Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.4

Hello, friends. I’m excited to share the latest round of improvements to the Fingering Diagram Builder. Thanks to all for your suggestions and bug reports, for your donations (every little bit helps), and for sharing with me some of the cool things you are making with the fingering diagrams.

A few names that need mentioning for recent extra-awesome support and/or ideas are bassoonist Dave Wells (check out his high-quality and handsome bassoon fingering charts), saxophonist/doubler Evan Tate, saxophonist Bart Walters (who blogs over at Music Collective), pianist Jason Gray, and clarinetists Kellie Lignitz and Rachel Yoder (who included the FDB in their column in The Clarinet and on Clarinet Cache). You internet people sure are nice!

Check out version 0.4 of the Fingering Diagram Builder, or read on for a guide to what’s new and improved.

Continue reading “Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.4”

Reader email: doubling opportunities

Photo, fantail media

A reader emailed me to ask this question (edited):

I was wondering if you could give me some information on what kind of opportunities being a doubler has opened up for you. I am beginning to consider options for graduate school and am looking into multiple woodwinds degrees. Thanks!

I do consider myself to be at the beginning of a hopefully long career, but doubling has already given me some opportunities that I surely wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Doubling isn’t a career that typically leads to fame outside the music business, but within the industry many of the best and best-known doublers are working in Broadway pit orchestras, in the Los Angeles recording studios, or on the road with touring jazz or pop acts.

I haven’t had any of those jobs, nor do I anticipate pursuing any of them at this point. But here are a few things doubling has done for me:

Doubling gigs. These are gigs where I am actually hired to perform on multiple instruments. Most reasonably large cities in the US seem to have at least a few community or school musical theater productions with large enough budgets to pay a professional or semi-pro orchestra, and woodwind doublers are generally in demand (bonus points for double reed players or “low reeds” players). Doubling gigs can also include being hired as a local to play behind a touring show or artist who is passing through town, or being a sort of utility woodwind player for local orchestras, churches, and so forth. Often for me these have been sort of write-your-own-job-description situations, where I’m hired to play one instrument, and later re-hired because I’m able and willing to cover some other parts, too. Continue reading “Reader email: doubling opportunities”

Recital preparation

A few of my students have had recitals or other solo performances recently. Besides musical preparation, this is the advice I give:

Visualize. If possible, spend time in the performance space before performance day. If not, imagine up a good representation of what the space is likely to look and “feel” like. Mentally walk through the entire performance, from your arrival at the venue to your departure. Include every detail you can, no matter how mundane. In your mind’s eye, see yourself entering the stage, taking a tuning note, making a reed adjustment, waiting for the audience to fall silent. Audiate the whole performance the way you want it to sound. Hear the last note reverberating in the hall, then see yourself taking a bow and leaving the stage.

I find this valuable because everything feels familiar on the night of the performance. Even if I get some of the details wrong or leave something out, I can deal with those things as minor glitches in an otherwise controlled experience, rather than seeing them as part of a flood of unanticipated events. It also gives me a chance to think through any logistical issues; I take notes and make a to-do list while I do this exercise.

Warm up intelligently. I like to keep practicing to a minimum on performance day when possible. It’s not likely that I will make significant improvements in my preparation at that point, and I want my mind clear and body rested. If I have an evening recital, I typically do a leisurely warmup in the morning and make semi-final reed decisions. I focus the warmup on tone production and tension-free technique.

I practice the performance repertoire as little as possible on recital day. If there are difficult technical passages that I am worried about, I make a point of not trying to play them up to tempo, but instead run through them in a very slow and controlled way, focusing on tone and expression. That keeps my final practicing positive and constructive, rather than causing me stress about potential failures.

Have a good, normal day. I don’t want to depend on recital day rituals or superstitions, but I do want to be in a good mood. I don’t eat a special breakfast, but I eat something that is a favorite among my typical breakfasts. I don’t wear new clothes, but I wear something that I feel good in. I don’t take the day off work, but I do carve out a non-working lunch hour. Small, ordinary pleasures are the order of the day.

I find that if I make too big a deal of performance day, I overthink and attach unwarranted weight to the event. Keeping things good but normal makes performing less stressful.

I would be curious to hear your advice for performance preparation (besides the hours of practice). Please share in the comments section if you feel inclined.

Doublers in the news: Hunter Diamond

Check out an interview (with audio) of Indiana University undergraduate student Hunter Diamond about his interest in woodwind doubling.

He’s hoping his skills on multiple instruments will eventually land him commercial gigs or even a position playing in a pit for musical theater performances.

“The most important thing now is to find something unique about my playing that I can market in a positive way.”

Breaking: Rico to produce bizarre double-tipped reeds

Okay, folks, hang onto your hats: I have stumbled onto what appears to be some truly weird news about things going on at Rico Reeds.

I use Google Alerts to keep track of lots of woodwind-related topics on the web. Most days they don’t turn up anything especially interesting, but this morning I awoke to an alert of a new patent, just filed by Rico. Check it out here. [UPDATE: The PDF appears to have been removed from Google Patents. Rico must have connections!] [UPDATE #2: I managed to retrieve a partial copy of it from my web browser cache. Here it is.] It appears to describe double-ended clarinet and saxophone reeds. Yes, you read that correctly.

I assumed at first that the filing of this patent must be some kind of odd business practice required by Rico’s legal department. Maybe Rico held a brainstorming session on new products, and patents got filed on every idea, no matter how ridiculous, just in case.

But, out of curiosity, I Googled some of the other patents referenced in the PDF. And one of the patents listed as related to “specialized adaptations to existing machinery” used in reed manufacture turned up something surprising. Check out the search results, for the patent number in the domain. [UPDATE: The single web document that previously showed up in this search appears to have been removed or otherwise secured. The document appears to be an archived email message, intended for internal use within Rico (located at the subdomain “”, now inaccessible). I have retrieved the document from my web browser cache. The formatting is lost, but it is still legible. Read it here. I have removed the names of Rico employees.] Here is a summary, based on my best guesses from the document:

  • “Duality” appears to be either a brand name or an internal code name for the double-tipped reeds.
  • Conversions of some existing machines to produce double-tipped reeds seem to be in process already.
  • “Duality” is due to launch (as in a new product release?) in “late 2012.”
  • The email refers to 15 “units” in all, with 12 being converted. I don’t know if this represents all of Rico’s reedmaking machines; if so, it seems they are converting 80% of their production capacity to Duality, with 20% to continue producing “legacy” products. If this is case, Rico is betting big on the Duality reeds.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. Let me know what you think in the comments.

[BIG UPDATE: Rico has responded to my blog post with a “press release” on their Facebook page. Apparently somebody is working over the weekend. Check it out here!!]