Report: 2016 International Double Reed Society conference

I had a blast at the 2016 International Double Reed Society conference, hosted by Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. As I have said before, the IDRS puts on an outstanding conference, maybe my favorite of the various woodwind conferences I attend. Very well organized, with lots of outstanding talent, varied events, and presences from all the top makers and dealers of double reed instruments and gear.

A few personal highlights:

  • Excellent evening concerts, some with chamber music and some with orchestra. Too many great performances to do justice to them all, but a couple that stood out in my mind were the premiere of Alan Elkins’s double oboe concerto with Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and Kathryn Greenbank, and Cary Ebli‘s performance of his own edition of the Donizetti Concertino for English horn.

    Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and Kathryn Greenbank
  • Too many recitals to count. I liked, among others, Joey Salvalaggio‘s “When Giant Babies Attack,” Paul Hanson‘s always-astonishing solo bassoon with electronics, the Paradise Winds reed quintet, Benjamin Coelho with Andrew Parker, Eric Stomberg with Barry Stees, and Mark Ostoich with Alyssa Morris and Petrea Warneck playing Morris’s new and outstanding trio for two oboes and English horn.

    Paul Hanson sound check, with appropriate reaction from conference volunteer
  • Some very interesting lectures and presentations. A few favorites were Mark Eubanks‘s on bassoon reed tuning, Jamie Sampson‘s on her methodical research into bassoon multiphonics, and Janet Grice‘s on adapting Brazilian choros to double reed instruments.
  • I gave a presentation on teaching multiple instruments. You can check out my handout/lecture notes if you like.
  • I got to meet or reconnect with lots of cool people, including some who, to my delight and surprise, introduced themselves as “fans” of this blog or of my other online stuff. I’m always happy to connect with nice people who find my stuff useful or interesting in some way.
  • And I did come home with a, uh, souvenir:Paul Hanson sound check, with appropriate reaction from student volunteer

2015 in review

Here are some of the things that went on here at your favorite woodwind blog during the past year.

If you have read anything interesting or useful here during the past year, I hope you will consider leaving a comment, getting in touch via email or social media, buying a shirt or sending a donation, contacting me aboutadvertising opportunities for your relevant business, and/or pointing your all your woodwind friends toward

Thanks for reading in 2015, and best wishes for the new year!

Dissertation on Divertissement for multiple woodwinds

A few years back I commissioned a piece, Divertissement by Sy Brandon for multiple woodwinds soloist with piano, with the help of a Co-op Press Commission Assistance Grant. Brian Levels, who was until recently a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, has written a dissertation on the piece, which is now available through the UNT Digital Library. Be sure to check out the dissertation, and, of course, the piece.

Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.7

I have released version 0.7 of the Fingering Diagram Builder. Mostly it supports some new instruments. Let me know if you run into bugs or have suggestions or feature requests.

Here’s what’s new:

  • I fixed a bug that was preventing saving custom presets. Not sure if anybody noticed.
  • Viennese oboe diagrams.
  • German clarinet diagrams, in Oehler and Albert variants.
  • French bassoon diagrams, in Jancourt and modern Buffet variants.
  • The (Conservatory) oboe diagram now (optionally) has a thumb low B key.
  • The (German/Heckel) bassoon diagram now (optionally) has an offset C-sharp trill (hat tip to Trent Jacobs).
European woodwindy goodness. L-R: Viennese oboe, Oehler clarinet, Buffet bassoon
European woodwindy goodness. L-R: Viennese oboe, Oehler clarinet, Buffet bassoon

Note that I do not play or own a Viennese oboe, an Oehler- or Albert-system clarinet, or a French bassoon, nor am I suitably fluent in European languages to 100% understand the related pedagogical literature, so I could really use some assistance on making sure these new diagrams look right and things are named properly. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have suggestions/improvements.

As always, I’m glad to hear from folks who are using the FDB, and to see the cool things you are making (websites, blog posts, books, posters, handouts…). The FDB generates thousands of images every month, which I think is pretty cool.

Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.6

I have just released version 0.6 of the Fingering Diagram Builder. It’s almost a maintenance release, that mostly just attempts to fix a few problems and add a little polish. Your suggestions and bug reports are, as always, welcome (as are your donations, social media pings, links, etc.). Go play around with it or read on for the details.

