A woodwind player’s introduction to: pennywhistles

The pennywhistle (or “tinwhistle” or “Irish” whistle) is common in Irish traditional music, and has found a home in some other styles such as southern African kwela music. They appear famously in movie soundtracks such as the Lord of the Rings movies and Titanic.

Here are some important things to know:

  • There are high-quality pennywhistles with good intonation, clear, pure tone, and nice even response. (The Burke whistles are among my favorites.) But some high-profile players of traditional Irish music prefer the chirpier, raspier, less-perfect sounds of inexpensive, mass-produced ones (such as Generation whistles). Those players might try many inexpensive whistles to find the most playable ones.
  • There are also some in-between options. The very consistent but relatively inexpensive plastic whistles from Susato have the advantages of high volume, excellent tuning, and availability in lots of keys. (They also have a reedy tone that some people find too recorder-like.) Or, there are “tweaked” whistles like those made by Jerry Freeman, inexpensive whistles with some adjustments made for better playability.
  • Pennywhistles are available in various sizes, but the way they are named doesn’t match with the conventions of orchestral wind instruments. The most common and traditional whistle is the high D whistle. These are usually notated with the instrument’s six-fingers-down note, D, appearing as D on the staff and sounding one octave higher. (By the terminology used for, say, clarinets and saxophones, this would be considered a “C” whistle.) Other whistles are named by their 6-finger note as well.
  • For non-D whistles, there aren’t firmly-established notation practices. Some notation treats them as transposing instruments, with music written so that a notated D at the bottom of the treble staff is always played as the six-finger note. In other cases, music may be written at the intended sounding pitch (or, often, one octave below, like piccolo transposition), and it is left to the whistle player to select an appropriate instrument.
  • Whistles use a simple-system fingering scheme, and are best used in mostly-diatonic contexts. Some chromatic fingerings are possible but cross-fingerings tend to be weak and half-holed fingerings are awkward in technical passages. To play in multiple keys, most whistle players keep whistles in a variety of sizes on hand. For chromatic passages, something like a soprano or sopranino recorder might be more suitable.
  • Like most fipple flutes, pennywhistles have relatively low breath requirements. The upper octaves are achieved almost entirely by overblowing, so they tend to be louder and brighter. (Some more expensive whistles are designed to “improve” on this traditional characteristic.)
  • Pennywhistles respond best to a low, open voicing.
  • Pennywhistle playing in Irish traditional music uses a sophisticated system of ornamentation and inflection inherited from bagpiping traditions. Since pipers don’t stop to breathe, whistle players use a system of placing breaths that is also somewhat unfamiliar to orchestral woodwind players, leaving out selected notes to breathe rather than trying to insert breaths between notes. For slower tunes whistle players may use a flattement-style finger vibrato. By far my favorite resource for learning these techniques is Grey Larsen’s book.

Shaping a phrase

When a woodwind player plays a phrase like this:

…it could have a variety of shapes, depending. But often a rising line gets a subtle crescendo, and a long note at the end gets a little decrescendo:

To play create this shape, you blow air that makes the shape. You can imagine playing a single note, like this:

…and then let your fingers and tongue play the notes over the shape.

But sometimes less-experienced players blow like this:

That makes the phrase sound weird, like the notes each have their own shapes. For the notes to unite into a phrase, they need to combine into one shape.

To practice this, first decide what shape your phrase should have, and mark it into your music. Then, without your instrument, blow air that makes the shape of the phrase. Then pick up your instrument and do the fingerings, blowing the air shape outside the instrument. If some notes should be tongued, add that next. Once you are comfortable with all those steps, combine them to play a smooth, connected, well-shaped phrase.

A woodwind player’s introduction to: recorders

For a “modern” woodwind player, recorders might show up in “period” classical music performance or in commercial situations like musical theater or studio gigs. They might be used in commercial settings to evoke Renaissance or Baroque periods, to function generically as “world” or folk flutes with robust chromatic capabilities, or (maybe due to their association with elementary school classroom music) to suggest themes of childhood or naivete.

The use of recorders in classroom settings is an odd one, as something like a pennywhistle has a similar just-blow “fipple” (duct) mouthpiece and a much simpler fingering scheme. The effort required to play recorders fluently and convincingly shouldn’t be underestimated.

Here are some important things to know:

  • While the finest recorders are usually made of wood, there are high-quality and relatively inexpensive ones made of plastic that are quite playable. The top-of-the-line plastic ones made by Yamaha and Aulos are well worth considering, at least as a starting point.
  • The alto (“treble”) recorder is the primary instrument of Baroque repertoire, with a solo range similar to the Baroque flute. The soprano (“descant”) is the one used in elementary classrooms.
  • Recorders are available in “modern” pitch (A=440 or similar) and in various historical pitches, which may be required for playing with period ensembles.
  • Recorders are often misunderstood as being in the “keys” of C or F. This isn’t quite the same thing as, say, clarinets in B-flat and E-flat, since properly-written recorder parts are always written in concert pitch (sometimes with octave displacements). Rather than learning one set of fingerings and reading from transposed parts, recorder players learn two different sets of fingerings, and may read in multiple clefs. (I’ve written more about this in a previous post.) However, some composers and orchestrators get this wrong, and transpose parts for “F” recorders as they would for F horns.
  • Recorders require much less breath than “modern” woodwinds. Like most fipple flutes, they don’t have much dynamic range, since blowing harder tends to cause sharpness or unwanted leaps into the upper registers.
  • The recorder’s left-hand thumbhole functions as an octave vent (this feature distinguishes the recorders from pennywhistles and other fipple flutes). The thumb octave vent helps balance the volume of the upper and lower registers, and gives the player some agility for moving between them.
  • Recorders respond best to a low, open voicing.
  • Vibrato may be produced on recorders using the breath-pulse technique used on modern flutes and double reeds. It can also be done with flattement, a microtonal trill technique common in the Baroque period.
  • There are many historical and modern method books available for recorders; I like Walter Van Hauwe’s The Modern Recorder Player (in three volumes) as a good introduction that assumes a strong musical background.

