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?

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