New hotness
New hotness

Here’s what’s new:

  • The user interface got a minor facelift and some usability improvements. For example, if you dare to use the “Keywork details” tab, you may notice that the menu stays a little more manageable size-wise, and if you’re working at a desktop monitor you can tweak things without losing sight of the diagram.
  • Several of you wrote in to point out that the Dropbox functionality had become broken. Dropbox changed some things on their end and I got a little behind on making the necessary adjustments on my end. Long story short, the FDB now uses Dropbox’s slick little popup thing if you want to save your fingering diagrams there. You might have to enable popups for the FDB in your browser. Also, if you’re not using Dropbox yet, how do you even survive?
  • Valved brass instrument diagrams have been around since version 0.2, but they were little-known because for some reason I lumped them in with the simple-system flutes. I know. They are much easier to find now. You can stop writing in to ask if I know of a website that does diagrams for brass instruments.
  • If you are into creating custom styles, you can now include your selected instrument as part of those if you wish.
  • The Creative Commons license has been updated to version 4.0. That really just means that some of the legalese underlying it has changed. You’re still totally free to use the diagrams for your not-for-profit projects, or to hit me up and make the necessary arrangements if you want to use the diagrams to make something you’re going to sell. (Here’s a cool example of something made with literally one bazillion FDB diagrams: it’s a book.)
  • I did a bunch of other stuff under the hood to improve stability and speed and to lay groundwork for future improvements.

As always, there are more improvements in the works. I usually wait until I have more of a “wow” feature to show off before doing a release, but I wanted to get a fix out there for the Dropbox users. Enjoy!

2014 in review

Here are some of the things that went on here at your favorite woodwind blog during the past year.

  • The runaway hit of the year in terms of sharing on Facebook/Twitter/etc. was my look at “the amazing shrinking woodwind section,” a sort of commentary on how woodwind doubling has changed since the mid-20th-century “Golden Age” of Broadway. Some more doubling-related items: a look at the clarinet for saxophone players, a musing on playing multiple woodwinds in recital, and the question of the “main” instrument.
  • A number of the other articles that got a lot of traffic and social media love were related to practice techniques and philosophies: one on what I call “anchoring,” one listing some ways to practice technical passages, one about memorizing, one about knowing whether you are playing something “right,” and one about just plain slowing down. Most of these, of course, originate from conversations with my students. We have a lot of conversations about practicing.
  • Some articles, as always, dealt with specifics of woodwind playing, like one about chronic flatness on the clarinet and one about saxophone hand position.
  • I reported on a few items from my professional life, such as a visit to ClarinetFest, the presentation I gave there, and the fact of my doctoral dissertation becoming available online. I also shared some warts-and-all videos from a multiple woodwinds recital performance.
  • I did twelve new installments of my “favorite blog posts” from other people’s woodwind blogs. At this point I have well over 500 woodwind-related blogs in my feed reader, and I at least skim every new post. Many of my favorite posts end up coming from a relatively small handful of extra-good blogs, but that’s not a foregone conclusion and sometimes a dark horse slips in there. If you think I might not be following your blog yet, let me know and I’ll check it out. It has to be at least somewhat woodwind-related and have a syndication feed such as RSS or Atom (most blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger already have these built in). On a related topic, I’m a little behind on updating my various lists of woodwind players’ sites and blogs (such as the woodwind doublers list), but I’m hoping to catch up in 2o15. Feel free to get in touch if you feel like your site should be listed but isn’t and I’ll give it priority consideration.
  • I did one set of “required recordings” in January, but skipped August this year since my university reed studio has turned over since I started the required recordings and so I’m in reruns now. When I end up picking some new ones for my students, I’ll share them with y’all too.
  • There has been a lot of discussion about the problem of musicians being expected to give away their performance talents for free, but I also felt the need to address the idea of original content like blog posts being used by for-profit companies without actual compensation to the creators. This was a reaction to being approached by a woodwind-related company whose products I have purchased frequently over the years, to see if I would like to let them re-“print” some of my blog posts on their website in exchange for what they called “exposure.” I refused but I have witnessed a number of friends and acquaintances boasting about their content being “selected” for this dubious honor. If you are creating original content, I encourage you not to give it away to businesses that do not intend to share their profits with you, even if they try to make it seem like a compliment.
  • Another year, another April Fools’ Day post that apparently nobody liked but me. I remain undeterred.
  • I reviewed Ben Britton’s new saxophone overtones book and the ReedGeek tool.
  • There weren’t any major updates this year to Broadway Doubling in Musicals or the Fingering Diagram Builder, two of this site’s most popular features, but I’m always tinkering with some new ideas. Stay tuned.
  • As always, there were a few posts that I hoped might generate some lively conversation but didn’t. A couple that spring to mind were one about coaching student chamber ensembles and one about college music study on “auxiliary” instruments (like tenor saxophone or bass clarinet). It’s not too late if you want to chime in.
  • I introduced some original t-shirt designs that are currently for sale to help support my activities on this blog, and a number of you fashion-forward people are already turning heads in your new woodwind-related apparel. If you don’t have yours yet, be sure to check them out.

