Take your instruments apart

I highly recommend taking your instruments apart.

Here’s why:

  • There’s no better way to understand the workings of a mechanical device like a woodwind instrument than to take it apart and put it back together again. They’re your tools. You should understand how they work.
  • Take ownership of your instrument’s maintenance. Discover problems that need a repair tech’s attention BEFORE they affect your playing at an inopportune time. Or, even better, use your newfound confidence with a screwdriver to fix minor problems yourself, and consider learning how to change a pad, or at least a cork.
  • Keep your instrument sparkling. With your horn in pieces, you can easily get into the nooks and crannies to remove dust and gunk. Your instrument will shine like new, your mechanisms will move smoothly and quietly, and you’ll feel good about treating your precious horn with such loving care.

Continue reading “Take your instruments apart”

Fact and fiction in woodwind teaching

A former teacher, who, I hasten to point out, I respect and admire greatly, once asked me in a lesson to “spin the air.”

I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he meant.

I tried a few things that I thought maybe the teacher had in mind, but none of them was right. I asked for clarification.

He said, “It’s like this,” and he blew a puff of air while twirling his finger around (presumably to indicate spinning).

Surely he didn’t mean literally to cause the air, somehow, to leave my lips in some kind of spiral. I confessed my confusion and asked if he would be kind enough to demonstrate spinning the air versus not spinning the air. He obliged.

I couldn’t detect any difference. Continue reading “Fact and fiction in woodwind teaching”

My doubling bag

Today I found myself in the embarrassing situation of arriving at a rehearsal, contrabassoon in tow, without a single contrabassoon reed. Luckily the problem was easily solved—the reeds were literally just a few moments away, and I didn’t miss a note of rehearsal.

The problem, of course, is that the contra is a university-owned instrument, used by several student bassoonists, and so I don’t like to leave my reeds in the case. I just keep them in my bassoon case, with my bassoon reeds, and usually this works out fine since it’s rare that I go anywhere with the contra unless I have my bassoon along, too. But on the rare occasion that it happens, like today, I can easily forget to bring the reeds with me.

A number of years ago, when I started to get really serious about the doubling thing, I decided I needed a bag in which to keep my non-instrument-specific stuff. For example, in prior years as a dedicated alto saxophonist, I kept my accessories in my saxophone case: a metronome, a tube of cork grease, and so forth. When my instrument cases began to multiply, I found myself sometimes without an accessory that I needed. Buying more tubes of cork grease isn’t a big deal, but multiple metronomes can turn into real money for a college student. So I invested in a cheap messenger-type bag. Continue reading “My doubling bag”

Recital 11/3/2008

I perform my final doctoral recital on Monday. It is my third recital on my “major” instruments (flute, oboe, and saxophone); I also performed one “minor” recital (clarinet and bassoon). The major/minor instruments are somewhat arbitrary, since I’m trying to play them all equally well. Continue reading “Recital 11/3/2008”