Over the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing reed complaints from several of my clarinet students and friends from around the world. Specific problems have run the gamut – warpage, inconsistency, fluctuations in resistance – you name it, and someone has complained about it.
Despite the wide variety of reed problems it seems everyone has been experiencing, there is crucial step all reed players must take to protect their reeds – proper storage.
Think of it like this – reeds are essentially plants. Like most other plants, reed cane (Arundo donax if you want to be more scientific) does not like being exposed to drastic changes in environment. Just like you shouldn’t take your houseplants from one place to another, you shouldn’t be exposing your reeds to changes in temperature, humidity, altitude, or other environmental factors.
It’s not realistic to expect to play reeds in the same place their entire life, so how can you go from place to place without experiencing wildly inconsistent reeds?
Make sure you are storing them in proper containers which protect them against changes in the environment.
Even if you are using reed cases with built-in humidifiers (I love the Vandoren Hygro Case), these might not be enough to protect from using your reeds in drastically different environments. Make sure you are storing your reeds in airtight containers, such as plastic baggies or Tupperware-style containers.
Using airtight containers is beneficial for all reed players in all environments. I often have students tell me that they live in high-humidity/moderate/warmer areas so they don’t feel the need for airtight containers, but what many fail to realize is that these are only outdoor factors. Air-conditioning and heating negate any external environmental factors and often have a detrimental effect on reeds, and using a sealed container keeps reeds consistent from outdoors to indoors.
I use a sandwich container to store my reed cases and humidity packs, and my reeds play consistently whether I’m in the Canadian tundra or balmy Alabama summers. I encourage everyone to try storing their reeds in airtight containers and see what a difference it will make for your reeds!
One important thing to remember: after selecting a reed from your container, don’t forget to close the lid! If you leave the container open for too long, you are negating its effects.
Here’s to lots of great reeds and happy practicing!