If you have read anything interesting or useful here during the past year, I hope you will consider leaving a comment, getting in touch via email or social media, buying a shirt or sending a donation, contacting me about advertising opportunities for your relevant business, and/or pointing your all your woodwind friends toward

Thanks for reading in 2014, and best wishes for the new year!

Woodwind t-shirts now available

I won’t make a habit of posting advertisements here, but I wanted to make you all aware of a new way you can support what I do here at while also increasing your own cool factor. Behold the woodwind doubler t-shirt:

the agency sent Sven, their most broodingly handsome t-shirt model
the agency sent Sven, their most broodingly handsome t-shirt model

It’s a nice quality American Apparel tee available in a variety of attractive and fashionable colors, with the logo in either black or white. A modest profit goes toward keeping the lights on here at your favorite woodwind blog and supports development of additional projects (like, for example, the Woodwind Doubling in Musicals list or the Fingering Diagram Builder).

The 5-instrument shirt is especially awesome, but there is also a saxophone-clarinet-flute version for the classic doubler, an oboe-bassoon version for the masochist, and a saxophone quartet version for those who want to “double” but prefer not to learn any new fingerings. I thought the four saxophone reeds looked sort of like cell phone reception “bars,” so there’s also a version with a dumb joke.

these images are simulated
women’s styles, too

quartet-sm  jokezoom-sm

There’s probably still time for holiday delivery if you order soon. Order now and be the best-dressed in the orchestra pit.

Report: International Clarinet Association “ClarinetFest” 2014

I got to attend this year’s International Clarinet Association conference (“ClarinetFest”) on the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge.

The conference started on a sad note, as a car accident claimed the lives of two clarinetists on their way to represent Baylor University, and injured two others. In their memory, many of the conference attendees wore ribbons in Baylor green during the week. Many of the conference events began with a moment of silence.


The conference was, as always, packed with events, sometimes with three or four venues active at the same time, starting Wednesday afternoon and continuing through Sunday afternoon. The first few days were unseasonably cool and pleasant, but the Louisiana heat and humidity came back in time for the weekend.

I went to more recitals than I can remember or do justice to here, with outstanding and varied performances by clarinetists from around the world. Many of the recitals were listed as “lagniappe” programs, featuring several soloists or groups each playing a work or two. (For more details, try the ClarinetFest blog, which has many reports on individual events.)

I also attended a number of lectures and workshops, opting mostly for those related to movement and health (an area I would like to improve in my teaching), but also a few based on the 2014 theme of “The Clarinetist as Entrepreneur.” Another particular highlight was a panel discussion featuring Stanley and Naomi Drucker, Lawrence Sobol, and Larry Combs telling stories from their careers. And I gave a presentation on woodwind doubling in the 21st century (more details in another blog post).

L-R: Stanley Drucker, Naomi Drucker, Lawrence Sobol, Larry Combs.

The exhibit halls were filled with the sounds of clarinetists trying out new instruments and accessories. I picked up a few items, at least one of which I hope to review here soon.

I participated in a clarinet choir made up of around 50 clarinet professors, which was a nice chance to meet some colleagues.

Each of the evening concerts was a highlight. Wednesday’s program was clarinet works with a chamber orchestra, Thursday featured jazz clarinetists, Friday was chamber music featuring the clarinet, and Saturday was concerti with a full orchestra.

Clarinetists (L-R) Gregory Agid, Harry Skoler, Felix Peikli, and Evan Christopher performing with the ClarinetFest rhythm section at the Thursday night jazz concert.

As expected, ClarinetFest 2014 was an excellent and inspiring experience, but also exhausting. It would be okay with me if in the future some of the evening concerts got trimmed a little for length—3+ hours is a lot of clarinet when it follows a full day of recitals and masterclasses, and the next day starts bright and early.

ClarinetFest 2015 will be held next July in Madrid, Spain.