In this video I make a reed in 5 minutes. Now, should you make all your reeds in 5 minutes too? No, but learning to make a quick reed can be a helpful skill. This video is merely just a demonstration of scraping an oboe reed. If you are looking for more reed making instructions, check out the oboe reed measurement post where you can download a reed making PDF that has scraping instructions and oboe reed measurements.
Ok, after 5 minutes were up, I crowed the reed and wanted to clip it one more time, so I cheated and this reed took about 5 minutes and 15 seconds to make. After testing out the reed, I tried running the Strauss Oboe Concerto’s exposition on this reed. Please know that this is by no means a refined run-through of the Strauss concerto, nor is this the best representation of my interpretation of the piece.
This reed will break-in and will eventually become more comfortable to play on. After another day or two it will become more refined, the pitch will become more steady, and the tone will become warmer. But, this reed is ready to break-in, and I can get a productive practice session with it. I could even play this reed in front of people and not feel too embarrassed by it!
Now, should you try to make a reed in 5 minutes to play the Strauss concerto? probably not. Should a beginning reed maker try to scrape this quickly? absolutely not! You do not have to start racing with a timer on when you are making reeds, but I hope this video has a few main takeaways:
1. If you can make a reed quickly, it will give you time in your day to practice (or do anything else!).
2. If you can make a reed quickly, it shows that your knife is sharp and that your gouge and cane selection are consistent. A sharp knife is imperative for reed making.
3. You can try copying my general scraping process, but the point is that you should have an order of operations for your reed making. I try to remove cane in a balanced way where the tip never gets too thin compared to the heart or back. You’ll see that I scrape cane out of the back earlier in the process than most people do. You can try that yourself, but the point is to have a clear-headed go-to process for scraping.
4. Having more reeds in your reed case will make you a more reliable colleague. Try your best not to be that oboist who saves one good reed for the concert but then struggles during every rehearsal—it can waste rehearsal time for everyone else if the conductor has to stop because of it. We’ve all been in that position when we didn’t have enough time to make enough back up reeds and then our best reed splits, or we are just in a reed rut and are just struggling in general. Being able to quickly crank out a usable reed right before a rehearsal can really help you out in a pinch. Also, if you can make reeds quickly, you are more likely to have a bunch of reed options in your case as backups.
5. Scraping on an over-soaked reed will lead you to believe there are certain problems with the reed that are not really there.
For beginners (less than 1 or 2 years experience with scraping blanks), you should look for accuracy with your scrape. But after you gain some comfort with your scrape, you will also want to learn to make reeds quicker. The best way to improve your speed is to try making reeds quickly, even if you ruin a few in the process. Maybe start by capping yourself at 30 minutes per reed, not all the time, but every once in a while. Then start to see if you can consistently cut your time down to 25 minutes and then 20. You don’t have to have a race with a timer, but try to be aware of how long it takes you to scrape a reed, and try not to let yourself spend endless hours scraping your reeds. Your end goal doesn’t have to be a 5 minute reed all the time. A reed made in 3 minutes, or 6 minutes and 21 seconds, or 10 minutes and 4 seconds should all be fine. But, once you become an experienced reed maker, you should make sure that 15 minutes doesn’t become 2 hours.
Check out this post which has my downloadable reed making guide.