Duduk Reeds Explained: A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Right Reeds


In terms of importance, reeds are the most important part of the instrument. As long as the duduk body is adequately dried and tuned, you will not encounter any problems with it.  

Reeds pose a completely different challenge. They may sound fine on a sunny day but degrade when it is raining or you are in a different city. In fact, the pitch might even change by an entire step if it is too cold.

It has nothing to do with craftsmanship, but is a result of the fact that reeds are made from natural materials. The same is true for almost every woodwind musician (e.g. oboe, saxophone) who plays with natural reeds. Musicians are able to observe how reeds respond to changes in temperature, humidity, and even when the performer feels a change in emotions.

To better aid duduk musicians in choosing the right reed, we decided to create this comprehensive guide. You'll learn about different types of reeds, their purpose, and ways to invest wisely depending on where you're at in your musical journey. It's time to get started.

Types of Reeds

The four kinds of reeds known in Armenia are buzzing, soft, medium, and hard. 

The buzzing reeds are generally very soft and produce a buzzing sound - hence the name. These reeds are usually only sold to foreigners with souvenir duduks. Armenian duduk players do not like to play with them because of the sound quality. In some cultures, however, the buzzing sound of duduk is standard in folk music. 

A soft reed is the easiest to play. It is less stressful for the embouchure and permits the players to produce a duduk sound easier. Because soft reeds are less demanding on the embouchure, they allow musicians to play longer without becoming tired. The quality of the sound in general depends a great deal on the musician. Beginners have a hard time with any reeds, but many well-known duduk masters prefer to play with soft reeds.

Medium reeds offer the best balance between sound and stress on the embouchure. Their sound is great and they are generally ready to play right away like soft reeds. 

Hard reeds are the toughest to play but produce the most splendid sound. They need to mature in order to develop their best qualities. Playing hard reeds can be challenging in the beginning. Even the most experienced players can play only a few minutes in the beginning. You can help them mature by playing with them regularly (even for a few minutes a day). The moment they reach their peak of maturity, they are very easy to play, have a powerful sound, and have a very steady intonation. Take good care of them and you can have them for many years.  One story holds that Vache Hovsepyan played music with the same reed for about 18 years. When the reed finally broke, he was devastated like he had lost someone very dear.

It is important to note that not all reeds are the same, even though they are classified as such. Individual properties of reeds in the same category can differ greatly. There can be a small percentage of reeds that have superior physical and sound qualities. At Dudukhouse we carefully select these reeds and classify them under the Elite category. 

How to choose reeds based on purpose

The classification we described in the previous section remains the norm today. When selecting reeds, it is not sufficient to consider only their firmness. There are other factors to consider, such as the purpose.

Most musicians keep separate reeds for practice and performance. This is obvious. You should try to extend the life of reeds as much as possible once you come across good ones. You should cherish those that are exceptional. Practice with your performance reeds all the time and they will die sooner. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play them at all. For example, try playing your practice reeds for 80% of your practice time and your performance reeds on the remaining 20%.  This will keep your performance reeds in good shape and extend their lifespan. They will also last longer if you keep them clean and in good shape.

It would be best to use soft reeds if you plan to play dam (drone accompaniment). Drones require significant amounts of air and keep constant pressure on the lungs, cheeks, and overall embouchure. Hence, using soft reeds is an established practice in this context.

The same goes for playing bass duduks. Because bass duduks generally have longer bodies, they require more air to pass through the instrument. This puts more strain on the performer than playing traditional duduk. This is why soft reeds will be a great choice again.

Choosing reeds according to your musical level

You should also choose reeds based on where you are in your musical journey. It is always advisable for beginner duduk players to start off with either soft or medium reeds. This is especially true if you do not have access to a duduk teacher who is available for in person lessons. Once you feel comfortable, you can start using harder reeds to further strengthen your embouchure and improve your sound.

After you have had experience with playing, try experimenting with firmer reeds. There are different preferences among Armenian duduk master players when it comes to choosing reeds. While some duduk players prefer playing only hard reeds to make their instruments sound unique, others prefer playing soft or medium reeds. Regardless of the choice, the sound quality of a true duduk master is always excellent. Therefore, a good guideline is to try and find what works for you personally.  

Average reed life expectancy

When duduk reeds are properly cared for, they can last for many years. Depending on how often you play and store them, the average lifespan varies significantly. Improperly closed caps can, for instance, impair reed performance by misaligning the mouth as time goes by. There are videos on the internet from amateur players who state that soaking reeds in water will help open them. Don't do it! Excess humidity will ruin the reeds.

My own experience and discussions with duduk players validate that reeds that are properly cared for may last no less than 2-3 years at the very least. Therefore, consider the purchase of a reed a wise investment that needs to be handled with care. Trust me, the effort will pay off.

Types of reeds based on duduk key

In order to buy a proper reed, you should have an idea of what key duduk you will be playing. If you have duduks in more than one key, you are likely to require different reeds for each. There are reeds that are compatible with duduks in different keys. 

Duduk in A is the most commonly played duduk which is why reeds in A are the most common.  Duduks in A,G, Bb, F, and A bass generally share the same reed. This means a reed designed for A duduk can also be used on Bb duduk. Duduks in B and in C also share the same reed that is different from A duduk reed. The reed for duduk in D is a bit shorter than the rest. Below are a few general guidelines about reeds and duduks.

Reed in 

Works with duduk in


G, A, Bb, F and A Bass Duduk

B or C

B, C




It is important to note that these interchangeability guidelines apply only to professional instruments manufactured by master craftsmen or duduk players. It is impossible to predict the sound of souvenir instruments, which are sometimes advertised as professional instruments on the internet.


All that we have written above doesn't alter the fact that reed characteristics are still highly subjective and personal. A novice player may sometimes find the softest reed too hard to play. 

Contrarily, experienced players with strong embouchures might find a medium reed too soft. So, our advice to you is: always experiment! With time and practice you should be able to distinguish between different reed types and play great duduk music with whatever reed you choose. Best of luck on your musical journey!