Products, resources, and support for oboists of all ages and levels of ability

Traveling With Your Instrument

Traveling with your instrument can be extremely stressful. Since 9/11, heightened security measures force us to be more detail-oriented when packing for a journey. If you are a musician (especially one who travels with tools), you have to be very conscientious about how you pack them. Here are some things to think about when you’re packing that bag:

1.) Any sharp objects should go in your luggage.
While this may seem obvious, you should double-check your carry-on bag and oboe/bassoon case for any stray objects such as razorblades or small scissors. While sometimes I have gotten through security while accidentally carrying a razorblade, on other occasions I haven’t been so lucky. While it’s not a big deal, and can easily be thrown away, it’s simply not worth the hassle of having to unpack your bags, open your oboe case, and (sometimes) have that awkward conversation with security about what you do for a living and why you need razorblades.

2.) Pack all sharpening equipment in your luggage.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to pack heavy. Very heavy (I’m a musician, a grad student, an avid reader, and a girl who loves her shoes, what can I say). When I’m worried about weight constraints (50 lbs maximum per bag), I will often put my sharpening stone and sharpening steel in my oboe bag. Sometimes it’s not a problem, sometimes it is. The sharpening stone shows up as a black block on the airport scanning machines, which usually warrants further investigation. My sharpening steel has never been a problem until today, when I was politely told that, although it isn’t a blade or sharp object, it IS a “tool longer than 7 inches”. Luckily, the nice supervisor let me keep it with me, provided that I didn’t “poke anyone with it”. I thanked him, but next time I may not be so lucky.

3.) Be polite.
It goes a long way. If your bag has to be searched, don’t get an attitude. Airport employees get enough of that. If you’re polite and courteous, you’ll be on your way sooner rather than later. Plus, being unfriendly and hostile could lead to an additional search, further delaying you. If airport security feels it necessary to search your instrument case, be friendly and helpful. Politely inform them that you are traveling with a delicate musical instrument and you would like to tell them how to open the case. If they manhandle your instrument, feel free to ask for a supervisor’s presence during the search.

4.) Your oboe CAN go in the overhead compartment, provided, of course, that nobody shoves their travel suitcase on top of it. For a long time, I flew with my oboe strictly at my feet, but I have found that it actually gets banged around less in the overhead space. Plus, this frees my feet up a little  If you’re worried about the instrument coming out of adjustment a bit during your travel, perhaps you should learn to do your own adjustments (we’ll tackle that in our next post!)

Have a great flight!

Melissa, Julie, and Lauren

Where SHould I Buy My Bassoon and Oboe Supplies?

When you first start playing the oboe or bassoon, you may quickly realize that there aren’t many resources readily available for your double-reed equipment. A venture to your local music store MIGHT help you find a commercially made reed, and maybe a swab or neckstrap (if you’re lucky!) So, where do all of the professionals go for their supplies???

Here’s a list (this is by no means comprehensive) of some of OUR favorite websites for oboe and bassoon supplies. Most have online catalogs for your shopping convenience. We recommend that you get on their mailing list in order to receive regular catalog mailings. In some cases, many of these businesses sponsor masterclasses and other events and will notify you as they are scheduled, making this a great educational opportunity as well!

Without further ado, here are OUR favorites:

Midwest Musical Imports: http://www.mmimports.com
Forrests Music: http://www.forrestsmusic.com
Eble Music: http://www.eble.com
TrevCo Music: http://www.trevcomusic.com
Gail Warnaar: http://www.doublereedshop.com
RDG Woodwinds: http://www.RDGwoodwinds.com
Carlos Coelho (sales and instrument repair): http://www.carlosoboe.com
Hodge Products: http://www.annhodge.com

Happy Shopping!!

Melissa, Julie and Lauren

What To Look For In A Private Teacher

Many students are confused when they start to play oboe or bassoon, and (I find) that the majority of them have switched to a double-reed instrument from clarinet, saxophone, or flute. All of a sudden, everything is new– and you have to start from scratch with everything, including finding a private instructor.

While many schools have specialists on staff for most of the woodwind and brass instruments, finding an oboe or bassoon teacher can be quite tricky. Here are some tips to help you find a good fit:

1. Be willing to drive a bit further.
While it is ideal to have a half-hour lesson every week, be willing to take an hour lesson every other week. Some places even offer a discount for longer lessons.

