ReedCast™ scientific reed forecasts on Alexa

I was hoping to announce this a week ago, on the anniversary of the ReedCast™’s debut, April 1, 2015,but things got a little delayed. Anyway, you can now get your guaranteed-accurate, highly scientific ReedCast™ on your Alexa device. Check it out!

You can, of course, still get your classic ReedCast™ on the web.

Reedcast™ version 2.0

A couple of years ago I introduced my Reedcast™ tool on this site, which uses my proprietary software code to predict reed quality for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone based on environmental factors:

I have spent the past few months compiling and studying as much research as I could gather about environmental factors’ effects on woodwind reeds, and developing an algorithm to process this information into reed quality “forecasts.” It’s not perfect, of course, but so far I have found it to do a surprisingly satisfactory job.

Today I’m pleased to announce the release of version 2.0. Reedcast™ is now more accurate than ever before, and has a polished new look as well. Go try it out, and have a great reed day!

Reedcast™ version 2.0

Follow @woodwindtips on Twitter

If you follow me on Twitter (@woodwindninja) you know I have not been a terribly active tweeter, mostly just auto-tweets of my newest blog posts. But I have started up an additional account, @woodwindtips, which I encourage you to check out for several-times-per-day tips on woodwind playing. Enjoy!


Introducing ReedCast™: scientific woodwind reed quality forecasting

I’m pleased to announce a new tool available on this site. Woodwind players know that the way a reed plays is subject to factors like elevation, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. There’s never a guarantee that a reed will play the same way today as it did yesterday. While break-in methods or storage systems may help mitigate some of this, being forearmed with as much information as possible is key to consistent reed performance.

I have spent the past few months compiling and studying as much research as I could gather about environmental factors’ effects on woodwind reeds, and developing an algorithm to process this information into reed quality “forecasts.” It’s not perfect, of course, but so far I have found it to do a surprisingly satisfactory job.

So, I built a web application, ReedCast™, around it. It is rough around the edges but pretty simple to use: you select your instrument (oboe/EH, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone) and your location. ReedCast™ uses your location to retrieve elevation and current weather conditions. Then you press the “Go!” button, and ReedCast™ does its thing.

Go try it out! If you are interested, you can also check out the science behind the forecasting algorithm (warning: technical, with math).

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.

Internet forum field guide: the all-too-frequently asked questions

Welcome to the third installment of the Internet Forum Field Guide, a look at the wildlife that inhabits woodwind-related online message boards and forums. (Be sure to check out the first and second episodes as well.)

Today we look at common questions that are asked on the message boards. The diverse and varied answers as they appear in the wild are a discussion for another day; for brevity’s sake I will just provide the simplest, most accurate answer for each question.

Q. Hi you guys, rather than getting lessons with a teacher in my area, I figured I would become an amazing player by asking vaguely-worded questions here and getting a bunch of conflicting and possibly poorly-informed replies. Is this going to go well?

A. No.

Q. Hi you guys, I have ill-advisedly acquired an instrument of some make or model with which I am not suitably familiar. Can you please tell me that it was a really great find and is rare and desirable and “worth” some fantastic and precise amount of money?

A. No.

Q. Hi you guys, I do not by any stretch have sufficient disposable funds to obtain an instrument of playable quality. Can you recommend a model that is of the highest professional caliber but can be purchased for an unrealistically low cost?

A. No.

Q. Hi you guys, I am a student at one of the finest music schools, and I have weekly if not daily access to a very distinguished and successful teacher of my instrument. Since you all are perfect strangers and have undetermined credentials, would it be a good idea for me to ask you for suggestions on repertoire, equipment, and technique?

A. No.

Q. Hi you guys, if we each made a detailed list of all the instruments and accessories that we individually use, and posted them publicly here for some reason, would that be in any way interesting or useful?

A. No.

This concludes another episode of the Internet Forum Field Guide. Be careful out there.

Report: NNFA Conference, Southeastern Region, 2014

I’m back from the outstanding NNFA regional conference, where I spent the week rubbing shoulders (or should I say noses?) with over 700 very fine musicians from the Southeastern US.

I gave a brief presentation on my Fingering Diagram Builder and its potential applications to the instrument’s pedagogy. I think that’s an interesting problem, considering, well, you know, and I fielded some questions on the topic and got some excellent input.

Photo, Pierre-Alain Dorange
Photo, Pierre-Alain Dorange

But mostly I was there to learn, and learn I did. I attended workshops on vibrato, Baroque ornamentation, nasal hygiene, and building a private studio. I also audited several masterclasses, and, of course, attended fabulous evening concerts. Thursday was “jazz night” at a downtown club, and I worked up the nerve to take a few choruses on “Donna Lee” during the open jam portion. Of course, I usually play jazz on saxophone, so this was definitely outside my comfort zone!

The vendor exhibits were a conference hotspot, as usual, and I must have tried several dozen instruments. The usual makers and retailers were there, but I was also very surprised to see Conn-Selmer; they are apparently entering the market in a big way, and held a fancy reception to celebrate their new line. I tried a few and I think they have a solid intermediate-level “horn” which should do pretty well if they price it reasonably.

I hadn’t planned to buy an instrument, but I fell in love with this model from Trophy and ended up bringing it home. The one pictured has a red finish, but as I am fairly conservative about my instruments’ appearance I picked out a classy purple. I find that the purple has an appealing depth of tone but doesn’t lose anything in terms of response.

I hope to see some of you at the national conference next year in Des Moines. Last year’s national had attendance of almost 4,000 and some really incredible concert headliners. Join the National Nose Flute Association

Stuff my students say: attendance edition

See also: Stuff my students say (original flavor)

What my students say What my students mean
I’m sick. As you are aware from my prolific and detailed Facebook updates, I was up very late last night making poor health choices, and now wish to be excused from established course or lesson expectations.
I’m not sick. I’m very sick, and by the end of this hour, you will be, too.
I have to go to the registrar/bank/doctor/store, and this is the only time I can do it. For some reason, even though I’m enrolled in your class during this time, I think this is a “time I can do it.”
I have a family/fraternity/church/extracurricular thing that I have to go to. I wish to make choices but not suffer consequences.
I’m going to be honest: I haven’t practiced, so I don’t want to waste your time. I believe that honesty, rather than being seen as a baseline expectation for civilized conversation, should be considered a noble enough gesture to excuse my failure to meet expectations.
Did I miss anything important in class? I think your class is mostly time fillers and stalling, with the few “important” things scattered throughout the semester.
I have something I have to do for another class. My other class is too important to blow off, but yours isn’t.
Don’t worry, I already know the material. Expect me to crash and burn, hard, at the exam/jury.

Review: Vandoren “Maestro” score-marking pencils

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.

Click for larger
Click for larger

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”