How do I break in a new reed? – Reed Tip #7

A new bassoon or oboe reed isn’t ready for performance — and you should be wary of a new reed that plays perfectly out of the box.  Prepare for closing and sharpness as it ages.  New high-quality reeds are a bit too hard, so how do you break in new reed?


For the best results, start out with an excellent handmade reed.  Check out Tiger Reeds — they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value.
Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


A good reedmaker’s reeds should arrive to you a bit ‘raw’ — too open when soaked for a couple minutes, a little too hard to blow, too raspy/buzzy when played, and perhaps a touch flat.

The first few days you have a reed, do the following:

  • Soak the reed and dry it. 3-5 times should do the trick.
    • Allow the reed to acclimate to your environment and its new shape.
  • Test the ‘peep crow’, the softest sound the reed makes (lips on string/wires).
    • Oboe reeds should peep crow around a C natural +/- 5-10 cents. Bassoon reeds should peep crow an E natural.
    • To adjust: (Expert level) too sharp: refine the tip; too flat: clip the tip shorter.
  • Calibrate the crow to yourself.
    • Lips on wire/string.  Blow softly, remember the pressure required to make the peep crow, then blow harder until all reed notes sounds simultaneously, and remember this pressure.
    • Manipulate the reed’s opening with your fingers until both first response and full crow are relatively easy to do without losing any notes. To do this, either open or close the reed’s blades.
  • Test ease of response on the reed’s ideal note: Play the reed using normal embouchure and normal air pressure. Oboe: match a C natural, bassoon: E natural, to your tuner. A steady tuner ‘green light’ should be relatively easy. Adjust tip opening to match.

Play the reed in-tune and beautifully its first few days. Cane adapts to your playing; start its life with quality.

As always, soak your reed only in water, and store your reed in a sturdy case that will allow it to dry completely.

Within 2-3 days of earnest playing, your reed should be fairly stable and dark.  Some take longer.  You get what you pay for!


Too much work?  Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!


Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it.

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