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Air columns in longer tubes have a lower resonant frequency, in shorter tubes a higher. The reed vibrates in sympathy with the resonant frequency of the air column. The player can slightly adjust the frequency at which the reed forces the resonance of the column, but the energy to do so increases with (If I remember correctly) the square of the difference between forcing frequency and resonant frequency. This is why it's easy to bend a note a half step but not easy to bend it a fifth.
 
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