Reeds for a Rainy Day

I’ve been on vacation for the past two weeks – away from home but not away from my reed business.  (That’s a decision I’ll rethink for next year, but I do love the ability to keep my hands busy and serve people while I’m on the road.) We traveled from Indiana to Texas and back with our small travel trailer.  And so I’ve made reeds on picnic tables by the Mississippi River, and on borrowed desks and on our little dinette table in a variety of conditions.  

I’ve heard oboists say, “I can’t make reeds today, it’s raining. They’ll never work.” I find myself giggling at that, for so many reasons. First, is it true? Do reeds made in the rain not work?  (No, it’s not true.) Second, what if you have a box full of beautiful sunny-day reeds but it’s raining on the day you have to play? What will you do then? 

It is true, though, that reeds DO react to the weather.  A reed will feel great one day and awful the next, and I’ve definitely had it happen that a reed turned abruptly sour mid-concert, and it turned out after the fact that a storm front had rolled through at exactly that time. I’ve definitely taken an indoor reed outdoors and felt it immediately GROW, and then later MUSH away right inside my mouth. The weather matters.

But the weather is outside your control.  You can climate-control your home studio all you want, but unless you only perform from inside your own house you are going to be affected by it. Your reeds are GOING to get weird from time to time. What can you do about this? 

My first advice is to have abundance in your reed case.  To me, this means having plenty of reeds in various stages of development, from very old reeds which are easy, stable, and broken-in, to new reeds which have a ton of energy, spring, and potential and are infinitely tweakable.  No matter what the day and the weather and the conditions bring, SOMETHING in there will work, and you don’t have to panic if yesterday’s sunny-day reed has collapsed because last month’s rainy reed will be fine.  I want my reaction to a bad reed to be, OH WELL, not OH $h!7. 

My second advice is to make reeds in all kinds of weather.  Better yet, ignore the weather and just make reeds regularly.  This leads to abundance, and thence to security. 

Third, practice on your bad reeds sometimes.  

NOTE: Your bad reeds still have to work – have to give you entrances and releases and dynamics and some kind of pitch stability.  A badder reed than that is not a reed at all. 

I always preach the gospel of trusting in the abundance of your reed case and using your good reeds with pleasure.  But you also need to have the personal resiliency to be able to react to a sub-optimal reed and make music through it.  If you can ONLY have success when you have a good reed, you are AT RISK of an unsuccessful performance which could be caused by the weather which is a thing you cannot control. 

How does all this advice sit for you? Do you feel that ABUNDANCE in your reeds? Are you a sunny day reed maker?

And if you are not quite as secure as you want to be in your reed life? I’m enrolling now for Oboe Reed Boot Camp (live) and for Zero to Reedmaker (online). I can help you! 

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