Know when to change your reeds.

The reed is one of the most important parts of a working woodwind instrument. The vibrating reed is the source of your sound when you blow on your instrument. It is thus very important that you take meticulous care of your reeds!

However, they don’t last forever. The following are common examples as to when you should change out your reed.

1. When it is chipped or broken

Reed tips are extremely thin and delicate, and will chip if bumped or mishandled. A chipped reed doesn’t vibrate adequately and is detrimental to tone quality. Most of the time, broken reeds won’t vibrate at all.

Prevent this by using your mouthpiece cap whenever you are not playing, and storing reeds in a proper reed case.

2. When the tip is warped and/or wavy

A warped reed also doesn’t vibrate well, giving you a stuffy, airy sound. A warped reed results from uneven drying after playing. Warping most frequently occurs when a reed is left on a mouthpiece when the instrument is stored after class.

Prevent this by using reed cases by D’Addario, Protec, or Vandoren, which virtually eliminate the problem.

3. When it is discolored or moldy

Secretions from your mouth, storage in a damp or humid area, and using the reed past its appropriate lifespan will result in a moldy or discolored reed. If your read acquires black streaks or spots, dispose of it immediately. Moldy reeds are not only unsanitary, but they can also make you sick!

Prevent this by storing reeds in an appropriate way per your director’s instructions, and only use your reed for an appropriate amount of time.

4. After being sick

Germs love the moist environment of your instrument and will linger in your mouthpiece and on any reeds that you use. If you play on your instrument before, during, or just after sickness, you risk getting sick again!

Prevent sickness by sanitizing your mouthpiece and disposing of any contaminated reeds once you recover.

5. Regular maintenance routine

Change reeds regularly: After a maximum of 2 weeks of playing, change your reed. The acid in your saliva, dead skins cells from your lips, and bacteria make their way into fibers of the reed, leading to a breakdown of material. This breakdown directly interferes with vibrations. Blown-out reeds are:

  • Overly vibrant
  • Difficult to control
  • Have little “core” to their sound

Prevent this by changing reeds regularly to maintain a quality sound.

Clean your mouthpiece regularly: In addition to taking proper care of your reeds, the mouthpiece should be sanitized on a weekly basis. Cleaning your mouthpiece eliminates bacteria and any buildup of debris.

Mouthpiece cleaning process: Soak your mouthpiece in lemon juice for 5-7 minutes, then wash out with lukewarm water. Lemon juice contains enough acid to sanitize and lift debris from the mouthpiece, but will not discolor or damage it.

Because reeds are the source of your sound, bad reeds can make for a negative playing experience. Taking proper care of your reeds and replacing them often will ensure that you have a fun and positive experience while you make music!


P.S….You can order reeds from us any time and have them delivered free to any school in our servicing area. Find yours online!
Beth Hildenbrand is a member of office staff at The Music Shoppe and maintains a private clarinet studio at The Music Shoppe in Normal.