How do I select the best private music teacher?

Everyone tells the same story.  We’ve all heard of (or heaven forbid, had) a private music teacher who left students with everything from a mediocre or unsuccessful learning experience to any of a number of undesirable outcomes.  And the music store/phonebook/Craigslist/friends offer so many options.  Conversely, often only one local teacher is available for your instrument.  How does a parent choose the best private music teacher?

At the bottom, I’ll answer these questions about my teaching style.
To learn more about world-class private music study and my tremendous handmade bassoon and oboe reeds, visit the Lessons and Reeds pages.

I put together this short video to demonstrate my reeds and teaching:


 

Once you’ve gathered a list of potential teachers and begun to contact them, this list will provide some clarity in your decision process:

  1. Seek personal recommendations from other music teachers and students you know.
  2. Prepare a list of questions to ask the teacher(s) you have chosen, eg. What is his/her teaching/performing experience, how does he/she handle varying student learning speeds?
  3. What approach(es) does he/she use in instruction?
  4. How much will it cost?
  5. Is there any possibility of a concessional rate?
  6. What are the options for payment?
  7. How available is he/she?
  8. What form do the lessons take?
  9. Where are lessons held?
  10. How long are the lessons?
  11. What are the rules about cancelling a lesson?
  12. Is there any facility for contact between lessons?
  13. What are the arrangements for holidays?
  14. Will you be involved in the decision-making process?
  15. Trust your instincts – if you feel comfortable with the teacher, your child probably will, too, and vice-versa.
  16. Is your teacher able to handle the day-to-day changes that adolescence brings?  Will he/she be willing/able to be flexible yet firm?

Additionally, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I feel welcomed by this teacher?
  • Does he/she listen to me?
  • Do I believe that I can disagree with him/her?

These questions and more might help you clearly decide if a teacher will expand your child’s life experience through success in music.  Private music instruction is a challenging profession – we all find our niche.  If one teacher doesn’t work for you, keep looking!


My answers:

2. What is his/her teaching/performing experience, how does he/she handle varying student learning speeds?

I’ve been performing professionally since 8th grade, approximately 20 years. I began teaching privately a few years later, maintaining a student here-or-there throughout high school and college. After graduating from CCM, I began teaching full-time, 45 students weekly studying oboe, bassoon, and flute in the Dallas area. I now reside back in east Tennessee and my studio is a smaller subset of my three-part business; I teach all three instruments to students from 7-18 years of age, make excellent handmade oboe and bassoon reeds for customers here and abroad (6 countries so far), and perform professionally.

I work with each student’s individual profile and learning style.  Several All-State qualifiers and smiling, happy students and parents at all levels of achievements later, I must be doing something right!

3. What approach(es) does he/she use in instruction?

I operate by the methods I experienced in my Montessori upbringing. While keeping the basic fundamentals in mind (efficient breathing and mouth usage, relaxed/free disposition), I try to provide the student with as free and instinctive a learning environment as possible, and I praise their self-trust and hard work. We laugh together as often as we can, high-fives are common, and mutual respect is paramount. When making a decision, the reasoning behind it is clearly laid out and reinforced, and self-awareness is introduced with care. In other words, I work with students on their level, enhancing their instincts and building up their playing while having a lot of fun.

4. How much will it cost?

My rates are very reasonable for the focus and attention you will receive both during the lesson and throughout the week. In addition to your lesson time slot, I am available anytime during the week for questions and advice via text, email, or phone.

5. Is there any possibility of a concessional rate?

I am available between lessons to answer questions and fix problems, I often transcribe new music for your enjoyment, and I develop myself constantly to provide you with the best learning experience. Music lessons aren’t “cheap” — they’re tremendous value.

6. What are the options for payment?

I accept payment via check, cash, or PayPal.

7. How available is he/she?

We will work together to design a schedule that benefits everyone.

8. What form do the lessons take?

We will spend a period of time together once or more each week. During this time, you will play a lot of music. We will work through the previously assigned material, clarifying practice tips, developing trust, and reinforcing your enjoyment of music. If that sounds a bit nebulous, I agree! I trust my instincts, and I draw on the myriad subtle changes in any moment of the lesson to offer the single best explanation that the student needs to hear; my students’ success and love of music proves that this is the right way.

