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 Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2017-08-17 06:17

I've been playing a few years now, and it seems reeds are almost always getting the better of me, so I have a few questions. I have been trying to learn to make reeds, although maybe at a total of about 70, I haven't put a dent in the the number I will have to make before I get good results.

I have a general issue with pitch, I consistently have trouble playing very sharp..

I am by life experience, a flutist. I think I have read that on flute, one plays "up" to pitch, and maybe I've read that on oboe, one plays "down" to pitch. Is there any truth to this? Could my flute habits be condemning my oboe playing?

I have been trying to play on reeds, mine and my teachers, using a Piefer-Mack shape which is quite narrow, tied at about 70.5mm. I play a Yamaha YOB-441 oboe. Is it possible that my oboe or my particular physiology simply don't work with these reeds? I don't think i've ever had one that was flat unless it was just really dysfunctional.

Thanks for the insight!

Jim C.
CT, USA

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Wes 
Date:   2017-08-18 00:40

You did not mention how you crow your reeds. I find that I must make reeds that crow C when the lips are on the cane next to the thread and also crow C when the lips are on the very tip of the reed. My oboes then generally are ok on pitch.

Since you mentioned the flute, one can try the recommendations of James Galway and play with a serious frowning embouchure, aiming the air at the toes. Even the third register can be in tune without any problems or playing up or down. It has been called the "professional embouchure". Good luck!

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2017-08-18 03:09

I assume you are talking about playing the flute. 😁 I do have some flute pitch issues as well, but that's a different problem. I've never been sure my flute headjoints lend themselves to proper pitch control. I play a Haynes Amadeus.

As for crowing reeds, most crow sharp as well. I'm not really sure how to bring the pitch down to where it's supposed to be without wrecking the reeds. I guess that makes it easier to blame the reeds themselves.

Jim C.
CT, USA

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2017-08-18 04:14

I assume that you are playing on a long scrape reed. If so, you could try making your reeds a little longer, a longer staple, a slightly wider reed shape IF taking a little more out of the heart and back of the reed (without taking too much off....the difference can be very slight) If the crow is tight and sharp, try taking a little more off the sides of the blend. This frees up the reed, and for me at least, slightly lowers the pitch. A slightly longer tip can help too, There are a few good reed making tips on You-tube. This guy's videos I find really helps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06xYFxAWZmQ Good luck

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2017-08-18 08:45

I have the opposite problem most times with the reeds I make. They are noticeable flat. Some are so flat in fact that I have experimented with shortening the staple. (see my thread on this BB concerning that). Up till now I've been making reeds in the American style but recently I've been doing a few in the similar style of the Howarth Academy reeds. This has solved the flat problem to a certain extent. It's mostly a real problem during the cold winter months even after my Oboe has been warmed up.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2017-08-18 22:09

If I know what you're talking about ... in that your reeds crow a C but then you play sharp, that is an embouchure problem in that you are not closing down around the reed enough to get it down to pitch. You need variation both directions to play in tune. Many amatuers I have run into, who are playing on good reeds made by their teachers, will stick the tuner in front of them, bend the pitch down to where it needs to be, put the tuner away, and then go back to blowing as hard as they can and playing a 1/4 tone sharp. I don't know if this could be what you're talking about, but yes, definitely, I have to "play down to the pitch" on a properly made reed, through the use of the embouchure's closing around it.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Wes 
Date:   2017-08-18 22:12

Jim - one can lower the crow on reeds by scraping a little on the hump area next to the tip on both sides of the reed with your reed knife. To soften the reed, one can scrape a little on the corners of the hump near the tip. All this is done with a steel plaque inserted between the blades of the reed. You need to own a sharp reed knife. I've used inexpensive Vitry hollow ground knives for decades. Good luck!

For the flute, the deep frowning embouchure can make playing in tune easy. Try it on some long tones, watching the tuner!

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2017-08-19 04:59

Yup, I have actually been making and adjusting reeds, so I have a reed knife and plaques. I have had some success adjusting reeds so they play, but not so much getting their pitch down.

Jim C.
CT, USA

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2017-08-19 20:58

The initial post sums it up--you have made seventy reeds, and you admit you have to make more to get good results. But I would disagree that you "haven't put a dent in the number" you will have to make.

The number you will have to make depends on your strategy. If you are always trying to make reeds exactly the same, you will tend to get similar results. You need to sacrifice reeds to some radical experiments. You will make some truly godawful reeds, but you will get a better feel for the relationship between scrapes, pitches, and sounds. Try making reeds that DON'T crow at a C--because professional oboists in major symphony orchestras play reeds that don't crow at C.

People who do "optimization" calculations on a computer often use what is called the "simplex method." They start with a set of trial parameters (numbers) which are widely separated--all the numbers are very different--and they get a sense of in which direction in parameter space they need to move in order to get better results. And they move in that direction, but still with quite varied parameters. Only after they start to get close to where they want to be do they start to do just "fine tuning." I don't think anyone has ever developed their reed style by true simplex optimization--there are too many parameters!--but the idea of trying radical experiments before doing fine tuning is a step in that direction.

