The Basics of Oboe Reeds: A Beginner's Guide
Dr. Lindabeth Binkley, Assistant Professor of Oboe
Central Michigan University School of Music
This page highlights some of the best and most useful information about oboe reeds for new players available on the Internet. While a young oboist's primary concern is always, "Where can I find a great reed?", it is equally important that they understand a bit about the construction of the reed, why it works the way it does, and the different things that can influence how a reed plays. It is expected that an oboist will eventually learn how to make their own reeds, but there is always a period of time when the oboist is at the mercy of a reed supplier.
If you are a new oboist, or the parent of one, one of the most helpful introductory articles about oboe reeds for young oboists is written by Allison Baker, "The Selection and Care of Oboe Reeds," available on Banddirector.com. It does a great job of explaining the difference between manufactured and hand-scraped oboe reeds, how to store them, and how to take care of them.
Dr. Sarah Hamilton, Oboe Professor at SUNY Fredonia School of Music, has written an excellent article, "Reed Help for Beginners," that details specific information designed to assist in the selection of an oboe reed. This includes what to look for in a reed without playing it, a method for testing reeds, and simple suggestions for fixing reeds. Dr. Hamilton also concisely explains the general problems with machine made reeds. This article makes it clear why hand-scraped reeds are better than machine made reeds.
To give you the sense of how hand-scraped reeds can have different characteristics, read the blog post, "Oboe Reeds: Selecting the Best Reed For You," from Midwest Musical Imports. This post describes each of the hand-scraped reeds they have available for purchase as well as general information to help in the selection of an oboe reed. (Midwest Musical Imports is also a great resource for instruments, oboe accessories, music, reeds, and reed making supplies.)
I always prefer hand scraped reeds over manufactured reeds, but it often takes a great deal of trial and error before you find a good fit. Frankly, it is the reason why oboists learn how to make their own reeds. They like to be in control of their own destiny!