9. Where are lessons held?

I prefer to teach either at the student’s school during band class or after school or at a single location convenient to both of us.

10. How long are the lessons?

I offer lessons in 30, 45, and 60 minute lengths. I advise 45 minute lessons strongly at first — a 30-minute lesson features only about 20-25 minutes of usable instruction time, but a 45-minute lesson features 35-40, nearly double for only 1.5x the fee. 60 minute students of mine are by far the most successful students, and many started at that length from day 1. Double reed students are smart enough and focused enough for any length of lesson time.

11. What are the rules about cancelling a lesson?

Please notify me at least 24 hours in advance. Lesson time slots are non-reusable by me; absences without notice result in forfeiting your lesson fee. However, notice >24 hours results in a credit forward.

12. Is there any facility for contact between lessons?

I am available for text and email at any time, and telephone periodically.

13. What are the arrangements for holidays?

We will work out the best schedule for both of us. I always ask if students want lessons during one-day holidays or long breaks, and many do.

14. Will you be involved in the decision-making process?

This learning process involves the person at the center of your life, your child. I will keep you informed at all times if changes need to happen.

16. Is your teacher able to handle the day-to-day changes that adolescence brings? Will he/she be willing/able to be flexible yet firm?

I have been teaching young students for many years; I’ve helped them maintain their focus even as they struggle with their identities and emotions, and with excellent communication we have managed to maintain thriving, trusting, positive relationships.

**Do I believe that I can disagree with him/her?

Without discussion, especially when tense and nervous,  we can’t both work together for your child’s success.  I have only had two major disagreements with sets of parents in the past, both of which raised everyone’s hackles — and only one of those resulted in the child leaving lessons.  The other student developed into one of the closest, most trusting relationships I’ve ever had with parents.  Please tell me that you disagree — we’ll end up much happier.


For more information on private study, visit the Private Lessons page.

To purchase tremendous handmade oboe and bassoon reeds, visit the Bassoon and Oboe Reeds page (or click the reeds below).

American scrape oboe reed windows   Tiger Reeds handmade bassoon reed

 

Why shouldn’t I practice perfection?

A frustrated and depressed man holds his head in his hand

“Practice makes perfect!”
“Perfect practice makes perfect!”
“Don’t mess up.”
“Focus.”
“Try harder.”
“I missed that note.”
“I could play this yesterday, I promise!”
“I worked so hard — why’d I miss that?!”

“Practice perfection” doesn’t often bring us our version of perfect.

Feel the hackles rising?  It’s okay; I do, too.  All those, including the first two, have been repeated since time immemorial, ad nausaeum (sometimes literally).  We’re all taught to be self-abusers, to distrust our ability to learn, and to pressure ourselves into perfect performance.  Wouldn’t we like to hear that there’s a better way?

THERE IS.


Check out the Reeds page — and read the Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


 

This might take some time, or it might happen instantly.

I want to encourage you to change your model of success from a judgment-based system to trust.  What do you see in the faces of your favorite performers?  Is it tension?  Is it concern?
They truly belong here — it’s printed on their faces.

What ease could you feel by learning to trust that you know what you’re doing?  How many times have you played those notes? (Answer: anywhere from a hundred to many tens of thousands.)

We repeat in performance what we practice.  If our focus when we’re playing alone is on paying attention to every single detail and monitoring, thinking, planning, being on our mental peak, and remaining in “total control”, why can’t we recall all that “work” during a performance?  Because your body and mind don’t work that way.

Under higher stress, the mind can’t focus with the same ease as when under lower stress, and our thinking suffers.  However, our instincts are magnified.  By avoiding practice by instinctive trust, we’re ignoring those motions that the body wants to take.  Practicing by ‘thinking’, therefore, is sweeping ‘mistakes’ under the rug, and they show up right when you don’t want them to.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, to look like those amazing performers that release themselves more than tense up?  You can bet they practice the same way.