This advice is, by the way, not just pulled out of my head, but is the advice I got from a professional.

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Wes 
Date:   2017-08-20 01:45

The first time I heard of crowing at C on the edge of the thread and also the very tip in order to play in tune was from the late Jerry Domer a professional player and teacher in British Columbia. He said that both he and the late Ray Still from the Chicago orchestra agreed upon it. It was a valuable revelation to me but my own teacher, Salvatore Spano, had not discussed it. Good luck!

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: tgenns 
Date:   2017-08-20 02:34

Concerning your issue with playing sharp, I recommend that you work with a good teacher on this. If you are having this problem with good quality boughten reeds, then the problem may be embouchure related (too much reed in the mouth, biting, too closed oral /throat cavity, etc.). I doubt that this is a horn-related problem. Also, I wouldn't generalize concerning playing "up" or "down" for pitch on the oboe. Some oboe players have a tendency to play sharp, others flat. Each player needs to make the necessary adjustments to play in tune.

As for learning to make good oboe reeds, I look at there being two major factors: 1) technical knowledge 2) experience. You can get technical from a good oboe reed teacher and also from some books. For example, Jay Light's oboe reed making book is very good if you want to make an American scrape oboe reed. As for experience, an excellent professonal oboe player told me many years ago, "make millions of them." Unfortunately, there is no other way.

Hope this helps.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: jhoyla 
Date:   2017-08-21 18:28

Because you say you have the same problem with your teacher's reeds I assume the issue is with embouchure.

A problem I have seen with at least one flautist who tried oboe was that she did not develop the necessary musculature in her lips to hold the reed gently but firmly. She compensated by biting. Is this your problem? Flautists work hard to remove all tension in the lips - oboists need to do the opposite. We develop really, really strong lip muscles, and use them!

Try just sealing around the reed with no more than 2-3mm of tip projecting into your mouth.
Keep your jaw as open as possible, seal with your lips, push your wind from the bottom of your belly and feel the air-pressure pushing up the roof of your mouth cavity. Control the flow of air from your belly, shoulders relaxed, throat relaxed.

Keep the seal but don't squeeze the reed! Practice rolling the reed into and out of your mouth while playing a low G. Consciously lower the pitch as far as you can - how low can you go, before it starts to sound choked? How low can you get that note?

Now staying with that low pitch, try crescendo decrescendo on that note, keeping the pitch constant. gently tongue quarter notes as you increase and decrease in volume. Try doing this for F, then E, then D.

Do this for a couple of months and you'll be fine  ;)

Hope this helps!
J.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: PaulNorway 
Date:   2017-09-12 13:39

What about tying the reeds longer making the oboe as whole longer. 70,5 mm is really short. I know nothing about longscrape or the length of your staple, but it's worth a try if you are extremely sharp. I'm using short scrape reeds tied to 74mm and cut to 72mm before scraped. My experience is that a narrow shape usually tends to make sharper reeds.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: jhoyla 
Date:   2017-09-14 10:56

I think Jim22 is playing American scrape reeds, in which case 70.5 would be just fine.

J.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2017-09-14 23:12

The biggest question: does your teacher play sharp on your reeds? If not, it is clearly a technical problem and not a reed problem and you should ask for instruction on learning to play to pitch. You may need to play with a drone for quite some time to change your habits.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2017-09-28 06:02

Still here. I have been playing intervals by playing them on a piano and then trying to match the pitches. I do play American scrape. Next time I tie reeds, I am going to try tying at closer to 72 and move the heart out a little. Not much to loose.

Jim C.
CT, USA

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2017-10-01 22:21

Yes but: does your teacher play sharp like you do on the same reeds? If so, really, stop fiddling with your reeds and go ask for instruction on how to play to pitch. It will save you an immense amount of time, and probably have a positive effect on your tone also. BTW a drone is a pitch played in the background that keeps sounding and you can play intervals with it. It's not something you go back and forth with. If you have an electronic keyboard with an organ setting, you can put something on the key that is the tonic you want to play against, holding the key down so the note keeps sounding ("drone"), and then play intervals with it listening for beats. If you don't know how to listen for beats, one more thing to ask for instruction on. No one without a very high level of experience and a well-trained ear can nail a pitch out of nowhere, without having a trained embouchure and a trained ear, to know what to go for.

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 Re: Players, oboes, and reeds
Author: Jim22 
Date:   2017-10-01 23:10

I do understand what your saying. I'm not really sure if my teacher plays sharp on the same reeds, but many of the most recent reeds I've gotten from her have been flat and unstable. She has said my reeds are too closed, which may be part of the problem. Also, she plays a loree and my oboe is a Yamaha, maybe not really the same pitch tendencies.

I frequently play scales along with a drone to the tuning CD, but that only works with a reed that's close to on pitch, which hasn't happened for me lately.

Jim C.
CT, USA

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