Reed Finishing and Adjusting

Reed finishing is the process of taking a blank from unclipped to refined and playable. Finishing takes place in multiple stages over time and allows you to gradually refine and break in the reed. After the first few steps, you will need to test the reed and make adjustments according to each reed's playing tendencies.

I have outlined the steps for both finishing and troubleshooting available for download in my Reed Making Guide.

DAY ONE: First Scrape

  1. Ream reed
  2. Soak blank 5-10 minutes
  3. Cut to Length (2 1/8 inch) with tip cutters
  4. Trim corners (tiniest amount!)
  5. File straight across the collar to create a clear line
  6. File gently all over reed to smooth
  7. Thin the very tip of the reed with knife or file
  8. Thin corners with knife or file (be careful, not too much!)
  9. Scrape channels
  10. Check that the rails taper evenly from collar (thickest) to tip (thinnest)
  11. Using the wires, adjust the aperture to your liking
  12. Crow the reed
  13. Play a few scales or long tones (not too high or low)
  14. Adjust wires as needed to get comfortable
  15. Let the reed rest

DAY TWO ONWARD: Finishing & Fine Tuning

  1. Try these adjustments one at a time, testing the reed after each.
  2. If C# and E are flat or if the sound is too buzzy:
  3. Check the first wire and tighten if needed
  4. Check length of the reed, clip the tip if it is too long
  5. Open the aperture by rounding the 1st wire
  6. Round the 1st and 2nd wires to round the tube slightly
  7. Thin the tip of the reed a bit more with knife, files or sandpaper
  8. Check the rails and thin them evenly collar to tip

If the reed is to stuffy or dark:

  1. Make the tube more oval (less round) by flattening both wires
  2. File or scrape from the collar to the middle of the reed evenly.
  3. Gently file down the heart and spine of the reed (very little at a time)

Be patient! Give your reed time to break in and adjust!