First of all, a few qualifiers.  “Practicing” is different than “playing” which is different than “making a sound on your instrument”.  “Playing” should be the same feeling as a child on the playground – boundless, unending creativity, continuous motion, looking at the situation upside-down, doing something first and then figuring out what it means, holding pieces from the jumble and allowing your systems to assemble them for you.  “Practicing” is the process by which you allow these processes to work.  Practicing should not be easy for others to listen to.  It should be free, allowing time that is full of trial, exploration, experimentation, freedom, and devoid of any judgment whatsoever.  Right and Wrong place pressure on you to either perform it again that exact same way (often not knowing what did caused the success) or to not do that again (often not knowing what did caused the failure).  Let’s avoid that whole hateful cycle.

A child learns thusly:
When eating from a spoon for the first time, this child focuses very hard, but it’s often no good.  The hand jerks the spoon in all directions, flinging its contents.  However, shortly the brain gains control over this limb, and eventually it’s automatic.  Try this yourself: make the spoon-to-mouth motion.  It’s easy, right?  Of course.  However, now you’ve been told that you are NOT TO MISS YOUR MOUTH, yelled at, scorned, and threatened with a ruler if you should spill one drop.  Do the motion again — I’ll wait.
Do you feel your forearm tightening?  I did, too, when I tried.  Just by imagining.

Now imagine as if you know everything about this piece of music in front of you.  Play it as if you have all the pieces, they just aren’t assembled yet.  Focus on the long, sweeping motions the piece asks rather than on each tiny black speck — step back from the piece, so to speak.  Play fast enough that you can’t think!  Try it — actually go too fast.

As you play, focus on the relaxation, focus on your trust, focus on your knowledge, and let the music play itself.  When you stop fighting the mistakes, you find music behind the notes on the page.

When you purposefully play and enjoy this free flow of thought, before you know it you’ve played for 15 minutes without a single controlling thought.  Now go play that piece for someone — it’s instantly excellent and easy.

Try this with a video game, with reading (you can speedread much better than you expect), with any activity that you want to master.

Let go, try, trust, trust, trust, allow, allow, allow.


Have you seen the Tiger Reeds Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


(image by Blechhhy (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

What are oboe reed windows? — Reed Tip #11

How can you distinguish a professional-quality oboe reed from a machine-made low-quality slab of wood?  Look for the windows!  Oboe reed windows impart darkness, focus, and stable pitch to the reed, but they need to be balanced to the rest of the reed — this takes much time and expertise.

Here’s how to identify this important feature, weed out bad reed choices, and balance your reed’s windows.


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.


 

American long-scrape oboe reed with windows
American long-scrape oboe reed with windows
German U-scrape oboe reed
German U-scrape oboe reed
French V-scrape oboe reed
French V-scrape oboe reed

Oboe reeds from around the world come in many shapes and ‘scrapes’.  The American scrape features one prominent section that others don’t.  Referred to as a ‘long-scrape’ reed, the American scrape features blades thinned almost to the string, whereas many other scrapes (French and German, particularly) usually scrape only the first third or half.

American-scrape oboe reeds feature windows in the ‘back’ near the string, roughly the back third to half of the reed, on either side of the spine (the center).  Notoriously difficult to photograph, these areas should appear much lighter under bright light than the surrounding features.  If the packaging allows, look for a defined spine and triangular shapes like this.  If you see them, the reedmaker has invested time in balancing the tone and pitch of your reed.  Otherwise, your reed will be less stable, potentially louder and buzzier, and will be more difficult to play.  It won’t have the “je ne sais quas”, the lovely mouth feel, or the singing quality of nicer reeds just a few dollars more.

Most if not all oboe reeds available in stores in America are long-scrape reeds, but not all feature balanced windows.

Reeds without deeply-cut windows vibrate differently.  Wedge shaped blades (thin tip, thick back) bring out the high, buzzy partials, making your sound piercing and difficult to blend.  Windows counteract this — they make the spine relatively thicker, stiffening the reed’s back, dampening this buzziness.  They also add a small amount of resistance to your reed (yes, actually desirable in small doses), allowing your lips to fine-tune and your air to do the grunt work of support.

