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.