Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Woodwind Reed Care

Wanted to talk a moment about woodwind reeds.  That's the little bit of cane (very similar to bamboo) vibrating against your mouthpiece that causes the sound in your instrument.  If you look closely at the reed, you'll see it's essentially a mass of fibers and hollow tubes -- much like if you had tied a bundle of soda straws together.  These tubes run all the way from one end of the reed to the other.

The quality and consistency of your sound -- and the life of your reed -- can vary greatly depending on well you care for these fiber tubes.

The good news is that caring is fairly simple -- just think "moisture"!  You want to get the tubes wet and moist.  In particular, you want to get each entire tube moist from one end of the reed to the other end.

Sticking the reed in your mouth isn't going to do it -- since you're only adding moisture from one end of the reed, you're not going to get the even wet coverage you need.  So -- don't stick the reed in your mouth; place it in a cup of warm water instead.

Leave it totally immersed for a minute or two -- it doesn't take long for the tubes to wick the moisture along their length!  If you're preparing several reeds at once, just dunk them all at the same time.

Having a collection of ready reeds can help extend the life of each reed if you cycle through their rotation.  This means each reed will be stressed for a shorter length of playing time before it's cycled out.  Less stress on the reeds means the fibers won't break down as quickly.

So -- you've got a wet reed -- what do you do with it now?  Find out more next time!