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The one thing that will help your new oboe students stick with oboe…

Happy Summer! In the Bay Area, most of the schools I serve have wrapped up their academic year, or are finishing this week. I’m currently in a sprint to get all my ducks in a row before I leave for vacation tomorrow!

As a celebration of the summer, I’m granting myself permission to slow down the pace of this blog. So until August 17, you’ll be hearing from me every other week. The slower pace will allow me to focus my energy on creating content for the new and improved suite of Switching to Oboe courses (I’m so excited about this), as well as explore starting a reedmaking business, and of course give myself plenty of downtime. I’ll keep you posted as each of my summer projects comes to fruition!

The one thing that will help your new oboe students stick with oboe is…

Reeds that work!

When I start beginning oboists, I try to give them reeds that have the following qualities:

  1. Not too resistant (they’ll soak up well and play for most students)

  2. Consistently resistant (each reed of the same hardness feels pretty much the same)

  3. Sort of in tune (reeds that crow between an A and C for beginners are good enough in my book).

Without those three factors, most students get frustrated and quit by the time they’ve been playing for a month or two. We want your oboe students to stick with it and develop their skills so they can play with characteristic sound, in tune, and with a wide dynamic range. Starting with the right reeds is so important to these foundations.

My top choices for reed brands for beginners:

  1. Singin’ Dog Reeds Classic Oboe Reed. Medium strength. These aren’t fancy, they’re made on a profiler, and they aren’t always in tune, but they respond well, play easily throughout the range of the oboe, and the resistance is very consistent from one reed to the next. (High school students should move up to the Pro Oboe Reed in medium-soft or medium after 4-6 months of playing. Middle school students should move up to the Pro Oboe Reed in medium-soft after a year of playing unless they’re very small)

  2. Bennet Lopez Educator Reed. Soft strength. These are handmade reeds available at a discount for educators. They’re hand-finished and hand-tuned, so are much more likely to play in tune for the beginner. It’s an amazing price for a high quality product. (For high school students, move up to Medium strength once they’ve gained facility with dynamics and tuning - hopefully after no more than 6 months of playing. Middle school students may need a full year of playing to be comfortable moving up to Medium strength)

  3. Forrest Green Label Reeds, Medium-soft strength. These are profiler-made reeds, but have quite a consistent hardness. They vibrate readily and are fairly in tune. They are occasionally back-ordered. (Students should move up to medium strength after 4-6 months of playing unless they’re very small. Students should move up to Black label or RSB reeds in medium hardness after a year to a year and a half of playing.)

As you’re thinking about supplies for the fall, I want to leave you with one final thought: When left to sit over time, these softer reeds will often collapse and become flat. Ideally you would use your stash of beginner reeds within 6 months of ordering them.

I hope you’ll stay away from Jones, Emerald, or other mass-produced reeds. They’re not as consistent as the ones I listed above, and you definitely hear the difference in the student’s playing as well as in their experiences with the different reeds.


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