INSTRUMENTS IN DEPTH


HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION

INSTRUMENTS OF THE OBOE FAMILY

THE ROLE OF THE OBOE IN MUSIC

REEDS

PLAYING THE OBOE

LEARN OBOE AT BSM

REEDS

The most delicate part of the oboe is the double reed used to produce the sound. The reed serves as the oboe's mouthpiece, which, unlike flutes or brass instruments, can be different every day. This is because the reed is made of a special kind of bamboo cane (called arundo donax) that is harvested in places like France, Spain, and Asia. The wood is very sensitive and can change considerably during the reed-making process, becoming harder as it dries and sometimes sensitive to weather, climate, and altitude changes. The reed is considered a double reed because it consists of two blades of cane that vibrate against each other when blown. The cane comes in tube form, which is then sliced very thin using a machine called a gouger. Once properly gouged and measured, the cane is folded, shaped, and tied onto a cork covered brass tube called a staple. This staple serves as the base of the reed and is inserted into the cup hole at the top of the oboe. The folded cane is cut open at the tip and carved down using a pattern that varies from player to player, although the American scrape is fairly standard. The cane is shaped with a special tool and carved using special reed knives that must be sharpened often to avoid ripping the delicate cane. When properly made, a reed should be able to sound a C in three octaves when blown, or crowed, as oboists like to call it.

Although all members of the oboe family use double reeds, each instrument's reeds have different measurements and use different materials. The oboe reed is longer and narrower than an English horn or an oboe d'amore reed, for example, but both use metal staples without a cork covering that sit on the end of the bocal. A similar process and pattern is used, however, to create all of these reeds.

Many people wonder why oboists spend so much time and dedication working towards that perfect reed, wondering why oboists don't just buy them. By making their own reeds, oboists can have the utmost control over the materials used, quality, sound, pitch, and strength of their reed. Usually students start making oboe reeds a few years into playing when they have a better understanding of what they like and need in a reed. Until then, most young oboists purchase their oboe reeds.

An oboe reed

Renowned oboist Albrecht Mayer making reeds