My reed box!?


An unusual reed box?

For over 25 years I have kept my bassoon reeds in a Coleman’s mustard jar. What looks like water is in fact vodka and the reeds stay permanently in that until they come out to play.


  1. Reeds are wet and ready to play.
  2. Reeds get washed clean.
  3. Reeds last longer.
  4. Vodka tastes nice.
  5. Reed bottles come cheap.
  6. Playing in different humidities doesn’t cause problems.


  1. Vodka needs changing every few weeks.
  2. Vodka isn’t cheap.
  3. Reeds go darker as they get more waterlogged.
  4. The string binding on some reeds leaks dye into the vodka (I use heat shrink plastic for binding).

When I first tried it out I thought that the reeds might get damaged in the jar. I have not yet had so much as a chip off a corner. The jar goes in my bassoon case in any orientation and I haven’t had any leaks or broken jars yet. I became more convinced of it’s usefulness after a tour in the USA where my colleagues were suffering from their reeds misbehaving and even cracking in the Californian climate when mine were the same as usual.

As the reed gets more waterlogged they get flatter in pitch, so I cut the tip off and scrape the tip a little. They usually end up 2mm shorter than when I first start playing on them.

My oldest reed has been in my jar now for 10 years but it gets tired quickly these days. The last pieces I played on it were Brahms Violin Concerto and Strauss Four Last Songs when it was 7 or 8 years old! If you have played those pieces you will know what sort of a reed is needed.