Many consider it standard practice that young clarinet players should have four good reeds at all times, six in rotation for high school students. “Good reed” means not only does it look good, but it has been broken in and plays consistently. Training young students to take care of their reeds and replace reeds in a timely manner is part of our jobs as music educators. Here are 5 tips to help you assist your students with this skill.
1. Consistent Reed Rotation and Reed Checks
Number reed guard 1-4 and insist students rotate reeds daily. Have them show you their reed guard often and you should see 3 reeds in the guard and 1 on the instrument. Have a reed check at least once every 6 weeks and have the students take the reeds out and show you the heart/tip to ensure quality.
2. Next Level Reed Checks
During the reed check, color the very base of the reed (see picture) with a marker. Use a different color every 6 weeks. This helps be sure that students don’t have a reed for too long.
3. Director's Choice Reed Policy
Have a “I choose which reed” policy for some playing grades/playing tests. You can pick which reed of the 4 (or 6) students play on for a grade or chair test. You can randomly choose or draw out of a hat. Whichever reed number you draw, they must perform on that reed. This helps them understand that it is important that every reed be good – not 1-2 good ones and 2-3 not great ones.
4. Reed Graveyard
Have a reed graveyard in your room for all your ‘dead’ reeds. There are many different versions of these! This is a fun way for students to dispose of old reeds and they are less likely to want to hang on to them as long when they have a creative option to ‘donate’ the reed to.
5. Accountability for School-Provided Reeds
When students are provided reeds by the school it can be more difficult to instill the importance of reed care. They aren’t buying them and may not realize how important they are and how expensive they can be for a band program. Try giving students 2 reeds the first week of school. Then give them 1 reed on the 2nd week, 1 on the 3rd week. They now have 4 good reeds – if they haven’t broken them. Then give them 1 reed every 2-3 weeks following depending on your budget and how often the students play. That way the kids who are taking really good care of them are rewarded by having a large selection to choose from. Students who are careless and break them will not have many options and may have to play on some not great reeds. Over time, most students will learn to respect their reeds and care for them so they have a greater supply.
This article was contributed by Vandoren’s educational partners at Band Directors Talk Shop. For additional quality band director focused content, visit them at BandDirectorsTalkShop.com. Many of the photos from this article came from members of the Band Directors Talk Shop Facebook group "Beginning Band Engagement." Vandoren is proud to financially support this mission to help educate & inspire music educators.