Bad reeds will have a somewhat defined tip, windows that are too symmetrical (finished by machine, not hand-tuned), and maybe scratches side-to-side across the blades — a machine did most of the work, not tuned ears and trained hands.  If your reed sounds a bit thin and buzzy, you could try adding these features, but it’s better to invest in higher quality for a few more bucks.

Take into account your reed’s general makeup.  All features need to be in balance, and only study and experience will teach you what this is.  Windows should be slightly thicker towards the string and slightly thinner just before stopping at the bottom edge of the heart.  The spine should not be severed or thinned at any part — it should be a continuous dark line from the back up through the heart.

I’ll spend 15-30 minutes on each reed tuning, balancing, and enhancing the resonance through thinning, sanding, reforming the profile, and lots of tricks, including employing various aspects of well-adjusted windows.

A novice once asked a great reedmaker how to become an expert.  His answer: “It is simple.  First, you must fill a barrel with reeds.  Then you are an expert.”  Get started!


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!


Know When to Use Tight and Loose Tolerances

“Measure carefully.  Know when to use tight and loose tolerances.”

Scene: Maker Faire 2014.  Adam Savage from “Mythbusters”.

Adam Savage presented his annual MakerFaire speech from high atop a rickety cherry-picker adorned with hand-painted railing.  This year he presented his Ten Commandments of Making.

Anyone who makes — builds, turns, welds, cuts, stitches, designs, etc. — would be wise to watch this speech.  The link is at the bottom of this post.

However, the best tip of the whole speech is nestled comfortably at #8: “Measure carefully.  Know when to use tight and loose tolerances.”


Check out the Reeds page — and read the Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


A ‘tolerance’ is a gap, either physical or metaphorical, between two things.  A very small gap is said to have a tight tolerance, where as a larger gap has a loose tolerance.

Some cooks swear by recipes, while some prefer to wing it.  Both are correct and neither is correct in all circumstances.  Accuracy takes time.  An unevenly sawed porch railing has “character”.  A one-thousandth of an inch gap is enough to foul an engine.  Sealants and caulking cover unevenness, and sandpaper smooths grain.  .1mm too thick at the tip and the bassoon reed or oboe reed won’t play.  Wood can be squeezed together, but metal won’t budge.  We must decide which level of tolerance our project or goal demands.  I’ve messed up many projects because I tried to impose tighter tolerances than necessary, wasting time and frustrating myself.

We have a finite amount of willpower each day.  Could we decide to live with some looser tolerances to leave time for tightening other tolerances?

Scales are a perfect example.  By working all the finger patterns of neighboring notes beforehand, our subsequent practice requires less thought.  But do we need to practice every single note all the time?  Of course not.  Practice the general shape first, then gradually fill in the details.

The same goes for learning a piece of music, and for performing it.  How perfect does it really need to be?  Does the audience really need to hear every single note, or can you  aim for gestures and allow the rest to fix itself?  Each piece is different, so use your best judgment.


Have you seen the Tiger Reeds Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


Adam Savage’s speech is available at Adam Savage’s 10 Maker Commandments.

How can “working memory” hold me back?

Computer internal RAM cards

Computer internal RAM cards

What is working memory?  It’s like RAM in a computer!
Why is this important to musicians?  We live and die by our working memory. However, cognitive horsepower can sap energy, waste time, and slow us down.

This is the second of several entries on Life Skills, inspired by the book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To by Sian Beilock.  It’s an excellent book.


And while you’re here, check out the Reeds page — and read the glowing Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the oboe and bassoon reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


As mentioned in the first entry in this series, Is overthinking possible?, “working memory” comes from our prefrontal cortex, and is responsible for our executive functions (juggling information retrieved from different cortexes in order to arrive at a balanced conclusion).  In fact, a common definition for “intelligence” is “the ability to process two or more conflicting thoughts simultaneously”.  However, “working memory” can hold us back.

“Mental horsepower” — your prefrontal cortex gives you the ability to churn information retrieved from your storage, like computer Random Access Memory.  Those with well-exercised or genetically-strong RAM can think through problems much more thoroughly than others, but they might miss the simplest solution — they can’t see the forest for the trees.