2. Find someone who provides high-quality handmade reeds.
A professional oboist or bassoonist will make their own reeds for themselves and their students, with very few exceptions (for instance, if you are fortunate enough to study with an oboist or bassoonist in a major symphony orchestra, they may not have the time to make reeds for their students. In such cases, the teacher will ALWAYS have recommendations for where to purchase high-quality handmade reeds). In some cases (especially if you live in an area with very few options for private music instruction), you may have to take lessons from someone whose primary instrument is not oboe or bassoon. This is ok as a last resort, but make sure you can find a good source for reeds. You will have very little success with reeds purchased from a music store. It is the nature of oboe and bassoon reeds to change frequently. An instructor who makes their own reeds can not only adjust yours as they change, but also teach you how to adjust your own.

3. Find someone whose primary instrument is oboe or bassoon.
If your instructor can’t play the instrument (or isn’t playing it in lessons with you), this is a big warning sign. The oboe and bassoon have many specific challenges that only a double-reed player can understand. If they aren’t consistently playing the instrument, they can’t offer you consistent instruction. In some cases, the best teacher might be a successful high school oboist or bassoonist in the area.

4. Find someone who is accessible.
Oboe and bassoon can be difficult. An instructor should be willing to provide you with their EMail address and (depending on the instructor), their home or cell phone number– but be considerate. If you’ve dropped your oboe at midnight and broken your only good reed (and don’t have a backup), don’t expect them to be too compassionate. On the other hand, if a true emergency occurs, it is nice to know that you have some professional advice just a phone call (or e-mail) away.

5. Check your references
Don’t be afraid to ask for references, resumes, and credentials. A true professional will have these on hand and are happy to provide them.

6. Find someone who plays professionally.
If your instructor is playing oboe or bassoon in chamber groups, orchestras, and other organizations, it’s a good sign. This may mean that their schedule might not be as flexible as yours, so be willing to work around their obligations if necessary.

Any questions? Or need help finding a teacher? Feel free to contact us with any questions!

When Should I learn to Make Reeds?

I get this question quite often from students and parents alike.

There are many things to take into account when deciding whether or not you are ready to begin making reeds. Here are a few considerations:

1. Are you serious about being an oboist?

If you’re unsure if oboe is in your future, you may not want to take the plunge into reedmaking. Learning to make reeds is very time consuming, requires some money up-front (the going rate for a beginner’s reedmaking kit is approximately $100-$150), requires daily dedication to the craft, and can be incredibly frustrating. While learning to make reeds CAN save you lots of money, it will only do so in the long term. Many parents and students believe that once a student acquires a reedmaking kit, he will be able to easily fix and make his own reeds. Not quite. Reedmaking, like any other skill, is something that takes time and refinement. I often find reedmaking to be the deciding factor in whether my students continue on as oboists. Be prepared to be frustrated at times, and accept that the first hundred reeds you make probably won’t amount to anything.

2. Can you handle sharp objects without injury?

While you may laugh, this is a very serious consideration. Reedmkaing requires the use of razorblades, knives, and other sharp objects. If you’re accident prone or lack responsibility, you might just end up with stitches (I have been to the hospital twice myself with reedmaking injuries!) Make sure to use the utmost caution when working with sharp objects, and NEVER be in a rush.

If you think you can handle the above situations, then you’re probably ready. If not, that’s ok! Waiting a year or two to decide if you’re serious enough about it is a responsible choice. As we all know, oboe reeds can be bought virtually anywhere, and there are many companies (like us!) that specialize in handmade reeds. There is a trade-off in price, but many people find it a relief to not make their own reeds. If you find a company whose reeds you love, stick with it!

Stay tuned for more information on reeds….our next topic will address the specific qualities of a “good” oboe reed.


We’re Back!!

Have you missed us? From June 12-17, both Julie and Melissa attended the 1st annual MidWest Oboe Camp. We had a blast! There were 15 oboists in attendance, as well as 5 bassoonists. We had campers from as far away as Minnesota, Georgia, and North Carolina! Both Julie and Melissa served as instructors, along with Lisa Sayre and Robert and Bailey Sorton. Workshops included discussions on how and what to practice, improving tonguing speed and intonation, introduction to extended techniques (such as circular breathing and double and triple tonguing), demonstrations on the entire oboe family (musette, oboe, oboe d’amore, english horn, and bass oboe), and much more! Daily reedmaking workshops helped students learn the basics of reedmaking and develop their skills. The week ended with chamber performances from all students as well as an encore performance featuring all 20 oboists and bassoonists!

