The Usual Suspects – Los Angeles studio musicians

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Gio Washington-Wright’s web site, The Usual Suspects, you really ought to cancel all your plans for the next two or three days and thoroughly check it out. Dr. Washington-Wright, a reed player himself, profiles many/most/all? of the top studio musicians on the L. A. scene, with tons of bios, interviews, photos, videos, and audio clips.


Most of the major L. A. woodwind doublers get at least a mention here, but check the menu for specific instruments, as well as individual pages for especially notable players.

Thoughts on plastic reeds

I have been following with interest the discussion on the web of the new synthetic clarinet reeds by Forestone. A few days ago, the distinguished Sherman Friedland posted an absolutely glowing review:

The Forestone reeds marks the beginning of a totally new era in the development of reeds, all reeds. It is a new beginning because these reeds are reeds which totally duplicate the feeling and response of cane. It  surpasses any reed currently being sold which is not made from cane which has been grown, harvested and then cut. It does have a tremendous advantage in consistency in that it does not have to  be warmed up and soaked. . . .

What this means is that it is just a matter of time before cane reeds as such, become obsolete.

In the same post, Mr. Friedland discusses the new Légère “Signature” reeds, which he finds to be an improvement over the standard Légère, but still not as good as the Forestone. [Update: see my review of the Légère Signature Series clarinet reeds.]

I have not yet tried the Forestones myself, but have used the standard Légères at times, especially for contrabass clarinets. For the very large clarinets, I had a great deal of trouble keeping cane reeds from warping, even during the course of a two-hour rehearsal; the plastic reeds have a clear advantage in this department.

Forestone, Legere, and a bad-news cheapie
Forestone, Légère, and a bad-news cheapie

In my high school marching band days, I was required to use an inexpensive, brittle plastic saxophone reed. In my opinion, these are not suitable for professional playing. Neither are the plastic oboe or bassoon reeds currently on the market.

I do think it likely that, within my lifetime, I will see plastic single reeds take over in a big way. I expect there will be a few purists who will insist on cane, despite its obvious shortcomings, claiming that nothing sounds like good, old-fashioned cane. I think this blindfold test from Légère shows that plastic definitely can sound very much like cane, and will likely be indistinguishable very soon. Continue reading “Thoughts on plastic reeds”

Go Fightin’ Okra

I am pleased to announce that this fall I will be joining the faculty of the Delta State University Department of Music. DSU is located in Cleveland, Mississippi, in the beautiful and historic Mississippi Delta region.

DSU Logo

I had the privilege of visiting the DSU campus last month, and fell in love with the charming campus, the outstanding music faculty, the state-of-the-art performance and recording facilities, and, of course, the bright and friendly students, for whom I got to present a performance and masterclass.

I’m looking forward to getting started at Delta State, where I will teach all of the reed instruments (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone), woodwind methods, and other music courses. Classes start August 17th! Continue reading “Go Fightin’ Okra”

More on airline travel with musical instruments

Since my post earlier this week about air travel with instruments, two of my favorite woodwind bloggers have also addressed the subject, both inspired by the “United Breaks Guitars” video phenomenon.

I think it’s also worth sharing the musical instrument policies of a few of the major (US) airlines:

Travel safely.

Airline travel with musical instruments

airplaneDuring the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to do some traveling with my instruments, on a number of airlines and through quite a few airports. Here are a few thoughts on getting instruments safely and smoothly to your destination.

Going through airport security

  • In most cases, your plan should be to carry your instrument(s) onto the plane with you. That means taking the instrument through airport security, and sending it on the conveyor belt through the x-ray scanner. In my experience, security personnel are generally very good about recognizing musical instruments as such, and sending them on through without raising an eyebrow.
  • Security personnel may, however, wish to open instrument cases for closer inspection. In my experience, inspectors are uniformly courteous and respectful about this, and usually notify me before they begin. Earlier this week I had a security officer let me know that he needed to open my oboe case, which I had sent  through the x-ray within a larger carry-on bag. I asked politely if he would let me open the case for him, and he was more than happy to allow this. I recommend taking this approach, since security personnel may not know which side is “up.” If you open the case yourself, you won’t have to worry about instrument parts rolling out onto the airport floor.
  • I also like to lock any carry-on instruments cases that can be locked, and, of course, make sure I keep the keys handy. This ensures that security personnel can’t open the case without me while I’m still trying to get my shoes back on. Besides, airports and planes can be crowded, and I like to be sure that my cases won’t pop open if jostled or bumped. Continue reading “Airline travel with musical instruments”

Why I don’t list my equipment

Many musicians are eager to tell you what equipment they use. They list their equipment on their websites, in the signature lines of their forum postings, and so on. I don’t.

I’m rarely impressed with what I see on fellow woodwind players’ lists. Ownership of impressive equipment (assuming the gear is, in fact, paid for?) does not make a fine player. Ownership of unimpressive equipment seems, well, like it’s not worth boasting about.

Some musicians seem to see their equipment listing as a service to the musical community, as though others will benefit from knowing what instruments they play. Buying instruments, mouthpieces, reeds, and so forth just because another player uses them—even a truly fine player—is much like buying the same shoes your favorite basketball player wears. No doubt they are fine shoes, but they might not suit your feet, your ability level, your playing surface, or your personal sense of style. Equipment listings are especially hazardous to younger beginners, who may be easily convinced that owning certain equipment will solve their problems, or who may ill-advisedly buy equipment that isn’t a good fit for them. Continue reading “Why I don’t list my equipment”