If you’re learning how to play the oboe or are an advanced player, it’s important to have a quality oboe reed to ensure you are getting the best performance.
Like most woodwind instruments, the oboe requires a reed but the structure and design of an oboe reed is nothing like what you find with a clarinet or saxophone.
With the oboe being a less popular instrument than other woodwind instruments due to the complexity to learn the initial techniques, the oboe reeds are an intricately designed feature that are very time-consuming to manufacture.
Therefore, when researching which oboe reed to go for, it is important to read as much as you can so you can make a fully informed decision.
So whether this is your first bit of research or an addition to some expansive reading you’ve been doing, you’ve come to the right place to learn everything worth knowing about oboe reeds.
We’ll be taking you through the top five oboe reeds on the market followed by a Buyers Guide with everything you need to know for your research and concluding with an FAQ answering all of those commonly asked questions.
Don’t have time to read the full guide? Read our top pick here:
Our top pick is the Emerald 601MS Medium Soft reed. What makes this such a standout is its versatility with players of all abilities thanks to its medium soft texture. This ensures that the reed is easier to break in.
Made from the finest French cane available, the Emerald 601MS reed provides only the best enhanced clarity and clear sound. These are particularly ideal for beginners who are getting those initial techniques perfected.
What puts this reed above the rest? From its quality materials to its accessible price point, the Emerald 601MS is a wonderful choice for players wanting to create a rounded and crisp sound. They don’t take too long to break in meaning that you can get the most out of your playing almost straight away.
OUR TOP PICK
Our top pick is the Emerald 601MS due to the fact that they last a long time and are easy to break in meaning you can have consistent sound from the moment they arrive.
A great choice for players of all abilities, the Emerald 601MS is a brilliant pick for those wanting to get the basic techniques down as well as those developing skills.
Made from high quality French cane to ensure that the reeds are made from the finest materials so you can be assured that the reed will give you the best performance.
With an average of 4.1 stars from over 200 reviews, the Emerald 601MS reeds have garnered a loyal base of fans of all abilities and have become a favorite among oboe players.
Emerald is a brand that specializes in producing quality music materials for a great price point so you don’t have to break the bank to have a quality reed.
- Ideal for players of all abilities
- The medium soft texture means it is easy to break in
- Great price point
- When worn down, the reed can cause the clarity of sound to wane
Our second pick is another Emerald reed with their 601MH model. The Emerald 601MH has a medium hard texture which is particularly great for more advanced players who have aced the basic techniques and are working on more difficult pieces.
Because of the hardness of the reed, it wouldn’t be a suitable choice for beginners as they would find it difficult to break the reed in as they don’t know the basic techniques.
Again, the Emerald 601MH has an average of 4.1 stars from over 50 reviews and has become a favorite among more advanced players.
There is a reason why the Emerald brand is among the leading choices for oboe players of all abilities because of its design and longevity, making their reeds the most reliable and durable on the market.
- Ideal for advanced players
- Perfect for tackling difficult pieces
- Durable and reliable
- Not suitable for beginner players
Our third pick is from Jones and is their medium soft JR101MS reed. Made with a tip opening so no wire is required, the JR101MS is manufactured from the most advanced reed technology from the finest cane.
The best thing about the JR101MS is that you can play the full range of the oboe with it meaning that players of all abilities can use it with ease.
Creating a crisp sound for pieces of all difficulties, the JR101MS reed is handcrafted and each one is tested to ensure that it has the durability and reliability that you need.
The JR101MS is a favorite choice among professionals who want their reeds to last a long time without hindering the quality of their performance.
The JR101MS has 4 stars from over 400 reviews thanks to its long life span which is particularly helpful for those who play the oboe regularly.
It can take a while to break in but once broken in, the sound made is consistent and long lasting.
A lot of these reeds have been purchased by students and college students who are perfecting their techniques can want to pursue oboe playing professionally.
- Handcrafted and individually tested
- Suitable for players of all abilities
- Durable and reliable
- Can take a while to break in
Our penultimate pick is another from Jones and is their JR101AMS medium soft reed. What makes this different from our previous pick is that this one has been favored by those who play solo pieces.
Made with a nickel tube with a refined tip for a more defined sound. Adjusted by hand to an exact pitch so you can be guaranteed a clear sound, the JR101AMS reed is ideal for all players and can be used for any piece.
Like other Jones reeds, the JR101AMS reed has a long life span so you don’t have to be concerned about having to replace the reed constantly.
With 4 stars from over 200 reviews, the JR101AMS reeds can be broken in very easily and despite the high price point, have proven themselves to be worth the extra pennies.
The luxurious materials used in manufacturing and the intricacy in the design means that you can get the most out of your playing.
