I’ve scheduled this to publish while I’m enjoying some R&R with friends and family in the Midwest. While I’m relaxing, let’s get into my top 3 reasons NOT to use Jones/Emerald reeds.
The problem with these mass-produced low cost reeds (this includes brands like Marlin Lesher and others you’ll often see at band instrument supply stores) is that they’re made so quickly that there is very little consistency from one reed to another. Mass produced oboe reeds are generally not play-tested, just tied and profiled as fast as possible to keep costs down.
As a result, intonation is going to be incredibly inconsistent. Each reed labeled with the same hardness will feel wildly different to the player. The opening of the reed (which plays a huge role in hardness, intonation, and comfort) will vary widely as well.
Inconsistency in reeds results in inconsistent results for your students, and would encourage students to quit oboe because they’ll feel like they’re not progressing even if they actually are.
2. Low quality materials
Oboists who make our own reeds are incredibly particular about all the materials that go into our reeds because each part of the reed matters in the search for a consistent, nice-sounding, comfortable to play reed. We seek out the highest quality staples (corks) with particular shape and diameters of the top and bottom, specific lengths, and different metals. The cane we use is evaluated for hardness and density, straightness, color, diameter, thickness of the gouge, and we take great pains to do an exacting job in shaping and folding as well. The thread is not just a random color, it’s a specific brand of nylon that’s a specific thickness, and may or may not be waxed.
In the mass-produced reed market, the economies of scale dictate that they use low-quality staples which aren’t a consistent diameter much less length, the openings aren’t the same shape, and the metal is low quality brass. The cane is definitely not tested for hardness or density, and I imagine they’ll take any diameter between 10-11mm as long as it’s straight enough. (Yes, I measure in fractions of a millimeter)
3. Player experience
Due to the inconsistency of the reeds, even of the same brand and supposed hardness, the player experience with these mass-produced reeds is fine at best and discouraging at worst. Oboe Ron was sent reeds by Jones and Emerald and made critique videos about them on his YouTube channel.
In closing, you get what you pay for when buying oboe reeds. They’re not cheap, but high quality oboe reeds make music possible, and professional reedmakers may have educator-specific deals on their reeds. Even if not listed, I would encourage you to reach out to the reedmakers to inquire, especially if your students like their reeds. That can be an easy way to access high quality reeds at a small discount.
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