If you don't take private lessons, you probably haven't been bestowed with a whole lot of reed care knowledge other than "Gah! Don't break it!".
If you'd like some lengthier intervals between asking your parents to buy you more reeds, consider applying a few of these easy, time efficient methods on extending the life of your reeds!
1. Your reed may be caked in the microscopic elements of the meal you ate right before band rehearsal.
Reed cane is like skin, it's got pores. And just like your skin, when the pores are open, they're absorbing all sorts of gunk. This gunk is going to keep your reed from vibrating efficiently, thus making you sound poopy. Try getting in the habit of brushing your teeth before practicing, especially if you've just had a meal. (If you have trouble motivating yourself to do this, try to visualize the contents of a cheeseburger in a blender being wiped on your reed and left to soak overnight.) By ridding your mouth of grossness beforehand, you've made it less possible for food particles and other nasties to get stuck in your open-pored reed. But if you'd like to go even further and fix the problem at the source...
...2. Get those pores closed to begin with!
This method works best on fresh reeds, so the next time you open up a new box, try this.
After you've rubbed it down once (I usually stroke about 10 times) feel it again and notice that it's slightly smoother. You will need rub down the reed once a day for about a week before it feels completely smooth, so don't be dissatisfied if it doesn't feel like polished wood on the first day!
3. Store your reeds properly!
The plastic cases that come with them are fine, but keep them all together in a tupperware container or a plastic bag that seals completely. You don't need a fancy reed case; what you DO need is a place to keep your reeds protected from the elements outside. Reed cane changes with the humidity in the air, and keeping them sealed when not in use will help keep them at the right moisture level for playing, especially if you've applied Method #2 and closed the pores!
4. Are you rotating them? (I'm pointing my finger at you and shaking my head judgmentally at this point)
Ever play on a reed for a long time in one sitting and notice it's got a chunky, almost green color around the tip? It's water-logged, baby! It's become so saturated that it's nearly impossible for it to vibrate efficiently. It's time to put it away for awhile to let it dry out. That means not playing it again that day, and not in rehearsal the day after either. You should ALWAYS have at least 4 reeds on rotation so that you are never playing the same one twice in a row. This is by far the easiest way to make your reeds last longer, so take it seriously! You'll save yourself headaches (and money!) in the long run!
5. Be easy about all this.
Clarinet is supposed to be fun, so don't obsess. :-)
Rather than trying all these things at once; pick whichever one of these methods is convenient for you right now. You'll develop good habits for reed care and set a great example for your clarinet peers!
Blogging about reeds? I must be MAD!
.Here are some tools and tips of the clarinet and reed trade for younger players to supplement the musical education received from band directors and music teachers. I've tailored these methods (used by professional clarinet players!) to be accessible and user-friendly for the beginner to intermediate clarinet reed-hater.