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Purchasing Reeds

Noelle only offers the option of purchasing her handmade oboe and English horn reeds to her students, a perk of joining her studio. Exceptions to this rule are made on a case by case basis. In all instances, a live reed consultation with Noelle is required. This enables her to be able to make small reed adjustments to better suit each individual performers needs.  (For non-students in need of purchasing reeds, there are lots of options online. Some great local reed makers include Kerry Willingham, Mark Christianson, David James, and Bethany Slater.)


  1. Noelle's reeds are made from the same materials that she uses for her own professional reeds 
  2. All cane is processed, gouged, shaped, tied, and scraped exclusively by Noelle
  3. Prices are able to stay low because her students return the staples when the reed eventually needs to be replaced
  4. Noelle's reeds are clipped at an angle, the blade with the string crossing is cut shorter and should be placed on your bottom lip, this aids in tonguing.  

How to make a Good Reed Last

Most importantly, keep your reeds in a safe/secure place. The perfect home for a reed is a solid oboe reed case. All oboists should have one of these. They come in all sizes and price-ranges, but any type will be well worth it. No reed will last forever, but storing your reed properly will help prolong its life. Reeds should not be permanently kept in the plastic cases they are sometimes shipped in.

Be sure to blow excess water out of the reed before storing it. Reeds that don't dry fully can become moldy.

Try your best to keep the reed clean, both on the inside and outside. Any kind of build-up will shorten the reeds life. For example, you need to wipe off chapstick before playing. It is also best to brush your teeth between eating and playing.

Keep in mind that it is very important how you soak a reed. Generally all you need to do is dip the reed, up to the string, in room temperature water, let it sit for a minute or two, then you can play.  Do not soak the cork as it will corrode and eventually fall off. There are also some tricks for finicky reeds: If a reed is getting old, it may be a bit too closed/soft/sharp: soak in warmer water and/or for a longer period of time. 

Reeds are very delicate and slight changes in temperature and humidity can affect them. Reeds will also change as they age. Sometimes it will be possible to "revive" them. If you think a reed might benefit from a few scrapes, feel free to ask at your next lesson, and I can work on it. 

A special note about English horn reeds: The purpose of the wire on an English horn reed is to be able to manipulate and stabilize the size of the opening of the reed.  If the reed is closing down, slide the wire up the reed to open it back up.   

Reed Making Supplies

Many items are needed to make your own reeds. Below is a list of the requisite items. Most of these items must be purchased from a dedicated double reed supply store online. For links to reccommended suppliers, go to the 'Resources' section of this website.

 - get at least 10 (I use Sierra 47mm bronze from Mark Chudnow), these will be reused over and over

Oboe Mandrel
 - this is used to hold the staple in tying. It needs to fit your staples precisely

Cane: Gouged and Shaped
 - get a lot.  You will always need cane, any 'brand' is fine at this point (as you're learning) so inexpensive is fine. Please consult Cane: Gouging and Shaping for more information on cane. Eventually, you will learn to gouge and shape cane yourself

 - size FF in your favorite color (or two or three). It's easiest to learn with a lighter color (i.e. get yellow or time instead of purple or black)

- used to coat the thread

 - there are many types of reed knives to choose from - I use a Landwell-medium, they are expensive, but it is worth it. If sharpened regularly, a knife can last for years. Be careful and always store it in its sheath

Sharpening Stone/device
 - There are many types of sharpening implements and techniques; I use a Wicked Edge system and crock sticks

Cutting Block
 - medium or large

 - get a few, especially if you tend to lose small things. I prefer flat steel plaques with a rounded tip

Reed Case
 - you may need to upgrade to a bigger case, or multiple cases since you will have more reeds now

Short Metric Ruler

Razor Blades
 - you can get a pack of 100 from a hardware store or order from a double reed supplier

Medium C-Clamp
 - easily found at your local hardware store

Leakproof Tupperware for Water
 - cereal bowl size is perfect

Pencil & Notebook
 - you'll have a lot to write down and keep track of

 - You'll need something to keep all your reed making supplies in.  Most of my students use a craft/fishing tackle-box.  Basically, the more compartments the better.

A Powerful Desk Lamp
- you need to be able to see what you're doing

Sturdy Desk/Table

Micrometer - this is not necessary in the first few months of reedmaking, but if you are getting serious about it, you will need one

Cane: Gouging and Shaping

The principle material used in making oboe and English horn reeds is Arundo donax or "Giant Cane."  This organic material is both strong and flexible.  It is the same type of cane used in making reeds for bassoon, clarinet, and saxophone. 

Cane can be purchased in several forms, the most natural of which is "tube cane" which needs to be processed before it can be tied onto the staple for an oboe reed.  Professional oboists generally do these steps themselves in order to control as many variables as possible. The equipment needed to process cane is expensive.

Cane may also be purchased already gouged and shaped, by simply ordering "pre-shaped cane" if you do not have access to this equipment. Beginners should buy pre-shaped cane for now. Eventually, you will need to purchase the tools and learn to pregouge, gouge, and shape your own cane.

If you wish to purchase your own tube cane, you will need the following tools to process it:

Pre-gouging and Gouging:

Radius Gauge
Cane Splitter
Planing Device


Shaper Handle
Shaper Tip
Razor blades (lots!)

Reed making is an art in itself.  The process takes significant time and energy. There are no "secrets." Just like playing the oboe, it can take years of practice to master.

There are however, some helpful manuals such as:

Mark Hill's 'The Principle of Balance in the Making of Oboe Reeds' (pdf)
Ledet's Oboe Reed Styles 
Sprenkle/Ledet's The Art of Oboe Playing
Light's The Oboe Reed Book  

These materials will help the student comprehend the process, however, private study and lessons on reed making with a professional are vital.

If you are interested in learning how to make your own reeds and would like private instruction please feel free to contact Noelle.   

Keys to Good Reed Making:

1. a sharp knife
2. practice, patience, and a positive attitude
3. make more reeds!

If you already have a general sense of how to make reeds, a great resource for fine tuning your reed making technique is:

Making Oboe Reeds by Joseph Shalita