Now that we have had a week to fully digest the maggots in the mouthpiece story, and understand that we should NOT leave the reed on the mouthpiece for an extended period of time, the next obvious question is how long should we play on one particular reed?

Many students find a good reed and never want to part with it, so they play on the same reed until it gets really badly chipped or warped, where the tip turns “wavy”.

(See the pictures below.)

chipped reed 2 warpedreed 1








You always want to be playing on as new a reed as possible. Which means that you will want to create a system to rotate your reeds.

Here’s how to start rotating your reeds:

  1. Take a brand new reed out of the box. If it’s good, where your sound comes out easily, the tone is full and you are not squeaking on every other note, play on it for 3 practice sessions. Label it as #1 and store it as described below.
  2. Take out another brand new reed. If it’s good and easy to play on, use that reed for 3 sessions. If this reed is better than the #1 reed then label this one #1 and switch the other to the #2 label. If it is equal or not as good, label it as #2.
  3. Rotate every session between reed #1 and #2 for another week (3 sessions each).
  4. Take out a brand new reed from the box. If this is now your best reed, label it #1 and move your other reeds down to slots #2 and 3. (You have to determine your reed order that works for you.) Play on this reed for 3 sessions, then rotate between the three reeds for a week.
  5. If you play your instrument frequently, 3 weeks use out of one reed is usually the limit.
  6. You will start to find that a reed will start to go bad when it starts to squeak frequently, sounds like it’s on the verge of squeaking, is starting to fray or curl in on the sides of the reed, or is starting to chip. At that point, you can throw that reed away and break in a new reed.
  7. Professionals usually rotate between 3 and 4 reeds on a weekly basis and get a solid week to 2 weeks out of one reed.

Here’s an example of how to store the reeds:

  1. Find a good reed in the box.
  2. Get a small piece of masking tape (that you can write numbers “1”, “2”, etc), or small colored stickers so you can label your reeds. Green can mean your best reed, purple your second best, orange your third best, etc.
  3. Put the stickers or tape on the individual reed cases that come with each reed.
  4. If your brand of reeds does not have these cases, it would be in your best interest to buy a Reed Holder that stores at least 4 reeds. (ex. Rico Reed Guards) This is your best option, and if each slot is not already numbered, use the sticker system described above.

In future blogs, I’ll talk about parts of the reed, ideas for soaking the reed and what to look for in a good reed.

Action Steps:

  1. Determine if your reeds come in individual cases. If not, buy a Reed Guard or Reed Case that can hold up to 4 reeds for your instrument.
  2. You can buy these at your local music store or the Woodwind and Brasswind store online (you can click on the link in the sidebar on the right).
  3. Buy a set of small stickers and come up with your own labeling system for your reeds as described above.
  4. Report on your own system in the Comments section below!
  5. If you enjoyed this article, please Like it and share it on your social networks. Sign up on my website for more weekly tips and information at http://DonnaSchwartzMusic.com.


‘Til next time, have a great week!