An example: children develop their working memory by their mid-to-late teen years.  In the book Choke, two children, 5 and 12 years old, are presented with this riddle.

Two strings hang from the ceiling but are too far apart to allow a person to hold one and walk to the other.  On a table under the strings are a book of matches, a screwdriver, and a few pieces of cotton.  How can you tie the strings together?

Each person came up with a different answer.  The older decided to use the screwdriver as a pendulum, tying the string to it and swinging it towards the other, catching it, and tying them together.  Many older individuals would only view the screwdriver as a device for rotating screws, missing the pendulum connection.  However, the younger child chose simply to stand on the table.

High-powered minds usually choose the most complex route to a solution when a simpler answer is right in front of their nose.  They expend a lot of energy in the process.  They also don’t learn as effectively as those who have less cognitive horsepower, either by predisposition or by having the skills to turn it down.

Take for instance language learning.  Young children learn second languages astonishingly quickly.  Adults often think of words as whole units based on letters, interrelated phrases, idioms, etc. but children only have the horsepower to consider generalities – inflections and the more obvious auditory components of a language.  It’s the equivalent of squinting when looking at a picture — the specifics disappear and the generalities become more noticeable.  You can use this to your advantage when learning music — the audience only has time to perceive the generalities in most circumstances, for example.  Adults and later teens learn best when the new skill is digested in small chunks of words rather than whole sentences.  So, how can we natural-born thinkers learn to free our minds from these boundaries?

Of course, strong working memory often associates with strong academic achievement.  If one’s job requires computing many differing pieces of information, success will come easier.  Learning to turn off — or distract — this process can unlock enormous mental potential.  You’ve actually noticed this many times; sudden clarity in the midst of a flurry of activity, or frustration when trying to study alone in a quiet room.  Some might consider it ADHD, but without pathologizing your unique mental setup, you can easily find your own center.

Adults find success in learning a language when they distract themselves from thinking too hard.  In one study in Choke, students learning American sign language were asked to count auditory beeps while learning new hand signs and compared with those who learned the signs alone.  You can guess the results — the distracted students not only could reproduce the signs faster and more accurately but were able to use them in new combinations with less difficulty.  Golfers who sing to themselves when trying to sink a difficult putt will more consistently hit the hole.  Cellists who suddenly think of their grocery list can slide up to a high note very accurately.  Runners can achieve much longer distances when counting cat’s eye reflectors or chanting a mantra.

So, how will you learn to harness your childlike creative brain?


Have you seen the Reeds page yet?  I hand-make every one!  They’re they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re excellent value and they last a long time.  Don’t take my word for it; read the Reviews!  Avoid machine-made, mass produced 2×4, buzzy monstrosities — check out the reed options and try one!  Visit the Reeds page to purchase.


For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:

LIKE Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds
FOLLOW Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
SIGN UP for the Tiger Reeder weekly newsletter – Tiger Reeder


Image of Corsair computer memory is by Victorrocha (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When is it time for a new reed? – Reed Tip #10

When is it time for a new reed? How can I tell that a reed is dying? Bassoon and oboe reeds are more expensive than clarinet or saxophone reeds – true. Double-reeds take much longer to make and are much more finicky. No one, including me, wants you to see this as a money-grab. Reedmakers are in the business of helping you sound good and enjoy playing, and we want your reeds last as long as possible (well, speaking for myself, anyhow). So, how can you fix a reed to make it last longer, and when is it time to move to a 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 few simple signs that your reed will soon shuffle off its mortal coil:

  • Chipped tip Depending upon the extent of the damage, this might not actually affect playing much at all, but it might make the reed unplayable. Chips near the center of the tip are slightly worse than chips in the corners. Low notes and high notes disappear first, then nothing plays. The remedy for this shouldn’t be attempted if you’ve never done it before — clipping the tip shorter and re-scraping is the only way to sharpen the tip’s edge.