Some woodwind problems with competition repertoire rules

mockup of white clipboard with blank paper

Here are some repertoire-related problems I’ve encountered trying to get my woodwind students signed up for competitions. These range from significant national/international competitions down to small competitions within my own university music department. Some are competitions designed by woodwind-savvy folks and some aren’t. I mention these problems here in the hope that it will be helpful in designing competitions that are fair and sensitive to the particular repertoire quirks of the woodwind family.

Style periods. The clarinet’s repertoire really takes off in the Romantic period (with some notable Classical exceptions), and the saxophone’s doesn’t really get going until the 20th century. Competitions that have requirements related to style periods make things difficult for these instruments, especially if there are restrictions on playing transcriptions. It can also be a challenge if rules for determining style period aren’t clear: can I count something like a Saint-Saëns woodwind sonata as Romantic, even though it was likely written in the 1920s?

Accompaniment. While a pianist, classical guitarist, etc. can play significant repertoire alone, most wind-instrument repertoire is accompanied. This involves extra cost, rehearsal time, and logistics for the woodwind entrant. Concerto repertoire in particular often has unrealistic piano reductions that require a pianist who is both skilled and creative (and therefore expensive and busy). There exists unaccompanied repertoire, to be sure, but pieces of this nature often provide significant challenges to the less-experienced woodwind player. To write convincing unaccompanied works, composers often write for virtuoso players capable of filling up the space with notes. Stamina issues, too, are different for wind players than for pianists and others, and unaccompanied pieces can be especially taxing.

Timing. Competitions that favor singers tend to have shorter time limits, which circumscribe repertoire options for instrumentalists, particularly if there are restrictions on playing partial pieces or making cuts.

Cost. Pianists, singers, violinists, and others can buy large collections of public-domain repertoire by great historical composers for relatively little money. More recent works, such as those for the clarinet and saxophone, are much more likely to be under copyright and sold individually at higher prices. For me as a teacher, this means that I have in my file cabinet, for example, only so many unaccompanied-pieces-for-sophomore-level-clarinet-players-that-fit-within-eight-minutes-and-are-flashy-enough-for-competition. Are there more pieces out there? Definitely, but even to look at the scores may require expensive purchases. There probably won’t be IMSLP downloads or many YouTube performances to peruse.

Multiple instruments. There is significant clarinet repertoire for clarinets in B-flat and for clarinets in A. Saxophone repertoire favors mostly the alto and the soprano saxophones, but also exists for tenor and baritone instruments. Competitions with too-tight restrictions on playing “more than one instrument” limit options for these entrants. It’s a nice courtesy if there is time and patience for entrants needing to bring a second instrument up to temperature before starting, or to wet a second reed.

Many of these concerns dissipate at least somewhat at high levels of competition. But smaller competitions are often geared more toward participation opportunities than toward crowning victors, and a little care in designing the rules can help achieve this goal.

Preparing for a fatiguing performance

alone bed bedroom blur

If you are practicing and concerned about fatigue during an upcoming performance, here are some (woodwind-centric) things to consider.

  • Embouchure. The embouchure is a frequent site for fatigue, but it shouldn’t be. Embouchure pain or tiredness in a conventional performance situation is usually a sign of incorrect tone production technique. (Not a matter of needing to “strengthen the muscles” or “build endurance,” neither of which makes sense for a well-formed, properly relaxed embouchure.) Rather than relying on the small, weak muscles of the embouchure, use good…
  • Breath support. The breath support muscles in your torso can (and do) work all day. If you are feeling fatigue in your embouchure or other small muscles, lean on your breath support more.
  • Breathing plan. Another frequent cause of fatigue is oxygen deprivation. Reconsider your breathing plan (you have one, right?) and make sure you are getting enough oxygen to your body and brain (and venting carbon dioxide, too).
  • Practice. Ask yourself how you can practice in a way that will leave you less tired and prepare you for a performance situation. Consider starting your practice with breaks frequent and long enough to let your body and mind rest, and gradually making them shorter and less frequent. When I’m preparing for a recital, I usually do a few rounds of recording the whole program: the first recording might take me half a day with longer breaks, but later recordings happen within a shortening time frame, approaching my intended recital length.
  • Equipment. I had some pain and fatigue in my back a number of years ago when I was practicing a lot of tenor saxophone. I bought a new neckstrap and the problem went away immediately. There are lots of products and alterations available for various instruments that can reduce strain on your body.
  • General health. Playing a musical instrument is serious physical activity. Make sure you are getting good rest, nutrition, exercise, life balance, physical and/or mental health care, and whatever else will keep you energized.

Voicing for multiphonics

One of my favorite tips for producing woodwind multiphonics comes from J. Michael Leonard’s Extended Technique for the Saxophone. (Mine is an older edition, I think.) The book’s section on multiphonics gives two pages of instruction and and a one-page fingering chart with diagrams like this:

The “aha” moment I got from this was the small arrows, which the author says “indicate a relative primary focusing of the airstream.” To me this sounds like what I call voicing. The idea is that each of these multiphonics has a sort of key note within its chord, and if you focus/voice to favor that note, the multiphonic will speak.

