Forget the reed

You know you have a good reed when you waste no mental or emotional energy on it.

I am visited by a wave of inner worry as my colleague pulls out his reed box and opens it. I swallowed as I saw the 24 identical reeds wrapped in the same red thread, all lined up, tidy and looking perfectly respectable and playable. Fortunately, I have a beautifully crafted wooden box with inlay: a gift from friends. My strategy is to let the loveliness of my reed box distract from its contents. In it I have 12 reeds. Each looks different. They are wrapped in yellow, multicolored pastel, burgundy, navy blue. Each has a number scrawled on it (at least I log and keep track of my reeds!). They are different shapes and sizes, some looking a little worse for the wear with Teflon or wire. One or two play beautifully. Strangely, the one that looks pretty raggedy is the one I’m going to grab when the rehearsal begins in a moment.

There are a lot of rules regarding reed making.

  • Make reeds in batches (Jürgen recommends batches of 90! This thought makes me feel queasy.)
  • Make reeds when you have reeds. (Don’t wait until you need reeds to make them.)
  • Have 3 – 6 concert-ready reeds at any given moment.

Absolutely! For any self-respecting professional, these are valuable guidelines for success.

I’m single. I’m a mother. I spend hours sitting in rehearsals or on trains getting to them. I will not mention the number of hours I spend dancing tango, which trust me, is non-negotiable and necessary for my mental health. As double reed players go, I am relatively relaxed about reeds.

It’s a physical, mathematical fact:  You see, you can only play one reed at a time. Sure, it makes sense to have plenty of backup reeds. But folks, you can only play ONE reed in an instrument at any given moment.

All you need is ONE good reed.

So, I keep my reed box to myself and look wistfully and perhaps somewhat enviously at my colleague’s line up of matching red soldiers. (Reed Envy?)

I used to have reed boxes filled like this. That was before I was a mother, before I started my own business, before I was single, before I realized that health is holistic.

The rehearsal begins, and I forget my reed altogether as we breathe and unfold the music together.