Stuff my students say

What my students sayWhat my students mean
I was too busy to practice this week.My choices this week did not include practicing.
I can play it perfectly when nobody is listening, I promise!When somebody is listening, I’m suddenly painfully aware of problems with my playing that I ignored in the practice room.
I can play it, just not with the metronome.I can play the correct pitches in the correct order, but not with enough fluency to put each note where it belongs in time. In other words, I can’t play it.
Right now I’m just trying to get the notes. I’ll add in the dynamics and articulations later.I might eventually get the “notes,” but don’t bet on me ever observing any of the other markings.
The thing is, I’m just not good at _____ (rhythms, high notes, low notes, technical passages, lyrical passages, dynamic contrasts…).I wish to be excused from improving my playing.
This _____ (etude, repertoire piece, technical exercise…) is boring.The way I’m playing it is boring.
I practiced until I got it right!I played it wrong 99 times, then right once. Guess which will happen in my lesson, rehearsal, or performance?
You’re mean.I’m unprepared.




Internet forum field guide: conflict resolution

Welcome to the second installment of the Internet forum field guide, a look at the inhabitants of the various woodwind-related message boards, forums, and email lists. (Read the first chapter here.) Today we will examine how the indigenous wildlife deal with conflicts.

One of the most common sources of conflict is the introduction of a dangerous threat into the community. It generally starts with an honest question:

Hey guys, just wondering which alloy gives an instrument a darker sound: 93% silver with 7% copper, or 97% silver with 3% copper? Thanks in advance.

Enter the troublemaker

Suddenly the herd’s status quo is endangered, unthinkably, by one of its own:

Well, actually, it turns out there’s over 100 years of well-documented, peer-reviewed scientific research that says the material makes no significant difference to the sound of a wind instrument. I know this because I went to the library and read actual books and journal articles about it.

The herd stampedes

This kind of affront is clearly unacceptable to the community, and they respond swiftly to correct the errant behavior. The alpha male is often the first to weigh in:

I have been playing for 40 years with some groups whose names you think you vaguely recognize, and I say the material does make a difference, so that should pretty much settle it.

He is followed shortly by a rival who will try to discredit the original poster:

Read more

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!!]

Internet forum field guide: gear recommendations

Enter with caution.

If you frequent any of the various woodwind-related Internet message boards, forums, or listservs, you have undoubtedly encountered some of the wildlife I will describe here. Remember that they can be dangerous creatures, and that it is often best not to attempt interaction with them.

One of the most common animal behaviors witnessed on the message boards is the exchange of gear recommendations. There are two primary families of wildlife the participate in this ritual: the askers and the answerers.

The askers

The askers all share a common behavioral trait: a proclivity for asking total strangers to blindly recommend instruments, mouthpieces, reeds, and other items. Their calls are varied.

Some prefer to remain hidden in the underbrush, offering no clarifying details:

hey guys first time on this board what reedz should I use lolz

Read more

A farewell to woodwind playing

Well, it has been a great ride studying, teaching, and performing on the instruments of the woodwind family. Thanks everyone for your support here at

I’ll leave this website up for now, but I hope you will all check out my new project:

Bret Pimentel, brass

Spelling test for woodwind players and teachers

If you’re a player or teacher of woodwinds, you need to be able to communicate clearly about woodwind playing. I’ve compiled a few of the most frequently-misspelled woodwind-related words from assignments and tests in my various classes. Check it out and see how you do:

Take the spelling test

New endorsement deal

I am pleased to announce that, after several weeks of exciting and productive talks, I have signed on for an endorsement and development deal with an up-and-coming reed manufacturer. Here’s the official press release:


April 1, 2010

Bret Pimentel Signs On As First FLAVOREEDS™ Artist

FORT WAYNE, Indiana.—FLAVOREEDS™ Flavored Clarinet and Saxophone Reeds, Inc., is pleased to announce the first in what it hopes will be a series of “fruit”ful relationships with professional woodwind players in developing and promoting its new professional line of premium cane instrument reeds.

The first FLAVOREEDS™ Artist to join the roster is multiple woodwind performer and educator Bret Pimentel. Dr. Pimentel has performed with such acts as Dave Brubeck, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the O’Jays, and is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Delta State University. He is an experienced performer on all the major woodwind instruments, and expects to bring this expertise to bear in consulting on new and current product lines.

“As soon as I made a verbal commitment to the company, I forwarded them some thoughts about their new Papaya-Mango Bass Saxophone Reeds™,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview. “I found them to be a little overpowering in the papaya department, with not enough mango. I’m working closely with FLAVOREEDS™ to better balance the flavors.”

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