Reed-making is an art in itself, one that brings you closer to your craft. It is both a privilege and a challenge for oboists. Reeds are essential for making the instrument speak, and they determine the quality of your sound.
Lydia started to learn reed-making in the 8th grade, just one year after she started playing the oboe. Her reed-making pedagogues include Joe Halko, whose reeds are widely appreciated at joeoboe.com, and Richard Killmer of the Eastman School of Music. Mr. Killmer is considered to be one of the best reed-making instructors in the world, but his reeds are unavailable for purchase.
Lydia encourages oboe students to practice reed-making as early as they feel comfortable working with knives. Lydia offers both Finished Reeds (ready to play) and Blank Reeds (unfinished tied reeds) for students who wish to practice the art of the scrape.
If you want to practice reed-making with a Blank Reed, then you will also need a knife, plaque, razor blade, cutting block, and a burnishing rod for your knife. This is approximately a $150 investment. See below for an example collection from Hodge Products. See the Resources page for other vendors.
You will not need the more expensive tools involved in reed-making, such as a tube splitter, guillotine, pre-gouger, gouger, micrometer, shaper tips and handles, etc. Assembling these tools costs around $2,000. Once you are comfortable scraping reeds, investing in more reed-making supplies is a wise choice.
Reeds have a short lifespan. They are said to last two or three hours of playing time, but they can last much longer if you rotate them. Reeds are very delicate and accident-prone, easily cracked or chipped on a tooth. They are also quite “moody” and can change with the weather. Variations in cane guarantee variations in reeds, even when all other conditions are consistent. Therefore, it is necessary to carry several reeds at a time and to treat them all with great care.
Remember that there is beauty in the fleeting, completely unique experience of a reed. Each will serve you in slightly different ways, but every good reed will allow you to sing through the instrument.