New Website?

Our website has been a very functional and popular site for double reed players. We built it almost 10 years ago and although it was updated frequently, it was time to create a full update.

Here it is! We hope you enjoy what we’ve created. Please let us know if you find any faults, and feel free to tell us how wonderful we are 😉

General How-To Oboe Related

A student asked: “why do my oboe reeds play flat?”

If the reeds are not super long, generally, this means more breath support is needed. An indelicate test for this is to play into a tuner, and squeeze the reed harder with your lips while you’re playing. If the pitch is uncertain or swoops upward, the reed is too easy for you, and your concentration of breath is not sufficient to make it work consistently.

A common misconception is that softer reeds means easier reeds. Actually, the softer (easier, less resistant) a reed, the more embouchure control and breath support are needed to produce a good, consistent and in-tune sound.

Always consider that the instrument may be having a problem, too. If all your reeds are flat, or weird, it’s probably not you, or the reeds. Get your instrument to a repair technician.

If you have an experienced teacher, they will be your best resource. If not, try asking around and see if you can find someone to work with you in person.

There’s a great book on this subject that can help out. The Breathing Book, by Stephen Caplan, is a guide we trust. 60 pages of detailed instructions, illustrations, explanations, and examples. It’s helped out many a flummoxed reed player.

There’s a so much more to share on this topic – this little explanation barely scrapes the surface (hehe). I’ll write more sometime soon.

Have any questions? Let me know. I know a lot of stuff, and I’m eager to share.

General Oboe Related

A Question About Ponte Oboes

“Mitch the Multi Instrumentalist” from Oregon posed a great question:

“Who really made those Ponte oboes?”

Well Mitch, I spent more than a few years at Charlie Ponte’s midtown Manhattan shop as the reedmaker (and floor sweeper, truth be told). During that time, I saw dozens of new Ponte oboes come in and go out. You would think I would know everything about them, right? I honestly think that no one knows the full story except Charlie, and he’s been gone a while.

In the photo above, Charlie is the man on the left. Bennie Fairbanks is further down the counter. My reed making counter was just to the right of this photo. Unfortunately I don’t know who the customers are.

People have been sending them to me for many years, and I’ve repaired and sold dozens and dozens of them. From what I’ve seen, there are three main types of “Ponte Oboes.” None of them were made in Manhattan, of course.

There’s the lighter, thinly plated version, which is often stamped “made in Italy” somewhere on the body. These resemble the Prestini oboes from that time period. I believe those were made by Chasserini, a relative of Prestini’s who turned out a lot of stencil instruments. Remind me to tell you about old man Prestini sometimes. He came from Italy to Ponte’s shop every few months to wine and dine with Charlie, Sam, and Benny. Quite a character.

The mama bear versions are marked “made in France” and seem uncannily like older Kreul instruments. They have familiar intonation quirks, and the key structure is very similar. The overall dimensions, weight, and feel are like Loree oboes from that period, but I don’t think there is any connection there.

The big bruisers are the “made in Germany” models, which are most probably from Malerne. They’re heavier, more richly plated, and often have a really dark, chocolaty tone.

Like many smaller companies, Charlie imported instruments with no name on them from quality manufacturers. He then stamped his mark on them, and gave them serial numbers. I swear the numbers make no sense at all, so don’t even bother trying to date an oboe by that method. These, as you know, are called stencil instruments.

The best of Ponte oboes can be extremely good instruments and I’ve performed on them over the years. Charlie retired in 1983, and didn’t produce very many oboes at the end of his run, so you can count on all of them being from before 1983.

Thanks for asking! If you ever want to try one, we have models for sale pretty regularly. Visit our used instrument pages to see what’s available.


How often should I bring my instrument in for adjustment?

Most players find that having their instrument examined every 2 years works well. Of course, bring it in sooner if something doesn’t feel right, or there’s a problem.

What a repair tech does every two years might include a play test and a check to make sure all the pads are sealing well. Here at Charles Double Reeds we use a machine that measures how much air is escaping when all the pads are closed. It’s a test in which we plug one side of the joint, and then use a magnehelic machine to blow a steady stream of air in from the other side.  If any air is escaping, we’ll know right away.

There’s usually a bit of dusting needed, and depending on how much you’ve been practicing, the instrument might be pretty dirty. Your repair tech might simply polish and dust or they might recommend a more thorough cleaning. Cleaning before the instrument gets really dirty will extend the life of the pads, and make the whole instrument feel better to play.

Then a light oil is applied in the places where metal touches metal and moves. This usually does not need to be done more regularly. If you live in a very humid, or arid climate, oiling the keys more often might be a good idea.

You might expect a biannual examination to take about an hour. The cost can vary if parts are needed, or there is a specific problem like a crack or bent key. Ask in advance, and your repair tech will give you a quote, and work to keep it affordable.

For even more info, visit our instrument repair page.


Does Music Help You Study?

As a student, I liked to have music playing when I got down to serious studying. Headphones, speakers whatever – as long as it was music I knew and enjoyed.

Have you been told how bad this is supposed to be for you? “How can you concentrate with that racket?” was my parents’ complaint. I felt bad going against their wishes, but I knew deep inside that music helped my academic performance. I could feel it even though I couldn’t explain it.

As an adult who runs a business, I still depend on music, especially when I’m in serious concentration mode like writing copy for our catalog, doing photos for the website, or prepping for meetings.

Of course, some people are much better off studying in silence and some situations are just not good for listening while studying. A USA Today story last September reported that listening to music with lyrics is an especially bad idea when studying languages because the words of the song conflict with the part of your brain trying to understand words in another language.

Another research study run by British psychologist Dr. Emma Gray found that it’s important to choose the right music for the topic you’re studying.

Math and classical music are an example. Dr. Gray’s research found that students who listened to classical music (with 60-70 beats per minute) while studying math, scored on average 12 percent higher than without. “The melody and tone range in classical music, such as Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’, helped students to study longer and retain more information,’ she said. “Music in this range induces a state of relaxation in which the mind is calm but alert, the imagination is stimulated and concentration is heightened. This is thought to be best for learning.”

For those studying science, humanities and languages, Dr. Gray found that Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake are worth downloading. “The left side of the brain is used to process factual information and solve problems, which are key skills in these topics,” said Dr Gray. “Listening to music with 50-80 beats per minute such as ‘We Can’t Stop’ by Miley Cyrus and ‘Mirrors’ by Justin Timberlake have a calming effect on the mind that is conducive to logical thought, allowing the brain to learn and remember new facts.”

The right side of the brain is used to process original, creative thoughts, so Gray suggests English, Drama and Art students listen to emotive rock and pop music. “Songs like Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ and ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’ by The Rolling Stones produce a heightened state of excitement that is likely to enhance creative performance,” she said.
Of the beauties in scientific research, that we attempt to understand the world around us through trial and error – repeated attempts at achieving clarity, without presupposing what the results should be, is my favorite. That’s exactly how I came to understand that listening to music while studying works for me.

What works for you?