Almost immediately improving the quality of sound and tone, the JR101AMS are the perfect reeds to stick to when developing your skill set.
- Ideal for players of all abilities
- Made from luxury materials for a consistently clear performance
- Long life span
- High price point
Our final recommendation brings us back to the Emerald brand with their 801M reeds. Their medium thickness is great for intermediate players looking to progress to more advanced pieces.
Made from French cane, you can be assured that Emerald reeds are made from the best materials available to ensure a long life span.
The great price point makes it a favorite pick for students as parents don’t have to worry about spending a lot for a quality product.
Again, with 4 stars from over 100 reviews, the Emerald 801M is perfect for hitting the lower and higher notes which is ideal for more advanced players as well.
If you have surpassed the Medium Soft stage and are looking for a reed that can help you transition to a Medium Hard reed then this is the perfect reed for you.
Not too soft or too hard, you can perfect your beginner skill set while also getting you used to more advanced techniques and pieces.
- Ideal for intermediate players looking to advance their skills
- Long life span
- Made from luxury materials to ensure the product’s quality
- Can take a while to break in
Best Oboe Reeds Buying Guide
When selecting your oboe reed, you want to make sure that you do the research before making your final decision.
As there are not a lot of reeds on the market, it may seem that there isn’t that much choice and you should just go for the first option you see.
However, this is absolutely not the case as not every reed is the same. Just as you would expect from clarinet and saxophone reeds, oboe reeds have varying thickness for specific skill sets and abilities meaning that you can be guaranteed a great performance.
Whether you’re a student learning the basics or a professional who plays for a national orchestra, it’s important to do your research so you can make a fully informed decision as a reed is a key component of an oboist’s performance.
Oboe reeds are not cheap and you want to be assured that you pick a suitable reed for your skill set and what kinds of pieces you are working on and budget.
Your skill set
First thing to consider is your own skill set and ability. This will determine what reed texture you need which is the most important aspect to selecting a reed as it will help generate an improved sound.
For beginners, you want to look for a softer reed, more specifically a medium soft as this will help you with some of the trickier beginner techniques.
Harder reeds are more suitable for more advanced players as they help produce a rounded sound and can reach the high and low notes with ease.
If a beginner was to get a hard reed then they won’t have the skills to generate a basic sound and will likely end up squeaking and potentially damaging the reed.
Whereas, if an advanced player were to purchase a medium soft then they may not be able to successfully play difficult pieces that reach the highest and lowest notes.
What pieces you are working on
The next thing to look at is what kind of music you are working on or plan to work on. Whether you are a soloist or a member of an orchestra, the type of reed is particularly important as certain reeds are made for particular performances.
If you purchase a reed that is made from handcrafted materials such as cane then you can be assured that the reed will be able to withstand any performance.
Also look at the tip opening and whether you will need a wire to open it. If you are a professional in an orchestra then it would be best to select a reed that has an open tip to ensure that you don’t spend a lot of time prying the reed open with a wire which can add up to a lot of time wasted.
Lastly, the budget is something you want to consider. Oboes are one of the least played instruments because they are so difficult to learn and the reeds are quite scarce because they take so long to make and are therefore expensive.
However, the recommendations provided in this article are the leaders in the market and will ensure that they will have a long lifespan meaning you don’t have to worry about replacing it every so often. This also factors in the price per use.
Oboe reeds tend to be sold singularly because they are usually handcrafted and are therefore more expensive than clarinet and saxophone reeds; however, making sure that they have a long lifespan means that they will work out cheaper in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are oboe reeds so expensive?
Oboe reeds can be expensive due to supply and demand. Compared to clarinet and saxophone players, there are less people who play the oboe.
Also, oboe reeds are time consuming to make which also means that they are more expensive due to manufacturing costs.
As you can see from the selection given in this article, however, you can purchase oboe reeds for a great price point which is ideal for those on a budget who don’t want to break their bank account.
How long should oboe reeds last?
Surprisingly oboe reeds do not have a long life and should not be used past a month after construction.
They can usually take between 10-15 hours of playing time so you will need to get used to changing the reed regularly. Another thing to consider is how long you play the oboe per week.
Some people may wear down their oboe reeds faster than others if they practice longer hours, however, the reeds given in this article are all guaranteed to have a long lifespan meaning that you don’t have to worry about them wearing down very quickly.
How do I know if my oboe reed is good?
The quality of an oboe reed can be detected on the sound it makes as well as the reeds resistance. Take a look at the reed opening and determine whether it is wide enough.
If it is too wide then you will not have as much control in your sound whereas if it is too small then it will be difficult to make any sound at all because the vibrations won’t be able to get through.