Topic: How to get out of a reed slump

Hi all!
I'm currently playing in a production of Les Miserables, and unfortunately seem to be in a reed slump while doing it.  My reeds are either leaking at the sides, sounding tinny and whiny, or involve me having to pinch the reed down with my lips during the 3 hour show leading to lip fatigue and soreness (something I've told my students again and again not to do).  It seems like I mess up every reed I attempt to make (and admittedly am scraping with a sprained right wrist).  Does anyone have any friendly advice on how to get out of a reed slump?  I gouge, shape and scrape my own cane.
Thanks,
Jennifer M.

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Re: How to get out of a reed slump

I recently spent 5 hours working on my oboe. I took off all the keys, cleaned it carefully, recorked the tenons, oiled it inside and out, replaced a few pads and some pieces of cork and leather, adjusted it, checked it with a Mag machine to be sure it was sealing...  Afterwards I became aware of something very strange: all my reeds played. This may not be true in your case, but I think sometimes we blame the reed for a problem that originates elsewhere -- and then maybe ruin the reed by trying to "fix" what is actually caused by a leaking or out-of-adjustment instrument.

Sydney

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Re: How to get out of a reed slump

Sharp Knife! Sharp Knife! Sharp Knife! It can't be said enough.
Make sure you're not using crap cane.
Try many different reeds.
Try other people's reeds.
If worst comes to worst, just buy a reed and adjust it to make it work.
Listen to recordings of good oboists.
Don't make reeds when you're in the wrong mindset.
I am reluctant to blame reed problems on your oboe. Still, when you get a chance it wouldn't hurt to take your instrument to a good repairperson.

Re: How to get out of a reed slump

I have to agree with the above, a sharp knife is paramount when it comes to making reeds...also try some new cane it maybe that you have a bad batch of cane...it has been known to happen....What about getting another Oboe professional to make some reeds for you and see how they are, have a break from making your own for awhile and then get back to it in a few weeks or months. How about trying some radical new scrape, either longer or shorter, try a different shape, give yourself a whole fresh outlook and start afresh...yes i know thats a huge hurdle but a change is as good as a rest so it maybe worth a shot...I am not suggesting you buy a new shape, borrow one from a friend and see what you think...Also have the Oboe looked at there maybe a problem there that you may not have recognised.

Above all else don't get downhearted, have a break and rest that wrist...As for Sydney taking his Oboe apart and doing all he did to it WELL DONE SYDNEY...I would be left with several hundreds of bits sitting on the bench with no obvious place to go...

Regards

Andrew

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Re: How to get out of a reed slump

When I'm in a reed slump, it usually turns out that the cause is one of the following:

Knife isn't sharp.
Reed tip is too thin in the middle.
Reed tip not thin ENOUGH everywhere else.
Oboe leaking.
Bad mindset (because I'm under PRESSURE to make reeds.) The pressure causes me to not take my time and THINK about what I'm doing.

But.. I can think of something else that would directly or indirectly cause all three of your specific complaints. If your reed blades are slipped the "wrong way" when the blank is tied, it will cause your reed to be much more open than normal (causing the biting). It might be causing leaks as well, and it COULD be that the thin, whiney sound is the result of your trying to compensate (with the knife) for the absolutely incorrigible nature of a reed which has the blades slipped the wrong way. If you are holding the staple in your left hand and wrapping with your right hand, in a clockwise fashion (as seen from a point off to your right), then the blade closest to you should be displaced to the RIGHT, so that a thin sliver of the far blade can be seen peaking out at you from the left edge of the closer blade. This is true even when you turn the reed over and look at it from the other side.

Sometimes a reed slipped the "wrong way" can work out (and will usually last a long time by virtue of its opening not collapsing until it's quite old, but it will definitely have an "attitude" during the scraping phase.

Hope something here helps.

Last edited by Crispin's Creations (2008-08-12 16:07:46)

David Crispin
Crispin's Creations and Accessories
freelance oboist. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
www.CrispinsCreations.com

Re: How to get out of a reed slump

Well, I'm certainly no more well-positioned to add my two cents to this topics than anyone else, but here goes . . .

Given that some of the problems are stemming from your reeds leaking, I would consider getting some pre-gouged cane from a trusted source.  Take us much time as you need to make sure that your blanks are straight and leak-free from the very start.

I certainly second the comments about the difficulties of making reeds when you MUST MAKE REEDS.  It certainly isn't an ideal situation, one that pressures me to attempt too   much in a single sitting.  As much as a matter of attitude or mood, my reeds simply do better if they get a chance to rest between stages (day 1 -- tie, day 2 -- scrape tip to loose crow, clip to C crow, day 3 -- scrape back, define tip, day 4 -- balance/adjust).  If time constraints are not permitting you to do this, a nice professionally made reed might take some of the time pressures off and give you a chance to do the job right (a well-made reed from another source can provide some inspiration in and of itself.)

Just some thoughts . . .

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Re: How to get out of a reed slump

I prefer to not dwell on specifics when dealing with reed ruts, but rather I would encourage you to have a good set of "guideposts" that you can use throughout the process for keeping yourself on track. This would include each area such as selecting materials, gouging, shaping, tying, and scraping. Assess the reed at every stage and if it has not reached your objective, make it do so before going on to the next step. Some of the things you mentioned - sides leaking, having to pinch the reed down - might indicate a variety of areas. In the scraping area you might focus on the functional elements of pitch, response and opening. Know what you want the reed to be and continually work towards getting it to that point. Best wishes and good luck, Robert Weiner

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