Did you know that oboe reeds are made from a plant? It’s not bamboo but a type of hollow cane called Arundo Donax.
Arundo Donax can grow from 20-30 feet high. Oboe reeds are made from the part of the plant that measures 10-11 mm in diameter. Oboists and bassoonist call it tube cane.
Most American oboists use cane grown in France but we are beginning to see cane for making oboe reeds coming from Argentina and China too. This cane is used not only for making oboe reeds, but also clarinet, saxophone, bagpipe and bassoon reeds.
Arundo Donax is not native to the USA but it grows as an invasive and destructive plant throughout the southern part of the country. It grows very quickly and can produce up to 25 tons per acre. That’s a lot of oboe reeds! Unfortunately the cane growing as a weed in the US does not have the qualities that are needed for making good oboe reeds.
Handmade oboe reeds require a lot of work. We must split the tubes, gouge the cane to the correct thickness, shape the cane to the correct dimensions for the oboe reed and tie the cane to an oboe staple with special nylon thread. All this before we are even ready to get to the real work which requires a sharp reed knife and a lot of practice.