We hope you will consider joining us next year at beautiful Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio for the 2012 MidWest Oboe Camp. If you’re closer to Georgia, also check out the 2012 Oxford Oboe Camp (a different branch of the same camp), located in Marietta, Georgia.

Pictures will be up soon!

Julie and Melissa

Handmade vs Store Bought Reeds – Does It Really Matter?

Yes, it does. Regardless of whether your oboist is a beginner, intermediate, or advanced oboist, handmade reeds provide a tone quality and stability that store bought reeds simply cannot (for multiple reasons). Let’s take a look at a couple of factors:

1.) Store bought reeds are short. Length matters. When I go to adjust a student’s store bought reed, I am very limited in what I can do. The final length of most oboe reeds should be between 69-70mm long (measuring from the bottom of the cork to the top of the cane). When a reed gets shorter than that, several things happen: the pitch gets sharp, the response is slow, and the reed can be hard to blow. Store bought reeds, although short, seem to have the opposite concern: they are generally flat in pitch. This poses a problem. As oboists, when our reeds are flat in pitch, we clip the tip a small amount with a razorblade, which will (of course) make the reed shorter. Because store bought reeds are already quite short (and quite flat), a larger amount has to be clipped from the tip to make the reed play in tune. In most cases, this initial clip brings the length of the reed below 69 mm, thereby compromising other imperative functions of the oboe reed. This will undoubtedly lead to students working much harder than they have to in order to make the oboe sound pleasing.

2.) Store bought reeds are mass produced. Oboe reeds are made of cane (Arundo Donax to be specific). This cane is cut and shipped in large tubes to the United States. Because cane is a plant, each piece is different. These differences MUST be taken into consideration when making an oboe reed. When oboe reeds are handmade, we can scrape on the reed for what it needs. If the cane is hard (meaning the fibers are closer together), we will scrape quite differently than if the cane is soft. You simply cannot mass produce oboe reeds with machinery and expect them to sound good. Because every piece of cane is different, every piece will vibrate differently. It takes a professional to understand how the cane is vibrating and scrape it accordingly.

3.) Store bought reeds are expensive. While it’s true that handmade reeds are MORE expensive, think about what you’re getting: when you’re purchasing a store bought reed, you are purchasing a reed which has been entirely manufactured and mass produced. The cane’s individual properties are never taken into account. If you’re extremely lucky, you MAY come across store bought reeds that are “hand finished”. Don’t let this fool you. “Hand finished” only means that someone has lightly scraped on the reed before it has been packaged. These people are rarely oboists.

When you’re purchasing a handmade reed, you are purchasing something that has been custom made for you from the beginning. The professional oboist can easily tailor a handmade reed to a student’s needs (do you want a quiet reed to play Mozart on? Done. A louder one for Mahler? Easy.) If your student is a beginner, a professional can make an easier blowing reed, yet keep the pitch stable. For just a few dollars extra, you’re getting something that is made entirely just for you.

Playing the oboe should be easy. If it’s not, check your reeds. Half of the time when I have a new student complaining that the oboe is impossible to play, their reeds aren’t working for them, but against them. The other half of the time, the oboe is horribly out of adjustment. But we’ll save that for our next post 


Welcome to our blog!

Here at Double or Nothing Reeds, we are committed to helping double-reed players be the best musicians they can be. We provide excellent, professionally made oboe and bassoon reeds to students, amateurs, and professionals of all ages.

There’s no doubt that the oboe and bassoon can be challenging instruments (to put it mildly!) As part of our commitment to you, we will be writing weekly posts on a variety of topics specific to the double-reed player (i.e., everything we wish we had known on our journey!)

For those of you who don’t currently have a teacher, are struggling with reedmaking or playing issues, or just have questions about double reeds in general, this is the place for you! Feel free to email any questions to doubleornothingreedsllc@mail.com. We will do our best to address your questions in our blog.

We’re happy you’re here!

Melissa, Julie and Lauren