Readers of this blog know I don’t like voicing gymnastics, at least for conventional playing technique. It’s better to find the optimal voicing for the instrument and keep it steady. Change it only when the acoustical quirks of the instrument demand, such as for a pitch “tendency” note or a slur that doesn’t respond well. I’m not sure if Mr. Leonard means for this fingering chart to imply that there are different focuses/voicings for different notes on the instrument, but voicing higher or lower to increase the success of certain multiphonic sounds works well for me. And, as a matter of convenience, I do use a similar arrow system to pencil in hints for multiphonics in repertoire that I play.

When there’s no place to breathe

When you’re working on a new piece and there’s no place to breathe:

  • Re-examine. Are you sure there’s no place? Tonal wind-instrument music usually has phrases. To find them might take some careful analysis, or maybe listening to a recording to check out someone else’s solutions. Once you know where the phrases end, you may be able to take a little extra time to breathe in those spots without it sounding disruptive.
  • Practice. With some effort and repetition, you may be able to play longer phrases than you thought. Make sure you’re really taking a full breath—the inhalation should feel pretty physical, much more so than “normal” (tidal) breathing.
  • Edit thoughtfully. If the music was written originally for, say, piano or a string instrument (or if it’s just written by a less-experienced wind composer), it may not have good built-in breaths. Where absolutely necessary, consider breaking a slur, reducing the dynamic level, boosting the tempo, or making some other minor adaptation. Mark it in, so you’re in the habit of breaking with the composer’s intent only after serious deliberation.
  • Be quick. Sometimes a very small, very short breath is all you need to finish out a phrase strong. Find a reasonable musical place to insert one, and mark it in such a way that you will remember not to take too much time for it.
  • Consider circular breathing. It’s a challenge but not impossible for someone playing at a reasonably advanced level. But be careful: don’t use it an excuse to avoid the issue of phrasing. Plus, it’s not very comfortable to circular-breathe for extended periods, for you or your audience. (Audiences often breathe with you!) Use this as a last resort or when specifically requested by the composer.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 5 (final): self-identification

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’ve released the results in installments, so be sure to check out the rest.

I got 284 responses, an improvement over 2011’s 187. The numbers for each of these questions don’t necessarily add up to exactly that number, since not everybody responded to every question.

In the final section of the survey, I gave respondents the option to identify and tell me a little about themselves, including their names, locations, affiliations, websites, and other comments. I’m not sharing personally-identifiable information here, but I’ll respond in a general way to each question.

What is your name?

Almost 180 of you identified yourselves by name. It was lots of fun to scroll through see musicians I know and have worked with, who I have connected with online, and even some of my heroes and role models. And it was also very cool to see lots of names I didn’t know (yet). If you’re out there and would like to connect, I hope you will feel free to reach out.

Where do you live?

I’m sharing these sorted alphabetically and lightly edited.

19047
Ada, OK
Ada, Oklahoma
Archer City, Texas
Arizona
around Boston
Around Raleigh, North Carolina
Asheville, NC
Ashland, KY
Atlanta
Auburn, ME
Austin TX
Austin, TX
Australia
Baltimore, MD area
Bangkok, Thailand
Berlin, CT
Birmingham, England (studying)
Bolivar, MO
Boston
Boston
Boston-area
California
Cambridge, UK
Canada
Centra Michigan
Charlotte, NC
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
Chicago
Chicago Suburbs
Chicago suburbs
cincinnati
Cleveland OH
Coburg, OR (but still gig in San Jose, CA, my previous residence)
Colorado
Comerío, Puerto Rico.
Connecticut
Conroe, TX (40 miles north of downtown Houston)
Coopersburg, PA
Corvallis
Covington, LA
Currently in Tampere, Finland; usually SoCal/ SF Bay Area
Dallas – Fort Worth Area
Dallas, Texas
Dallas, TX
Dallas/Fort Worth region
Darien, IL
DC area
Durant, Oklahoma / Las Vegas, Nevada
East Bay of SF Bay Area
East Lansing, MI
Eastern Mass
Eastern North Carolina
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Eugene, Oregon
Fargo ND
Fargo, ND
Finger Lakes region of New York
Florida
Fort Worth, Texas
Fresno, Ca.
Germany
Germany
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Greater Vancouver, BC, Canada
Greensboro, NC
Greensboro, NC
Greensboro, North Carolina
Hamels, Braughing, Hertfordshire, England
Hampton Roas, VA
Harrisburg, PA
Hong Kong
Honolulu, Hawaii
Houston
Houston TX
Houston, TX
Ihio
Indiana
Indianapolis
Indianapolis
iowa
Iowa USA
Jersey City
Kanagawa, Japan* (originally from Maine)
Kansas
Kansas
Kansas City metro area
Lancaster area PA
Lancaster, CA
Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Liverpool, NY
London
London
London and Cape Town
Long Beach, CA USA
Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Los Angeles/Orange County, CA
Madeira Beach, FL
Manhattan and Connecticut
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, Australia
Memphis
Memphis
Memphis, TN
Memphis,TN USA
Metro Atlanta
Miami, FL
Miami, Florida
Michigan
Middleton Massachusetts
Midwest U.S.
Milwaukee
Milwaukee
Milwaukee
Milwaukee WI
Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota
Mississippi
Mississippi
Montgomery, AL
Murfreesboro
Myrtle Beach, SC
Nashville, TN
Nashville, TN
Nashville, TN
Near Eugene Oregon
Nebraska
Nevada
New England, USA
New England, USA
New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey, US
New Orleans
New York
New York City
New York City
New York City
New York City Metro area
New York, Montreal, and Florida
New York, NY
North Kingstown, RI
North Texas
Northeast Ohio/Western PA
Northeast Tennessee
Northeast U.S.
Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania
Northern California
Norway
NY
NY area
NYC
NYC
NYC
Ocean Reef, Perth, Western Australia
Ohio
Ohio
Oklahoma City
Oregon
Oregon
Orlando, Florida
Oxford, UK
Pennsylvania
Perth
Perth, Western Australia
Pickering, ON Canada
Piedmont Triad Area of North Carolina
Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Preston, UK
Queensland, Australia
Reno, NV
San Antonio
San Antonio TX
San Antonio, TX
San Francisco
San Fransisco Bay Area
San Jose
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA
San W
Saskatchewan, Canada
Scenic Martin, TN
Scotland
Scotland
Seattle, WA
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF South Bay Area
SF South Bay Area
Singapore
SLC Utah
South Eastern Wisconsin, USA
southern Virginia
Springfield, MO
St Andrews
St Paul/Minneapolis
St. Louis area
St. Louis, MO
State College PA
Sussex, Wi
Tampa Florida
Teaneck, NJ
Tennessee
Toronto
Toronto
Toronto CA -> Greensboro,NC
Toronto, Canada
Troy, AL
Trumansburg, NY
UK
Urbana, IL (& Springfield, IL)
Va Bch, VA.
Washington, DC
Washington, DC
Washington, DC metropolitan area
Wellington, New Zealand
Will be moving to Denton, Texas
Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Canada