Time for a new reed - reed damage - chipped tips - Tiger Reeds  

  • Cracks A crack is death. Think about it – your reed is vibrating hundreds of times each second. Only one ‘clap’ of the reed is enough to spread a crack down the reed’s grain. In essence, a crack makes a double reed into a 2.5-reed, or a triple reed, making the blades uneven from each other. Uneven blades don’t vibrate, so the reed suddenly stops making sound. There is no remedy; some advocate using superglue, but the polymers don’t vibrate the same as arundo donax (bamboo), and the chemicals *should*not* be anywhere near your mouth.

Time for a new reed - reed damage - cracked tips - Tiger Reeds 

  • Black mold Blekh. Gross. Yuck. Grody. Yes, it’s the same bacteria from your mouth, so it’s like sucking on a two-week old piece of chewing gum. Your reed has been dissolving and digesting for a long time — you’ve probably been storing it in the same plastic vial it came in, or in a pill bottle, probably wet, and only soaking the reed in your mouth, instead of in water. Reed Tip #2 “Why should I soak my reed in water?” and Reed Tip #3 “Why should I store my reeds dry?” are important for you. As for playability, softer cane collapses easier – your reed keeps closing, certain notes are really flat (like first-finger E on bassoon), and high notes are really hard to play. Your sound becomes mushy and generally bad. You can try cleaning the reed’s fibers by following Reed Tip #1 “How can I bring my reed back to life?”, but your reed won’t live long either way, and you’ll become frustrated much quicker.  It’s time for a new reed.

Time for a new reed - reed damage - black mold - Tiger Reeds

Regardless of any of the above situations, you should already have one or two backup reeds already broken-in. Always, always rotate reeds; never depend on one – if you’ve lost your best reed five minutes before your solo, you’ll understand true panic and you’ll never do this again.


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! For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world: Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

How long will a reed last? – Reed Tip #9

Normal reed life can vary tremendously.  A professional, handmade bassoon or oboe reed lasts anywhere from five seconds to a month, maybe longer.

Five seconds?! I’ve seen plenty of students carelessly remove reeds from containers or cases only to drop them, chip the corners on their teeth, leave the reed on the instrument at break, remove from the case by the tips, etc. Instant crack/chip/destroyed reed.

Aside from catastrophic damage, a well-adjusted reed will go through three distinct phases: break-in, playing life, and deterioration. Many reeds can be ‘rested’ for a time (days, weeks, months, etc.) and will return to playing life, but the cycle becomes shorter with each repetition.


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.


Reed life cycle:

  • During break-in, your reed will be stiff, the tip will be too open, and it will tend to play too loudly and slightly flat.  For best results, soak (in water) and dry the reed many times, adjust the blades more shut (sometimes aggressively), and play the reed as in-tune as you can.
  • During playing life, keep the reed dry when not being played.  Grasp the reed by anything but the blades unless adjusting it. Enjoy it!
  • As the reed deteriorates, it will become unstable and dull. Some reeds close up and go sharp, while others become flabby and won’t respond. The cane begins to break down, producing a duller, less resonant tone. Reeds made with softer cane suffer shorter playing life and deteriorate faster than hard cane. Blackish mold is a very bad sign; your reed is being devoured by mouth bacteria — store it drier (i.e. not in a tightly-sealed plastic container).

Extend your reed life:

  • Soak your reed in water as often as possible.
  • Store your reed in a hard-sided reed case with a secure latch and plenty of air holes.
  • Grasp your reed by the non-playing surfaces — string, wires, cork — but never by the blades unless adjusting it — including inserting/removing the reed from the case!
  • Brush/floss your teeth and drink water — dirty mouth = dirty reed.
  • Be mindful of your reed’s location at all times — never leave your reed on your instrument during breaks or when resting. Your mouth and the reed case are safe places to hold your reed in the interim.
  • Keep your reed adjusted. A happy player = less reed biting!

To adjust your reed’s opening, you’ll find excellent tips in “Reed Tip #7 — How do I break-in my reed?” and “Reed Tip #5 — How and why do I adjust bassoon reed wires?

As a last resort, you can try reviving the reed’s fibers with a soak in hydrogen peroxide, but only one treatment is recommended, and the reed will deteriorate faster (H2O2 breaks down cane as well), but it can work magic in a pinch. Learn about the technique by reading Reed Tip #1 – H2O2.

