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Cautiously Optimistic

Could It Be? Yes It Could.

We’re happy to report that absolutely no one at Charles Double Reed Company has become sick with Covid. We all wear our masks, clean our hands, and continue to be smart about our health and the health of others. It’s not easy, but it’s been worth it.

A few of us have gotten our first (or only) vaccine shots and we’ve become cautiously optimistic about the future of live music performance.

We all knew that some day music would be played live in front of people again, but until these last few months, the future was not bright enough to bother wearing shades.

The future is looking brighter for sure, and some of us are already performing in limited settings, for limited audiences.

“Could it be? Yes, it could,
Something’s coming, something good, if I can wait.
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is gonna be great!”

We’re excited to explore our new normal together and it’s gonna to be great!

Here’s to hoping and to making it happen!

Brian Charles

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To perform and collaborate is a gift

We rely on ears and hearts to make sense of what we do as musicians. It seems as though we’re on the brink of connecting with ears and hearts once again, doesn’t it?

Vaccinations are ramping up. Restrictions, while still not healthy to drop, are going to be further relaxed in the coming months.

Maybe concerts halls will reopen soon? Maybe rehearsals without barriers, masks, and fear will begin again?

As musicians first, here at Charles Double Reeds, we hope for the best and quickest return to music making with friends and colleagues. The future is looking brighter than it has for a year. What a strange and fraught time we’ve lived through.

Our fond and overarching desire is for all of us to feel safe, content, and musically free once again.

I sincerely hope that you’re feeling this little sprite of happiness and comfort in your lives too.

And, as always, we appreciate your support and your business as we lift our metaphorical heads up from the undergrowth, and begin again to create beauty in the world.

With hope,


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Music Is My Life

Did you fall in love with oboe or bassoon as I did? I’ve been playing since I was in junior high school. It was and is who I am: a person; a musician; a double reed player.
I am a performing musician – playing is in my blood.
As a young conservatory musician, I worked a day job part-time, as most of us do at that point in our lives. I lucked into working at a double reed store in NYC. More luck – the owner retired and I got to continue the store. I moved it all to my little apartment in Brooklyn. I discovered that teaching and supplying and supporting double reed playing was also my way in this world. And that’s how Charles Double Reed Company began.

Brian Charles
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Three Things To Try Out Now

Create A Goal
Set A Due Date
Complete One Goal At A Time
For every day you don’t practice, 2 days of practice are needed to return to where you left off.
Months in “solitary confinement”, without gigs, and without rehearsals. Yuck. Maybe I could settle for not backsliding. Nah. Gigs are coming, this weird “new normal” will change yet again, and I want to be ready to make music outside my practice room.
If you’re anything like me, you’re not enjoying solitary music making as much. You ran out of excerpts, went long on long tones, and now you know all the pentatonic scale patterns. The mish-mash of this gets old.
The way I stay sane:
I create a goal – let’s say learning how to double tongue.
I make a reasonable guess how long it will take me to get good enough that I would let someone else hear me double tongue. Let’s say three weeks. Okay, get started . . .
But WAIT! I could learn to circular breath. Or, I could get solid on The Swan of Tuonela, or Rite of Spring. Or – or – or – STOP.
One goal at a time. Concentrate your work on that one goal. If it takes less time than you thought, don’t be surprised. If it takes a lot longer, don’t stop. Keep at your goal.
While you are doing this whole “goal oriented” thing, you’re creating a directed path for your musical energy. I promise – it will keep you excited, learning, challenged.
What a feeling to come to rehearsal with fresh energy plus a deepened sense of your own ability.
If you want it, strive for it, earn it, enjoy it.
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When humidity is low, wood instruments shrink.

Oboes and bassoons are sensitive to the weather – especially changing humidity levels. We keep the average humidity at about 45% here in the shop year around. Two big humidifiers run 24/7 to achieve this. In New England in the winter, building interiors get dry. Even more so if you run a fireplace or use wood to heat your home. Without the humidifiers, we run at about 15%-20% humidity in the winter.

The metal ring on the bell of most oboes and some bassoons is a good way to test if your instrument is dry. If the ring moves (and it didn’t at some point in the past) then the wood has contracted and is dry. It’s telling you please humidiy me!

You can never humidify and be fine. You can over humidify and be fine. Players who live in a coastal community, or on a high desert are used to the effects of high and low humidity. For them though, the issue is not change, but consistent humidity issues. This article is focused on us players who experience changing levels of humidity and want to lessen the effect on our wooden instrument.

Cracks can occur due to low humidity. Double reed instruments vibrate better in moderate humidity. Keywork doesn’t change as the wood changes which sometimes causes problems.






1)I discovered this the hard way. In 1976 I was playing with an avant-garde ensemble in downtown Manhattan which used a basement space just off the Hudson river as rehearsal space. One night, after it had rained for a while, the place was so humid the walls were sweating and the floor was tacky with moisture. My 15 year old Loree (BI-37) was crack free until that night. I heard it crack. Sends shivers up your spine. The keywork was sticking like it was too tight. The wood had swelled, and the keywork was holding the expansion back. Crack.

2) I discovered this the hard way (again). I was performing with an orchestra on tour, and a few of the stops were in very dry locations. After a week on tour through desert, I heard that sound again. Crack. I had been blowing warm, humid air through a thoroughly dry instrument forcing the wood to change rapidly inside the bore, while the exterior stayed dry.

If you humidify the whole house (which is good for the people, too), then you’re ahead of the game. But if you travel to dry places like school, university, a pit orchestra, church, and other performance places, let my experience be a lesson.

Keeping your instrument evenly humidified is easier than ever. We offer a few items that will help out including humidity monitors which let you know the humidity level wherever you place them.  I keep one of these in my case at all times now.

A 3″ hygrometer like this will fit in your case.

With one of these in my case, I feel like I have the information that helps me know what’s going on. I started using these in my oboe and bassoon cases years ago, and have found they last and are very accurate. I checked the oboe one with a fancier home system, and found they had virtually the same readings whether I tested indoors, outdoors or in the case. 

Once you’re armed with information, you can take action. If you’re like most players, you’ll have low humidity in your case. I did some tests:

  • A piece of lemon peel in the case. That smelled nice for a day or two, but really didn’t seem to make a difference
  • A bit of sponge in a perforated plastic bag. That worked a bit too well the first day, and dried out in two days. I didn’t continue the test, but it seems logical that if I had left it in there, it would have started absorbing moisture, making the case even drier.
  • I put my instrument away fairly wet. I cleaned it lightly with a feather and there was plenty of moisture left. This did nothing for the humidity.
  • I did nothing and found that the case interior was even with the exterior humidity.

So, the old classics were a mixed lot at best. 

Now I use the Humistat case humidifier. I can adjust how much humidity it causes, and the thing doesn’t spill water inside the case. It lasts for about 2 weeks before I have to refill it. If I don’t refill it, it just sits there inert in the case and doesn’t hurt anything (or get moldy, or suck in moisture!) You can get one of these on our website.

If you have another method to recommend – I’m all ears! This is just the one that works for me.