What is your main gig, performing group, teaching institution, etc.?

I have edited a number of these (the asterisks are mine) in cases where, based on my best judgment, I felt strangers might be able to identify you through web searches.

*** Big Band
*** College/*** Community College/*** College/private studio/*** Festival Orchestra/*** Philharmonic
*** County Schools, Freelance musician
*** Ensemble, Broadway shows, recordings, *** College of Performing Arts
*** Episcopal School
*** High School (band director)
*** Jazz Band
*** London West End
*** Middle School (Teacher)
*** Musician
*** Quartet, Goodspeed Musicals, Playhouse on Park, etc.
*** Symphony Orchestra (Assistant Principal Bassoon/ Contrabassoon and much of the Saxophone work), teach at the University of ***, lots of studio recording sessions.
*** Symphony Orchestra, Bassoon
*** University graduate teaching assistant
*** Videogame Symphony
*** Winds, Ballet *** Orchestra
***Winds, ***, ***
2nd Alto Sax, US Navy Band *** Jazz Ensemble
6-12 band director
A school big band
ABRSM
Air Force, formerly with a regional band, but now assigned a non-music job
Alabama State University
Band Director – High School
Band instrument repair
Bar gigs w/ a combo
Before the pandemic I was regularly doing musical theatre work 3/4s of the year and also was doing a fair bit of big band playing as well. The big band and various offshoots of it play pre 1940s swing music and some smaller “Dixie” stuff so there’s a lot for me to do on clarinet. I also teach privately at a school system and a music store and was leading an after school ensemble and doing sectional work with the other bands at the school system. Those ended up being fairly evenly split, and then I would pick up various odd work at studio sessions or local bar gigs
Big band jazz
Broadway
Broadway and Lincoln Center
Broadway pits
Certified bad*** (jk, picking up jobs when I can/doing musicals)
Church and Various community bands
Church Music Director
Church of ***, Music Director and keyboardist
Coastal Carolina University
Community band/ musicals
Community bands
Community Bands – 4 of them.
community orchestra
Community theater
Community wind ensemble
Cruise ship musician (saxes, flute, piccolo, clarinet)
Currently all virtual – mostly with the Royal Canadian Naval Reserves at ***.
Currently RSO/VVGO/various guest player roles at Chinese orchestras in Singapore
Currently teaching orchestra.
DMA student at the University of ***
Elementary Music Teacher
Everywhere 😂
Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre
Free-lance musician
Freelance
Freelance
Freelance musician around the west end and London
Freelance teaching and performing
Freelance woodwind specialist, director of local volunteer big band (Ensemble Swing Time), Singer
Freelancer / university adjunct
Going to the *** College of Music and Drama for Oboe Performance (with a touch of Woodwind doubling) this september
High School
High School Teacher
Home based teacher
I am a high school student at *** High School
I attend Brandon University
I play the flute family for the *** Symphony Orchestra
I primarily teach private students.
I work at *** full-time during the days, and sub regularly on Broadway on nights and weekends (under normal circumstances)
I’m in high school so this doesn’t apply
Instrument repair
Instrument Repair at ***
Jazz Big Band
Just freelance
Local high school and regional theater
Local theatre groups
Mainly in undergrad jazz band and concert band
Mars Hill University
Mid-*** Symphony, *** Jazz Band
Middle school music teacher, play in local symphony and a collegiate wind orchestra
Military Band
Military musician and private teacher
Missouri State University
Music bachelors student
Music education undergrad
Music teacher/Teaching artist
Musical instrument repair/orchestral oboe.
Musical theater, church
My band, The ***
My online business as a content creator and educator
National or international tours.
No main gig during The pandemic.
No main gig.
None, teach at *** College, produce concerts at ***, run the *** Saxophone Quartet,
North Carolina State University
Nowadays it’s mostly University ensembles in Cambridge
Performing
Performing
pit orchestra
playing in musical orchestras/ bands
Playing in musical theater pits
Playing on Broadway
Playing: Civic Theater and the *** Jazz Orchestra. Clarinet teacher for local school district.
Private instructor, various big bands, west coast style combo and various pits when they come up
private lessons at *** Music
Private lessons teaching
Private Studio
Private Studio
Private teacher & reed maker out of my home
Private teaching studio
Private woodwind teacher & freelance musician
Prof. of Music, The University of ***
Professional and community theatre pits. Too many to list.
Professional orchestra librarian
Professor at *** University
Professor at NDSU
Put work
Recent college graduate, premed, member of *** (funk group), and jazz musician/woodwind instrumentalist
Regional big band & GB
Regional Broadway caliber theater productions and local hire for national tours.
Regional theater, private lessons
Retired
Rockland County Concert Band
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (studying)
Sam Houston state
Saxophone with ***
School band
Schriener University
Self-employed
senior in college, about to student teach
simpson college
Six Flags
Small School Band Director
Software Engineer
solo jazz performer
Southwest *** Community College
Stockton CA
Student
Student
Student right now
Substitute teacher specializing in music
Teach at ***. Play gigs w/my jazz combo.
Teacher (Elementary)
Teaching and free lancing.
Teaching and instrument repair
Teaching at a school(still a uni student)
Teaching Bassoon Lessons
Teaching middle school band
teaching private lessons
Teaching the reed studio at *** University.
Teaching: *** Music (lesson studio and music store) | Playing: *** (amusement park) Dixieland Band
The *** Quartet (baritone chair), freelancer/soloist, Orchestra of ***
Theater
Theater Musician
Theatre
There are several
Touring Musician (Broadway shows)
UNC Charlotte
Univ. of ***, *** Technical College
University adjunct professor, Broadway touring shows (local hire) and local theater company.
University as a student
University New Music Ensemble
University of *** *** Society (the musical theatre society)
University of Nevada, Reno
University of North Carolina School of the Arts
University of Oregon
University of Texas at San Antonio/private lessons (self employed)
University Professor an conductor
University student with some private teaching and freelancing
US Army Musician
US Navy Pacific Fleet Band
Varies
VVGO, RSO, UFB – virtual ensembles.
WAAPA – Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Weddings
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Will be attending UNT
Youngstown State University

