Using a reed is the biggest difference between playing the flute and the oboe. 

Reeds are made of cane and are very fragile. The tip of the reed can be thinner than a human hair! Reeds only last for about 10-15 hours of playing, so it is important that you have at least 3 on hand at all times that you rotate. The best reeds are made carefully by hand and can be expensive. It is imperitive to understand that in order to be successful on the oboe, you will have to invest in many reeds.

  • Free of cracks and tip damage

  • Sides tight all the way up to the tip

  • Crows a C in octaves when lips are on thread

  • Speaks with a minimum amount or air pressure 

  • Thickness of tip is symmetrical

  • Appropriate tip opening

  • No wire or plastic around it

Before you play, you must soak your reed in water for 1-3 minutes. Do not soak in your mouth like a saxophone player. Your reed is thinner and more fragile and your saliva will disintegrate the reed faster than water. A soaker cup that clips to the stand is perfect. Otherwise, you can use film canisters or clean medicine bottles.

*Be very careful when placing your reed in the cup so you don't damage the tip!​

Your reeds need to dry out after playing otherwise they can get water logged and/or moldy! Invest in a good reed case to keep your reeds safe and dry. No mandrels or plastic tubes.

Signs of a dead reed include:

  • Too closed after soaking

  • Cracked

  • Cane is dark in color

  • Sharp pitch no matter how you adjust

  • Mold


Other advisements:

  • Chapstick and lipstick will clog and ruin your reed

  • Keep in stable temperature, do not keep in trunk of car or near heating or air conditioning units

  • Reeds are like a new pair of shoes, they need to be broken in a bit before they are comfortable

  • If tip is too open, reed will play flat forcing you to bite and your embouchure to fatigue quickly. Squeeze gently the long way.

  • If tip is too closed, reed will play sharp and it will be impossible to blow into with adequate breath support. Squeeze gently on the sides.

  • If reed is hard to play, pinch where the string meets the reed. If still too hard, scrape a very little amount of reed. Demonstration to the right.

  • You can scrape small amounts to make both sides of reed symmetrical.

Essentials for making small adjustments:

Making reeds is a skill that takes years to master. If you are serious about the oboe, high school/college is a good time to start learning how to make them.


As stated above, one way to tell if you have a good reed is if it "crows" C in octaves. In order to test this, you first have to understand how to form an embouchure. Once you understand that, you can put the reed in your mouth all the way up to threads and blow into it. You should hear both high sounds and low sounds. If you do not, first try adjusting your embouchure as stated in the trouble shooting section. If none of those things help, it is most likely just not a good reed. If it is only crowing high, it is too stiff and you can scrape some off as demonstrated above. 


Avoid reeds made that are mass produced by a manufacturing company. If you need to use those, go with Marlin Lescher or Jones.

The best place to get reeds is from a professional oboist or a double reeds supply company. Here are a few options: