Joseph Phillips and Ben Kono on woodwind doubling

In a blog post from last week, New York City composer Joseph Phillips discusses his ensemble Numinous and his decision to use woodwind doublers instead of a conventional orchestral woodwind section.

Joseph Phillips
Joseph Phillips. Photos stolen from Joseph's post.

When I started Numinous back in the fall of 2000, I knew I wanted flexibility of colors in the woodwind section. Even though I’m a saxophone/woodwind player, I didn’t want a saxophone dominant sound to the section. I also didn’t want to have 10 woodwind players to cover saxophones, oboe, English Horn, flutes, clarinets, and whatever woodwinds I happen to write for. So the most natural solution was to have woodwind doublers who would be able to play multiple instruments. Of course with the demands of my music, I didn’t want or need a typical jazz saxophone doubler: someone that plays maybe passable flute or clarinet but not well enough to match their saxophone abilities. In addition to being able to improvise well on all of the instruments, I really need musicians whose abilities on the other woodwind instruments are all fairly equal and could move easily between jazz, classical, and popular genres.

One of Numinous’s woodwind players is Ben Kono, who currently plays the reed 1 book for Jersey Boys on Broadway. In Joseph’s blog post, he interviews Ben about his woodwind abilities: Continue reading “Joseph Phillips and Ben Kono on woodwind doubling”

MS Excel music hack: Sort musical instruments by score order

For today’s Stupid Microsoft Office Trick, we will be teaching Excel how to sort musical instruments into score order. This has lots of uses for musicians and music educators:

  • Inventories of instruments, sheet music, CD’s, you name it
  • Rosters of students, orchestra members, sub lists, and so forth

For example, suppose I have a list of sheet music for various woodwind instruments:


If I sort alphabetically by column C, I’ll get bassoon pieces first, then clarinet, flute, oboe, and saxophone. But as a musician I rarely have reason to sort things that way. I would rather have the flute pieces on the top, followed by oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone—a typical score ordering.

I’ll show you three easy steps to make this happen. I’m using Excel 2007 and Windows Vista, but I believe this feature exists in earlier versions of Excel as well. You are on your own for the exact details, unless someone cares to share in the comments section. Continue reading “MS Excel music hack: Sort musical instruments by score order”

Duco cement and bassoon reeds

duco cementSince I moved to the lovely and historic Mississippi Delta about two and a half months ago, it has been on my to-do list to find a local source for Duco cement to use in bassoon reedmaking. I used to be able to buy it at a certain notorious chain store, but my local store here doesn’t stock it. One well-known double reed supplier sells it for $3.95 per one-ounce tube, which is four times the price I usually pay for it locally.

The Devcon website makes it hard to find information about retail locations, and in fact you have to head over to another web domain to find it. After an unsuccessful morning driving around looking for Duco, I went home and dug up this link:

Select DUCO® CEMENT, TUBE CARDED and your state. The website doesn’t give retailer addresses, but does provide names. I found a store within a half-mile of me that had it for just under a dollar per tube. Continue reading “Duco cement and bassoon reeds”

Physical factors and beginning woodwind players

Ideal flute embouchure?
Ideal flute embouchure?

A disturbing amount of flute pedagogical literature includes drawings or descriptions of what types of lips are good for flute playing and what types aren’t. Usually the lips deemed flute-appropriate are perfectly symmetrical and not too thin, not too wide. I tend to think that those kinds of distinctions are garbage, as are the descriptions of the “right” lips for clarinet or oboe playing or the suggestion that students with natural overbites are born bassoonists.

I also object to the instrument-assigning days that I understand happen in many beginning band programs, at which students are allowed to try several instruments, and assigned based on the “aptitude” that they show in their first 30 seconds holding the instrument. Continue reading “Physical factors and beginning woodwind players”