About the Reeds
**Note: I have received feedback recently that my reeds have been on the harder side. Until I feel confident I have returned to the medium-soft reeds I prefer to offer, I am describing my reeds as medium strength.**
Will I like them?
Short answer: Some of you definitely will!
Longer answer: Every oboe, embouchure, and performance situation is different, and therefore an excellent reed for one player may be mediocre for another. I take great care in the creation of each reed, and each one is considered finished only once it meets basic functional criteria such as responding well and playing in tune (on my well-maintained oboe). However, you can only know whether they will work for you by trying them. I suggest starting with three (two at absolute minimum) as no two reeds made from natural materials can ever be identical.
My reeds are designed to be vibrant, responsive, stable, and rich in overtones. They are ideal for oboists who prefer free-blowing reeds. They will be less ideal for players who require very hard reeds or who like a particularly covered/muted tone built into the reed.
I’m a beginner/advanced/professional player. Are these reeds suitable for me?
If my reed style works for you (see above), then yes! They are soft enough for many beginners, but high enough quality for professionals who prefer free-blowing reeds.
What strengths do they come in?
I only offer one strength: about medium with tendencies towards medium-soft.
Who makes these reeds?
All of these reeds are scraped, finished, and play tested by Corey Sweeney (me).
Why is there a black dot on the cork (oboe) or thread (English horn and oboe d'amore)?
My reeds are purposely made with one blade very slightly longer than the other. They will respond better with the short blade against the lower lip. The short blade is indicated with a black dot on that side of the cork (oboe reed) or thread (English horn and oboe d'amore reeds). If you have a hard time remembering which way to insert the reed, think of hiding the black dot from the audience!
The short blade on an English horn or oboe d'amore reed is also the side opposite the "twist" of the wire. Therefore the "twist" should face the audience. This method can be used if the black dot wears off after use.
How are the reeds cleaned after testing?
Testing by playing is required to produce a working handmade oboe reed. While there is no way to completely guarantee that any cleaning procedure has removed all germs (including Covid-19), preventing the spread of illness is of upmost importance.
Each completed reed is cleaned by soaking in isopropyl alcohol (at least 70%) for two minutes, rinsing in clean water, then cleaning again by soaking in hydrogen peroxide 3% for five minutes. Finally, the reed is rinsed again in clean water and allowed to dry completely.
In light of the widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines, I am removing my week-long waiting period between finishing reeds and shipping them. However, if you have a compromised immune system or other concerns related to illness, you can take the additional precaution of setting aside your reeds for a time after receiving them and before playing them. Or, you may of course choose to avoid playing on handmade and tested oboe reeds. Please contact me (Corey Sweeney) at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
I’m a more advanced player/teacher with some knowledge of reed making. What else can you tell me about your reed making style?
These are long- or American- scrape reeds. My style is a combination of techniques I learned from several teachers, in particular Margaret Herlehy, Martin Schuring, and Stuart Dunkel (formerly co-owner of Oboe Cane and Reeds).
My oboe reeds are gouged- but not scraped!- European style. This means the gouge has relatively thin sides compared to cane gouged on a typical American machine. I find this choice allows me to make the free-blowing reeds I prefer with less time spent scraping. I use a narrow shape. I use synthetic cork brass 47mm staples (though in practice many are closer to 46.5mm), which I find offer the best compromise of price and tone I have yet found.
My English horn reeds are shaped relatively narrow. The tubes are brass, and I apply plastic tubing to each to assure a better seal to the bocal. I also use wire for improved upper register notes and greater control over the opening size.
Oboe d'amore reeds are less standardized, so it is more difficult for me to comment on how mine compare to "normal." I use brass tubes and plastic tubing as with English horn. I have chosen to use wire, like on English horn reeds.
When I’m adjusting, I aim for a secure C crow (oboe), C-C# (English horn), or Eb (oboe d'amore), preferably with at least one lower octave. I also check lower register response and stability of the side octave notes. Finally, I am constantly aware of general comfort, which for me includes low to moderate resistance and a healthy vibrancy in the tone (I detest stuffy, one-dimensional reeds). Of course, dealing with natural materials I sometimes have to make compromises among these factors, but I try never to lower my general standards.
I test my oboe reeds on a Yamaha 841LT, my English horn reeds on a Fox 555 with a #2 Fox bocal, and my oboe d'amore reeds on an E-series Loree with a #1 Hiniker bocal.