What is your website address?

Lots of you shared websites. In cases where I could locate a relevant and reasonably-fresh RSS feed, I’ve added them to my feed reader, which also puts them on my public blogroll.

Any other comments you would like to share?

Some of you took this opportunity to share some general thoughts about woodwind doubling, to expand upon your biographical details or musical experiences, or to offer critique/commentary on the survey itself. Many of you were also kind enough to express appreciation for the survey, my blog, and other resources on my website. It was deeply gratifying and also super weird to hear from a few of you that you drew inspiration from my website as kids and are now working musicians, graduate students, etc. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to say hello or share a few thoughts.

In conclusion, thanks once again to all for your participation, readership, and friendship. It was great to hear from so many of you, and I hope to do it again in 2031.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 4: gigs

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

I got 284 responses, an improvement over 2011’s 187. The numbers for each of these questions don’t necessarily add up to exactly that number, since not everybody responded to every question.

What is your main source of income? (under normal circumstances)

“Retired” was an option I neglected to include, but enough of you wrote it in that I’ve added it to the chart here. Some of you also wrote in other things, most of which I felt fit into the existing categories, so I’ve used my best judgment to include them here.

2021 DATA
playing gigs5118%
teaching music9735%
working in another aspect of music207%
working in a non-music field6322%
student, supported by family/financial aid/etc.4014%
retired104%
2011 DATA
playing gigs4021%
teaching music4223%
working in another aspect of music42%
working in a non-music field4424%
student4222%
other158%

Which types of paid woodwind doubling gigs have you done in the past?

Some of you wrote in additional categories such as church gigs, concert bands in the community or the military, and theme parks.

2021 Data
school/community theater22981%
large-scale tour of a musical (as traveling orchestra member)4215%
large-scale tour of a musical (as local hire)7426%
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as permanent orchestra member)4315%
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as sub)7426%
orchestral, opera, or similar15655%
chamber music15856%
studio recording (as leader or permanent group member)4616%
studio recording (as hired gun)11842%
television/radio/broadcast (live)3613%
television/radio/broadcast (pre-recorded)3813%
jazz big band15856%
jazz small group or solo10939%
rock/pop group7527%
cruise ship176%
none228%
2011 Data
school/community theater153
large-scale tour of a musical (as traveling orchestra member)17
large-scale tour of a musical (as local hire)47
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as permanent orchestra member)29
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as sub)29
orchestral, opera, or similar86
studio recording (as leader or permanent group member)28
studio recording (as hired gun)72
television/radio/broadcast (live)26
television/radio/broadcast (pre-recorded)29
jazz big band112
jazz small group or solo87
rock/pop group65
cruise ship18
other25

Which of these do you play?

Some of you wrote in additional genres. A handful mentioned musical theater as being its own genre or mish-mash of genres.

2021 Data
classical music27095%
jazz music22981%
pop/rock music15655%
folk/world music7827%
2011 Data
classical178
jazz160
pop/rock124
folk/ethnic60
other19

How often do you improvise (such as jazz improvisation) on gigs?

2021 Data
never4316%
rarely7728%
sometimes10036%
always or nearly always5721%
2011 Data
never3117%
rarely5329%
sometimes5831%
always or nearly always4323%

On average, how frequently do you have woodwind doubling gigs? (under normal circumstances)

2021 Data
Every week or more4516%
Every month or more7638%
Every three months or more6423%
Every six months or more5319%
Never or almost never3613%
2011 Data
Every week or more4424%
Every month or more5228%
Every three months or more3217%
Every six months or more2312%
Less than once every six months3619%

What kind of competition is there for woodwind doubling gigs in your area?

