Clean Your Reed, Please!!!

Keeping your reed clean is easy and here’s a method that works.  Your reed will last longer and your teacher will thank you.   Advisory!!!  If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to skip this post.

Countless times, students have arrived for their lesson with a reed that hasn’t been cleaned out for days … maybe even weeks.  The vibrating column between the blades is lined with a gummy concoction and the reed has ceased to vibrate properly.  Fairly disgusting 🙁

  • Take a piece of cigarette paper – oboists use this paper to remove accumulated water from tone holes.
  • Beginning with a corner of the paper, roll a tight tube exactly diagonally – from corner to corner.  The trick is to begin rolling with a damp thumb and forefinger so the paper sticks a little.  The resulting paper tube needs to be slightly longer that the reed.
  • Flatten the tube so it stays in a tight roll and doesn’t unfurl.
  • Insert the paper roll into the cork end of the reed.
  • Hold the blades of the reed between your left thumb and forefinger and, with your right hand, pull the paper roll straight through the reed while swishing it from side to side.

If the reed is really grungy you may have to repeat the process again, with a new paper tube.  Otherwise, flush the reed with water and you’ll have, what feels like, a brand new reed!  It doesn’t hurt to get into the habit of cleaning your reed out after each practice/rehearsal before placing it back in your reed box.

On occasion, a 50/50 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide (a mouth wash and germicidal agent composed only of water and oxygen that kills disease organisms by oxidation is readily available in drug stores) could also be used to rinse and disinfect the reed.

Many thanks to Donald Baker, Principal Oboe of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (retired) for showing me this wonderful tip years (decades) ago.