Fine Adjustments

A recurring theme these days seems to be “attack”. Strangely, this topic is appearing both within our oboe reed making community and in world events.

While “attack” in the context of our current events in the world includes

  • a virus’s impact on our way of life
  • rights issues for individuals based on their
    • race
    • income
    • political affiliation or
    • gender preferences,

my understanding of what reed makers mean when they say “attack” is

  • a reed that is willing to vibrate at the will of the wind producer
  • speedy start of the sound in a predictable, reliable manner
  • crispness, clarity, agility.

In order to deal with both world events and oboe reeds, I suggest a very fine adjustment.  Take every instance of the word “attack” and replace it with


Rather than aiming for a good “attack”, aim to build reeds that have a good response. “Attack” sounds and feels aggressive. There are moments when we require our oboes to convey aggression. This is part of our human condition and potentially an aspect of your own personal expression.

For the most part however, and even in the moments when you require aggressive oboe playing, what you want is a responsive reed. You can achieve this with careful crafting of your reed, especially with the proportions and form of the tip.

Oboe Reed Side View with Plaque

Photo Credits: Daria Khutoretskaya

Choices: The photos show a reed tip as viewed and sketched in a side-view profile. The sketches below illuminate some of the choices for the contour of the tip. Once you choose the contour you want and acquire the skill to execute it, you can directly influence the response of the reed to fit your personal expressive needs.

Oboe Reed Tip Profiles

Photo Credits: Daria Khutoretskaya

Oboe Reed Tip Profiles

Photo Credits: Daria Khutoretskaya










By the same reasoning I encourage you to respond to world events.

As musicians we are among those most directly and painfully impacted by the virus and the necessary social distancing. It is our choice to respond by adapting our behaviors and attending not only to our physical well being, but also remembering that we are social creatures.

It is up to us artists to cleverly respond

not solely to the physical need for distance but also to the mental and spiritual need for social interaction and intimacy.

Responding to rights issues like the ones I listed above is perhaps more complicated. Then again, maybe it is simply a manner of overcoming fear and finding our common roots.

For me personally, issues of gender, race and income are less problematic but these days I struggle to respond maturely with regard to political affiliations. Training as a musician and artist teaches me to make space and look underneath, again, for what ties us altogether.

A pandemic reminds us so palpably that we are all human with human frailties. And so in every case, the proper response is


And since my ability to live in compassion eludes me more often than I care to admit, I am best served by attending to creating reeds that respond well. This way I can vent my human frailties through a turn of phrase, a poignant harmony, a well-placed rhythm.

This is a fine adjustment and a choice.

Scrape on!


Oboe Reed Truths

Photo Credits: Daria Khutoretskaya

Photo Credits: Daria Khutoretskaya