Continue soaking the reed in water more frequently than saliva.  Once the reed refuses to revitalize, discard it.


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!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

What is ‘crowing’ …and why? – Reed Tip #8

If you’re a bassoon or oboe player or you’re associated with one (parent, friend, band director, and so forth), you’ve likely heard this word — “crow” — used both as a noun (test the “crow”) and a verb (“crow” the reed).

A “crow” is the rattly sound the reed makes by itself (not on the instrument) when blowing into it with your lips on the string or the wires (not touching the blades).  An ideal crow contains high, middle, and low pitches.

Crowing is the single most important diagnostic tool you have.  You can tell a lot about a reed by the crow.  And it’s very easy to do.


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.


 

How to do it:

  • Place your lips on the wires (bassoon) or the string (oboe), not touching the blades.
  • Start by blowing very softly.  You’ll hear a soft hiss as air moves through the nonvibrating blades.
  • Blow gradually harder.  You’ll eventually hear a soft, high pitch by itself.  This is the “peep crow”.
  • Increase your air speed, adding more notes.  When you hear a jumble of pitches, you’re in the “crow”.

Some people only test the “crow”, only blowing hard and making the loud, rattly sound.  This doesn’t tell us as much as feeling out the peep crow and main crow.

Using the information above, you can adjust the reed to fit you. Try adjusting the opening of the reed to make it easier (or harder) to play and to change the pitch of the peep crow.  An oboe reed should have a ‘C’ peep crow, and a bassoon reed should have an ‘E’ peep crow — use your tuner.

To adjust your reed’s crow, you’ll find great tips in “Reed Tip #7 — How do I break-in my reed?” and “Reed Tip #5 — How and why do I adjust bassoon reed wires?

Some notes will appear or disappear as you change the opening. Scrape from the tip, the blend, the rails, the windows, the back, or even the heart to change the sound profile of the reed.

Don’t know what those words mean?  Keep checking in here at the Tiger Reeds reed tips.


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!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

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.

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
FOLLOW Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
LIKE Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds

Why are my oboe reed blades offset? – Reed Tip #6

Oboe reeds must feature offset blades.

“Offset”: the blades are not perfectly aligned atop each other — each blade is slipped to one side of the other. However, one blade should not be fully inside the other — this must be remedied immediately.


First of all, 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.


Results of offsetting the blades:

1. Smaller internal space of the reed — much like a piccolo vs. a tuba, the smaller internal space results in a higher overall pitch.
2. Smaller tip opening — improved overall response, to a point.
3. Focused, less-flabby tone — more ‘one-note’, less ‘multi-note’ crow

Results of re-aligning the blades:

1. Larger internal space of the reed — lower overall pitch.
2. Larger tip opening — resistant response, to a point.
3. Looser tone — more notes in the crow

Therefore, one can control and balance these properties by affecting a change in the amount of offset.  And the best part?  You can very quickly undo the change!  It’s not completely permanent, though the reed needs a while to fully settle.

In order to adjust the offset safely:
Tools needed:  Blued-steel flat plaque, water for soaking.

1.  First, soak your reed in water for 2 minutes.
2. Carefully insert a plaque between the blades until you feel firm resistance. A flat, blued-steel plaque yields best results — a flat plaque vs. contoured plaque allows more space for squeezing.
2.  Slide the blades in the direction you would like using your fingers, a little at a time, periodically removing the plaque and checking the results.
3.  After removing the plaque, suck-seal the reed to seal the sides before crowing. To do this, seal the bottom of the tube with a finger, place the blades in your mouth, and suck with your mouth (not your lungs — they’re not strong enough) very, very hard. Pull the reed out of your mouth, keeping the end sealed. You should hear a ‘pop’ as the blades suddenly open. You may have to repeat this until the reed remains sealed for a moment before ‘popping’ open. Then crow and play-test. Readjust as necessary.

Learn how to easily check the crow in Reed Tip #8 — What is ‘crowing’ …and why?


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!

For the latest news from Tiger Reeds and the bassoon and oboe world:
Follow Tiger Reeds on Twitter – @TigerReeds
Like Tiger Reeds on Facebook – Tiger Reeds