How to Care for Your Reeds

Proper care of clarinet reeds enhances your performance and saves you money.

1. Rinse your reeds in fresh water before and after playing. Human saliva is a bit acidic which means it can and will eventually reduce the reed’s responsiveness. Gently dry the reed with a clean cloth or tissue.

2. Rotate your reeds. Have three or four that you have played take turns on your clarinet. Number them to keep track. This process breaks each reed in gradually so that you have several well-playing reeds at a time instead of one that’s getting worn out and brand new ones that will need testing.

3. Store your reeds in their individual plastic case or in a reed case that can hold several, like the ones you are rotating. The flat surface of a reed case prevents the reed from warping, especially along the top edge. Swabbing out your clarinet after playing includes the mouthpiece.

4. Reeds are central to clarinet playing and delicate as well. Take care not to knock them needlessly. Use your mouthpiece cap and a clarinet stand if you are taking a break from playing.

5. Some reeds can come “back to life” with gentle sanding. Hold the reed on top of a 1000 sandpaper (flat side down) on a flat surface. Slowly push the reed up and away from you two or three times. Test it on the mouthpiece by sucking air out to close the gap, then let it pop away to release tension. For older, stiffer reeds, gently sand the vamp (top of reed toward the tip) on each side to increase responsiveness.


Buonvento – “May you have fair winds and calm seas.”