How to: Buy oboe reeds

Tori Owen
Submitted: Wed, September 18, 2019 - 11:58pm EDT
Backlit reed tip - no cracks!
Where and how to successfully obtain reliable oboe reeds!

If you're a first-time oboe reed buyer, there are a number of ways you can obtain oboe reeds depending on where you are and believe it or not - how you decided to play oboe in the first place!*

1. Are you a Middle- or High School student?

If the answer is yes, you are likely already part of a music program at school. Usually, the music teacher will have access to beginner oboe reeds. A well-funded program will make them free to students but this isn't always the case. They may be priced at $15+ but be assured they will try to find reasonably priced reeds in most cases.

2. Are you a retiree picking up the oboe for the first time or after some years on hiatus?

This is a growing segment of the musician population! You may be able to purchase hand-made reeds from your oboe coach or commercially by mail order or at a well-stocked local music store.

3. Do you have an oboe teacher?

Many students of oboe quickly figure out they need a teacher to get started, and this is really good advice: an oboe teacher is likely to also make reeds and sell them to students. This usually also means they will adjust/customize them in their lessons (which can make life a lot easier). Everybody's face is different, and a little adjustment can make the difference between a distasteful or pleasurable playing experience! Handmade reeds are generally more expensive and can range between $20-40.

4. Why are hand-made reeds so expensive?

Even with only a little bit of playing under their belt, a beginner oboe student may already have figured out that a handmade reed a) sounds better b) allows the player good dynamics and c) is consistently in tune!

5. Everyone else...

My heart goes out to brave souls who go alone into this uncharted territory! There are a number of website online that sell oboe reeds but it will be completely hit and miss and you simply won't know what you'll get in that first order. If you don't have a private teacher who makes reeds, the next best thing to do is find an oboe supplies store that you can visit and inspect reeds in person:

  • Make sure the sides of the reed meet all the way up to the top
  • Hold it up to the light, do you see any cracks when it's backlit? Reject!
  • If they have soft/medium/hard grades, start out with soft!
  • Don't touch the tip! (especially if it hasn't soaked yet!)
  • BONUS: are you able to try out reeds before purchasing? A lucky few will, and even have a room to go and test them in away from everyone else. Best to have some hydrogen peroxide with you to dip the reed in before you try it.

Stay tuned for the next tip: "How to Test an Oboe Reed"

*NOTE: this is directed at Canadian oboe students, although much will also be true in the U.S.

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