2021 Data
slim or nonexistent4516%
moderate13950%
fierce5620%
don’t know or not applicable3814%
2011 Data
slim or nonexistent4023%
moderate9855%
fierce4022%

Which of the following teaching situations are part of your income?

2021 Data
private lessons15354%
ensemble directing or chamber music coaching5720%
teaching from home or a private studio9734%
teaching at a school (elementary through high school)7025%
teaching at a university or conservatory6222%
teaching more than one woodwind instrument10437%
teaching classroom-type (including online) courses about music (such as music theory, history, etc.)4215%
2011 Data
private lessons93
ensemble directing or chamber music coaching39
teaching from home or a private studio58
teaching at a school (elementary through high school)38
teaching at a university or conservatory31
teaching more than one woodwind instrument66

How has woodwind doubling affected your employability?

2021 Data
no discernible effect239%
slight improvement to employability2711%
moderate improvement to employability5823%
significant improvement to employability14357%
decreased employability00%
does not apply2810%
2011 Data
no effect2313%
slight improvement to employability2514%
moderate improvement to employability3218%
significant improvement to employability9354%
decreased employability11%

Which of these have resulted from your woodwind doubling?

2021 Data
more non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)10738%
more non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)13648%
fewer non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)228%
fewer non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)41%
none of these9233%
2011 Data
more non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)69
more non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)86
fewer non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)19
fewer non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)6

What woodwind-doubling-related goals or ambitions do you have, that you have not (fully) achieved yet?

Responses given here in random order and lightly edited.

to be a professional historical woodwind doubler
LA studio musician (not likely as I don’t live in LA and health of industry)
Double tonguing on flute with success. Playing jazz clarinet successfully at my saxophone skill level.
* Excellent question! I found it clarifying to put down some of my doubling goals in writing.

