The end to scraping? Synthetic Oboe Reeds

This past June, Legere Reeds Ltd. of  Canada introduced their very first synthetic reed for oboe.  legere-oboe-reed-unpackagedI first learned of it while at Youngstown State University for a week-long oboe intensive, got to take a look at it, but did not try it.  This first synthetic reed is modeled on the European short scrape, and is of a medium hard strength.  This currently is the only model available.

Back in June, excited at the prospect of not having to make reeds, I did speak with company reps via Twitter and Messenger.  They advised that while they are indeed focused on making an American long scrape, they do not anticipate releasing anything until 2017, “at the earliest.”  Officially on their website, they say they “are developing an American scrape reed in collaboration with some very prominent players in the US, but it is not ready for release, and we do not have a target date.”  I messaged with them again this week, and while they say they are making progress, they stated the American scrape “is not as far along as we would have liked.”  And while there are prototypes out there in the wild being play-tested, the reed “is not ready or close to being released.”

Apparently, the manufacture process, as one could imagine for such things, is highly sensitive, and they are experiencing much greater difficulties in making the American scrape reeds.  Manufacturing double reeds as a whole likely was quite problematic from the get-go, and presented significant technical challenges to Legere versus a single reed, and they have spent the better part of “this year overcoming our double-reed production issuesmaking sure reeds are completely reproducible.”

The Legere Oboe Reed currently retails for $149.99 through Amazon.com.  That’s a hefty price in an already quite pricey undertaking where quality oboes sell for upwards of $9,000 new.  But, consider it for a moment; how much are you currently paying for your reeds monthly?  Or how much personal time and expense are you investing into making your own reeds?  Imagine if Legere creates the perfect American scrape?  Imagine all that time you would get back from constantly making and tweaking reeds, having a reed that is impervious to environmental changes, and is purely non-tempermental?  Imagine all that time playing? I, for one, would love this, even at a price point of $200.

I figure most people spend well over $150 within months, let alone over a year.  I myself have spent upwards of $28 for a new reed, and have been not too happy with some of those to boot.  I’ve begun to learn reed-making, but then there’s the expenses of tools and supplies, with quality reed knives priced at least $100, not to mention sharpening stones and other tools.  And if you would like to start from unprocessed cane, you’ll need a gouging machine, which is $1,500-2,000 for a quality one.  But most importantly, factor in your time, which simply put is time away from playing.  A great synthetic reed would be well worth the $150 every four months; heck, I’d argue it’d even be worth it monthly for my time alone!  If the reed is entirely stable in all environs and at all times, I, for one, would love this, even at a price point of $200.

As for now, I’ve decided to try the currently available reed and ordered from Innoledy – $135 – and will take it for a test drive myself, and plan to write a review of it here.  In the meantime, here is a great review of the “European” scrape by Aaron Lakota.

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