For the generation of sound, some woodwind musical instruments, e.g. oboe, bassoon, clarinet and saxophone, are provided with mouthpieces made from reeds. These reeds are the culms of Arundo donax, a tall, cane-like perennial grass. A general problem is that the material is of varying quality, yet externally differences cannot be observed. Hence, large proportions of the prepared reeds are unusable. One hypothesis is that the changes in quality are correlated with differences in the chemical and anatomical structure of the tissue. Therefore, a comparison of superior and inferior mouthpieces, used by professional musicians, was undertaken to determinate potential indicators of quality. Nuclear microprobe analysis of reeds was carried out and complemented by scanning electron and light microscopy. The elemental levels of Si, P, S, Cl, K and Ca were compared between good and poor mouthpieces using appropriate statistical tests. No statistically significant differences could be identified. Microscopical observations showed that partial occlusion of vessels by tylose formation was associated with material deemed unusable.