I currently have over 400 woodwind-related blogs in my feed reader, and try my best at least to skim the new posts. In the past I’ve occasionally passed along recommendations about some of the blogs that I think are especially good. I’m considering moving toward something like a monthly list of some of my favorite individual posts instead.
Here are some from April (a few from late March sneaked in, too).
Stephanie Mortimore (of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra) offers a difference-tone-based approach to improving intonation over at one of the Powell Flutes blogs: Taming the Beast—Revolutionize Your Piccolo Intonation! (Part II). No reason this method couldn’t be used for flute or any other instrument. Part I is the usual boilerplate explanation of equal vs. just temperament.
I had some concerns about the stability of my flute on the flute/clarinet pegs, but got some advice in the comments section that the DS602B peg (sold separately) might be better. In the meantime, I’ve gotten to like other aspects of the stand well enough that I decided I needed a smaller version for one-saxophone gigs, so I recently picked up the DS530BB stand, which holds one alto or tenor saxophone and includes no pegs (though it has sockets to accept up to two). Most of my comments in the previous review apply to the DS530BB, so I’ll just provide a couple of photos:
It also includes a bright yellow drawstring bag, and the string makes it a little easier to carry if you’ve already got your arms full of instruments.
The DS602B “Deluxe” peg, which Hercules indicates is for “French/German Clarinets and Flutes,” is quite good. It works for my clarinets and oboe as well as the standard combination pegs that come with the DS538B, and works much, much better for my flute.
I got an email from a college student taking an Occupational Health and Wellness course. He asked me some questions about health and wellness issues in woodwind doubling, and I tried to answer the best I could.
How do you prepare for the many instrument switches in a musical which require changes of embouchure and hand position/key action adjustments? How do you deal with the physical demands of switches between many instruments?
The best preparation is to develop good, relaxed technique on each instrument independently. I try to practice each instrument carefully and produce the best possible sound on each one.
If I have the luxury of reviewing the part ahead of time, I will often practice the “choreography” for quick instrument switches, and make plenty of pencil marks so that I know ahead of time what switches are coming up. I try to keep a consistent layout of my instrument stands for each show, so that I get used to where each instrument is.
As I am making each switch (even very quick ones) I will try to take a moment to totally relax my facial muscles, hands, etc., and, maybe most importantly, flip a mental switch to oboe mode or clarinet mode or whatever.
Good reliable stands and neckstraps are vital.
Would you say that having to adjust to the action and key pressure of multiple instruments makes you more susceptible to hand/forearm injury than a musician who plays a single instrument?
I’m not an expert, but I would think that playing a single instrument is more dangerous in terms of repetitive motion injuries, etc. If I spend five hours a day practicing (I wish!) then I think I’m better off with more varied physical activities.
I am always pleased to hear from companies that want feedback on their products. And as you regular readers know, I try to be as thorough and honest as I can in my reviews. A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a Vandoren representative at a conference, and he offered to let me bring home some samples of a new product line for review. These haven’t shown up on Vandoren’s website or social media yet (though they do seem to have appeared on the Woodwind and Brasswind, a little prematurely!), so as far as I know this is an exclusive scoop. Update: WWBW has pulled the product listing.Update #2: read to the end for details on getting a free sample!
Vandoren has been doing some innovative things lately, and their new line of Maestro score-marking pencils is no exception. These are pencils specifically designed for the needs of the performing musician, and this focus is apparent in every detail. The pencils have a nice heft and balance to them, which the Vandoren rep tells me has to do with the hand-selected juniper wood harvested in the French Var Valley.
The premium erasers are some of the best I’ve used for score erasures—easy on valuable sheet music while removing the most stubborn pencil marks, with almost no smearing. They are currently available only in medium-soft, but my Vandoren source tells me they are “working on a medium-hard eraser, and a hard eraser geared toward professionals.”
But, of course, the real question is: how do they write? I’m happy to report that, when it comes to writing, these pencils have exceeded my expectations in every respect. The “lead” (graphite, actually) is, I understand, a proprietary formula designed for smooth, even writing on a variety of papers. But this is only part of the story.
My Vandoren source tells me that the real “secret” is the collars—the little metal ferrules that hold the erasers in place. While some “researchers” have suggested that the collar has little actual effect on the pencil’s writing characteristics, years of experience accumulated by some of the most respected woodwind players in the world say otherwise. And so I was not at all surprised to find that each collar has its own unique, shall we say, signature. Continue reading “Review: Vandoren “Maestro” score-marking pencils”→