The most frequently-suggested and useful reed tip I can suggest will rejuvenate an old reed, bringing back vibrancy and response.
I’m talking about ‘hydrogen peroxide’, H2O2.
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.
The Situation: A formerly great reed does not respond as easily as it used to (doesn’t start vibrating or stops suddenly), feels stuffy (hard to blow), and perhaps has an unpleasant odor.
The Remedy: Soak the reed in 3% hydrogen peroxide (bassoon – whole reed; oboe – only the blades) — available at the drug store. How long? The length of time varies – longer removes more deposits but deteriorates the reed faster). Suggested time is anywhere from “a few minutes” to “until the bubbles stop.” Soak in water and blow a mouthful of water through reed afterwards to remove leftover detritus and reduce taste.
Pros: Often a near-miraculous return of playability. Reed gains response, brighter/more resonant tone, lightens in color, and is clean again.
Cons: H2O2 bleaches and deteriorates organic material. Slight taste is noted, can be soaked/rinsed out.
Do you have a puzzling bassoon or oboe reed question?
Ask the reedmaker and he’ll make a post about it!