– starting a woodwind quintet consisting of doublers
– performing solo recitals on flute/clarinet
– make a living primarily through professional level musical theater work
Proficiency on double reeds
I really want to pick up some double reeds! Oboe has been calling to me for years but I don’t have the money yet to get my hands on one.
And some day I’d love to play in a West End show.
playing double reed instruments
N/A
Ability to make double reeds.
Synth work.
Proficiency on double reeds
I would love to own one of each type woodwind from each instrument family.
Playing more pops orchestra shows
Playing more professional shows like a regional musical theater gig
Playing a musical and having a book that has oboe, flute, sax, and clarinet.
Broadway show in New York
Parity across all families of instruments
Become more fluid with double reds and flute
Better at jazz improv; skill on my doubles at level of primary instrument.
Broadway subbing, traveling tour sub
Getting a more consistent flute tone, and soloing better on both flute and clarinet
Be a consistent member of a union theater
Playing all instruments at the same skill level
I would LOVE to play in a real Broadway (or even touring) pit. With all that life demands, at this stage, that’s not a likely thing. But it would be rad. That’s about the only thing that could ever make me consider leaving teaching :)
Developing my own line of single reeds
Greater level of improvisational ability in various jazz styles, familiarity with a larger variety of ‘world’ instruments (esp. flutes)
Own remaining missing ‘standard’ instruments across all families (have still studied most that I don’t own but will lose access upon graduation)
I have a few dream shows, I’d like to commission a piece for 5 woodwind doublers
Great fluency in the jazz idiom. I was going to reserve that as a sabbatical project, but I got a head start with it as a pandemic project and it’s benefiting my classical playing on all instruments as well.
More theatre work
I want to create an online course or program to help woodwind doublers improve their flute/piccolo/alto flute skills, but I need to make sure there’s a market for that!
Learn bassoon, better flute ability
I would like to become a regular hire for a downtown theatre company in Boston. I would also like to learn bassoon.
Playing union rate shows more frequently
I would love to feel more confident while playing gigs. Even though I get called back, I never feel like I sound as good as some other doublers and I feel that I sound better at home than I do at the gig. Also I’d love to play at higher profile venues, Broadway tours, etc.
More frequent and regular doubling gigs
Find consistent playing opportunities.
To complete my doctorate and befome a professor of woodwinds at a university.
Owning an English Horn. Maybe Bassoon as well?
Improving my skills on instruments I have the least experience at. Purchasing more secondary instruments that I don’t have.
Play orchestral clarinet gigs
I would like to hone my skills on bassoon and clarinet (the two instruments I think I am best at besides my primary) and would love to gain more experience on the doubles I struggle with (flute and oboe). I would also enjoy becoming a “low reeds doubler” of sorts who specialized in A/T/B saxophone, bassoon, and bass clarinet.
Play with a professional show
Improving skills on my secondary instruments
Practice more
Try oboe again, but need an instrument.
learning oboe
Owning all the instruments most often seen in a reed 1 boom
Learn the double reeds. Play in a big tour/original production or West end. Study a multi woodwind degree, Play in an ensemble on just flute.
Do a paid gig
To sub on additional Broadway shows.
Just to get better?
To create my own music
Fluency in bassoon/flute, making multitrack videos which allow me to get chops up for wider array of woodwinds
A true Broadway gig, but that will have to wait!
the abilities of playing on each instruments at the same level as my primary instrument.
I achieved a tenure-track position this year. That was my goal. I need a new goal!
To play in national level musical theatre
Bassoon
Still working on tenor sax. I plan to branch out from the greater flute family at some point but reeds are incredibly different and require much more work on my end before I’ll feel comfortable with them.
To achieve the same level of proficiency as my main instrument.
Get better on flute
Study of double reeds
playing all my instruments at approximately a college undergraduate level, learning the oboe (no money for one yet), acquiring more of the secondary instruments (alto flute, bass clarinet, more saxophones – no money for those either)
Playing in some shows that, musically, are extremely complex and would be very challenging.
Full time woodwind playing work
Get pit work regularly
Mastery of oboe and bassoon.
Being proficient on all of the major woodwind family of instruments.
More Broadway shows as a local hire
I still want to get my flute and clarinet playing strong enough to do work in an orchestral setting
To be better at Oboe and Flute.
I would like to have regular, paid doubling gigs.
Improvise at the level I want to on oboe and english horn. Also to buy my own bass clarinet and set of low flutes.
I still need to improve my flute chops
Perform at the Dallas Summer Musicals
Publish a book on woodwind pedagogy, record a multiple woodwinds album and form a woodwind doubling chamber ensemble.
Would like to own every saxophone and eventually learn the double reed instruments
I want to reach the level of a Broadway doubler. Eddie Daniels is one of my heros.
Record more standard solo works on various woodwind doubles
Piccolo has always been a struggle for me and i would like to get some proficiency on that
Improve my clarinet playing.
Bringing my secondary instrument (Oboe) to the level of my primary instrument (Saxophone)
Take oboe lessons and become a stronger oboist
Would like to be called for more musicals
Learn Bassoon, Get clarinet to a very high level. Play on Broadway
Play musical theatre show on flute which is my weakest instrument
I would like to get better at bassoon and low reeds.
learn bass clarinet, and get hired for gigs on only secondary instrument[s]
buying a pro flute and reaching the same level on flute as my clarinet and sax. I might be interested in learning oboe later.
To improve my sax playing so that it is the same standard as my other instruments
Would like to get into folk woodwinds more.
I want to spend more time on improving my flute, sax, and bassoon to match my level on clarinet (the instrument I studied longest/most). My doubles are fine for playing shows and I have not run into any issues performing on them, but I know that there are areas of my playing on those instruments that I want to improve with continued study.
Bassoon.
Adding a 3rd instrument
I would love to woodwind double professionally. My dream is to be able to have a seat in a Broadway orchestra or on a cruise ship. I am also trying to get accepted to a woodwind doubling program in college (I’m a high school junior right now).
I play sax primarily, can play clarinet and oboe, want to be proficient on flute
Double reeds in musicals
Would like to play on a Broadway tour
Consistent musical theater doubler.
Playing on Broadway eventually
– to play every single woodwind instrument as best as possible. The listener should not hear differences between your primarly and secondary instruments.
– someday to play in NYC in a broadway show as a sub :-)
Playing in regional tours of Broadway shows, or playing in pits for more local/professional productions
Hoping to do my first doubling gig this fall!
I would like to add piccolo and alto flute capacity. I’d like to purchase a new high quality bass clarinet.
Play a Broadway show tour.
Making use of electronic wind instruments more mainstream in theatre pits as an alternative to shifting multiple parts to keyboards.
Saxophone altissimo work
College professor of one or more woodwind instrument
Sub on Broadway. Work to diversity Musical Theatre Pit Orchestras nation-wide through social justice initiatives.
I would like to achieve semi-professional level in at least one of my instrument families, and get paid to perform in a doubling context.
Permanent musical theatre pit orchestra member.
I’m looking to study clarinet in college, not necessarily in a woodwind-doubling context, but I would like to work both as a doubler and as a classical musician after college.
Playing certain musical theatre shows like Phantom of the Opera.
To get more comfortable with my flute playing. I’d like to get more comfortable with my technique in all registers so less overall practice is required when I take a flute gig. I’d also like to improve my tone quality so I feel less like an imposter when performing on flute.
Get better at my doubles
Wish I could play flute. Wish I owned a bari sax and a bass clarinet.
Adding bassoon— the final frontier!
Masters in multiple woodwinds
I want to play as a permanent member of a national/ international tour and possibly play on Broadway some day.
I would like to play in musicials, and i would like to become fluent on all 5 of the woodwind family members.
Learn to play oboe
I would very much like to improve my skills on flute.
I would like to play a doubling book for an original musical & record its cast album. Also, as a young student, my goal was to work towards a permanent doubling seat on Broadway. But now as an adult, I realize that theater can be made anywhere & there are other major cities producing fine theater.
Playing in professional level theatre orchestra
None to be honest. I’m completely satisfied with the opportunities I’ve had and there’s nothing really left on my doubling bucket list.
Feel confident taking a musical theatre gig with heavier flute requirements.
To better my double reed proficiency. I’ve taken oboe lessons for six months during Covid and improved significantly, but I need to purchase a different bassoon with short-reach keys before I can do much with it.
Play for a professional tour
Play in musicals at Broadway.
Getting my flutes chops on the same level as my sax/clarinet abilities. Improvising, particularly on flute.
Play more recitals.
Play for a professional level theater production
Being versatile enough on all the secondary instruments to not be nervous for a theatre or session call.
Playing for touring theatre shows
Technique-wise, get to a solid skill level on flute, bass clarinet, and soprano/baritone sax, and improve my tenor chops. In the future (after college), I’d like to be able to make a living at least partially from doubling in musical pits/cruise ships/etc.
Broadway!
To play in a pit on Broadway. Be a part of a studio recording
There are a few shows I’d like to do still.
I aim to play with characteristic expression & tone color on all my instruments, and to feel as comfortable improvising on all my instruments as I do on my primary.
I have yet to enter the world of paid doubling gigs, as many of my instruments are newly acquired. I’d love to double in a pit band/orchestra for theatre or similar.
Maintaining skills is a challenge. Steady practice time.
Acquiring a larger number of students on my secondary instruments
Release a jazz album displaying all my doubles on improvised solos.
To be known as a doubler on all 5 major woodwinds
Experience most of the major wind instruments
Learning bassoon
Improvising as comfortably on doubles, as on saxophone (primary instrument)
Play with a touring Broadway musical
Met my career goals, in general.
Making music with some of the best musicians in the world
doctoral level degree and college teaching
To be widely known as the best in my market.
Learn bassoon
Get the double reeds going, starting with Bassoon
A few more recordings I wish to do.
Get better on saxes
The goal is to be as proficient on clarient as saxophone.
I would like to get a gig in a significant production outside of community theater.
I would like to become proficient on all saxophones
Growth as an improviser, not only in “traditional” jazz, but also in folk/world and contemporary/avant-garde stlyes;
increased mastery of contemporary playing techniques (multiphonics, microtonality, etc.) on all instruments;
recording projects (multi-track and single instrument);
Possibly authoring pedagogical materials for aspiring doublers, especially aspiring double Reed musicians
Getting the last two familes of woodwinds up to the level of my “primary” three. Also, buy a contrabassoon.
learning bassoon
Be more regularly employed locally, without touring
Playing all instruments at a more accomplished level. If not then understanding better to be a better teacher of each instrument.
Solo recording with own arrangements
Extended technique knowledge/facility on “secondary” instruments
Master flute
Would love to do a few pro show seasons or even just sub.
Bring up the double reeds to a higher standard!
I’d love to become equally proficient in every woodwind instruments.
Getting in a Broadway musical pit
Be able to play flute equally well as clarinet and saxophone, buy an oboe/be able to use it as a double for theater and/or jazz big band, become a regularly contracted musician in my local professional theater scene

