Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reed Prep 101: This is a good reed.

By Mark T. Burke

A few weeks ago, a student asked me how she should be prepping her reeds before playing them.  This is a question I've gotten frequently over the years so I thought it high time to start building some content on the subject.

This should get the ball rolling.  I sat in front of the camera today, built a few slides and talked about my reed prep process.  I could have spent a bit more time on "play testing" so below the video I included a bit more on that topic.

Play Testing:  Play testing is a key component of the entire reed prep process.  The goal of play testing is to play each of the reeds that you've prepped BUT play them only for a small amount of time.  Here's the process overview.

After you've prepped all the reeds as demonstrated in the video, and waited for them to dry for 24 hours after the last rubbing, start the following.

  • Wet the reeds using a bowl of water.
  • Lay them out onto the glass after 1-3 minutes of soaking.
  • Choose a reed and place it onto your mouthpiece.
  • Play a semi long tone and a simple scale or solo passage so you can determine if you like the overall sound of the reed.  
  • Next try some articulated tones such as repeated eight notes.  Listed to the responsiveness of the reed.  
  • Assess the sound.  Is the reed responsive or does it seem too hard and non-responsive?  Does the reed sound clear or is it muffled?  You want to ensure the reed sounds good and feels good.
  • If the reed sounds good and feels good, it's a keeper.  Place it into an area on the glass for "good" reeds.  
  • If the reed has a fuzzy tone, seem hard and non-responsive or is overly bright and thin sounding, place it in an area on the glass for "not so good" reeds.
  • Repeat this process until all reeds have been played. 
  • Go back to the good reeds and play each one again for about 5-10 minutes.  Pick your current literature, solo, etude etc.  
  • After playing the good reeds, put them on the glass to dry.
  • The next day, play them again.  I also like to try the "not so good" reeds again as well.  

In the end, this process should ensure you have a great set of reeds, ready to play when you need to play and a set that you know will work for you.  Happy prepping!


  1. This is excellent! I added the video to one of the playlists on my YouTube channel.

  2. Thanks Tom...glad you like it and hope it helps your students.