upper and lower teeth on the reed gently.  Right now, the reed is very difficult for me to blow, although it was no problem for my friend.  Is the pressure required to play the reed something that I simply have to get used to?  Right now, it is sort of giving me a headache and making me a little lightheaded after playing for more than a few minutes.  I am going to need to practice a lot on the reed, so I was wondering if there is anything I can do to make the reed easier to blow without destroying it to the point where it won't produce different pitches.  It doesn't matter much what it sounds like.  I think the more obnoxious, the better.  And these reeds won't be played on an oboe again, but I am supposed to return the tubes. If anyone has any tips (maybe some similiar to those that you would give a beginning oboist), or if anyone has other advice, I would greatly appreciate it.  Thanks.

Stephanie Busby

Share

Re: playing oboe reeds (without instrument)

Stephanie,

I would not normally suggest this, but why not try a "Fibercane" reed?  This is a plastic reed marketed for beginners (available at most run-of-the-mill band instrument shops, or easy to find online), which makes just the sort of consistent, easy-blowing, obnoxious (underlined) sound that you may be looking for.  With true beginning oboists, I encourage them in the direction of "real" reeds right away, as Fibercane can never produce a characteristic oboe tone, and does not require a well-formed embouchure.  However, I think the sound it does produce would be very popular at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople!  Good luck!

Jonathan Marzluf
Owner, Marzluf Reeds
SoCal Freelancer/Educator
www.marzlufreeds.com

Re: playing oboe reeds (without instrument)

Mr.  Marzluf,

Thanks for your response.  I have a fiber cane reed that I purchased when I first heard about the part in Iphigenia in Brooklyn.  The problem I am having with it is that the tip opening is very closed.  It came with instructions on how to open the tip more (soak in warm water and squeeze the tip), however the amount it actually opened was minimal and it closed up again quickly.  It is a "Fibrereed" made by a well know double reed company.  Do you have any other ideas on how to open the tip?  Or, do you know of any make of  fiber cane reed that might work better for my purposes? Thanks for the help.

Stephanie Busby

Share

Re: playing oboe reeds (without instrument)

Stephanie --I have no experience with synthetic reeds.  However you could try using a wire, tied a few turns slightly above the thread, and gently pinch in the wire at the reed sides (where the blades close) to support an opening.  Find an english horn player to procure the type of wire usually used (wires are not usually used on oboe reeds), and have him/her show you where and how to wrap it.  You could also try using pliers on the metal staple to which the blades are tied, though this is more safely done when you have an oboe reed mandrel securely inserted in the staple to prevent over-bending the metal.  Squeeze the staple slightly, not on the sides but on the wider surface,  about 3/8 of an inch below the top of the thread.  Although the flattening of the staple at this point may seem counter-intuitive, it does actually separate the blades somewhat, though it does not increase the arch of the blades as the wiring could.  Also consider whether the wider opening to which you are accustomed as a bassoonist is influencing your opinion on how open the oboe reed is.

Share