What are your proudest or most significant achievements as a woodwind doubler?

Responses given here in random order and lightly edited.

Playing my first book without a primary instrument.
Giving degree recitals on all of them.
Playing at major university graduation ceremonies
Being able to play flute proficiently as a sub on a show in Florida. I no longer have to transpose flute parts on the clarinet!
Getting into a DMA program in Multiple Woodwinds
Performed West Side Story multiple times.
Being able to teach beginners in middle school band settings and help them see it’s possible to do more than one. One student has gone on to become proficient in multiple woodwinds and is considering it for employment after college because of this setup.
Cover an Oboe/Eng Horn pit orchestra part after 6 weeks of playing (after not playing oboe for 30 years).
I’ve been a hired member of a national tour.
That sometimes at a gig people will think I’m a clarinetist until they hear me play the saxophone. The other proudest achievement was getting that look people give you when something really stood out in a good way, and it was after one of the piccolo solos in the Addam’s Family Reed 1 book
Helping with a workshop production of a new musical
Generally speaking, the times that I have been able to take what was once a double and represent myself as a specialist on that instrument are the memories that stand out (ex. playing principal chair or a major solo in an orchestra on my former “double,” performing on a former “double” at major a conference). Nothing too major to report here. :)
Feeling confident enough in my abilities to accept any and all doubling gigs… and getting called back to do more
Professional oboe/English horn playing
25 years in the Orpheum theater orchestra in Memphis.
Performing with a major musical production touring through the city. Also performing with one of the finest opera companies on earth (though not as a doubler)
Touring with a show and getting to know the other band members
Playing the oboe/English horn parts on WEST SIDE STORY and TUCK EVERLASTING.
Learning to play the flute to a professional standard
Getting non-doubling gigs on my secondary instruments as it makes me feel like I am legit on them rather than the stereotype of just a doubler who is dabbling.
Playing my first pit gig on oboe and tenor saxophone, and mostly teaching myself tenor sax and clarinet
Performing in over a hundred different groups / situations.
Being asked to play an off Broadway tour
Feeling adequate enough to finally step up and attempt flute for a live gig (Drowsy Chaperone)
I achieved a tenure-track position as assistant professor of flute and clarinet.
Traveling with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, being a first call sub at a union opera house.
my first season as a gig muscian
My proudest accomplishment was subbing on a few shows on Broadway, and having it all go well! I worked very hard preparing the books and following all of the advice I was given by peers and past teachers. The recurring positive comments I have heard from other reed players, music directors, and contractors has confirmed that I am on the right path. Working as a regular sub on Broadway has been one of my greatest performance (and life) accomplishments.
Depping in the west end
Being able to do orchestral excerpts better than majors – eg rhapsody in blue opening excerpt better than a clarinet major
Also getting recognised for my efforts.
Getting a contra alto clarinet solo in a wind ensemble.
Making a living on Broadway in NYC
One of my proudest achievements as a woodwind doubler was learning the book for my first show as a doubler. Another achievement was playing the Oboe/English Horn book in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I wasn’t proficient with double reeds at the time, so I transposed the whole book to saxophone! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. Getting to play in a show gives me such a sense of joy!
Getting props from Edgar Meyer while playing contrabass clarinet on his own bass concerto
composing and performing a concerto for woodwind doubler and orchestra
One of only very few people within a 100km radius that plays all five woodwind families at a pro level, and owns the instruments.
Playing major difficult community theater pits like West Side Story and Chicago.
Being the teacher of record on two different instruments at a major university.
playing as a local hire of broadway tours in multiple cities in the region
Don’t know if this counts: In High School, after my sophomore year, our only oboe player graduated. My band director asked if I wanted to learn oboe over the summer, so I did. Played it the next two years in concert band (while playing alto sax in jazz band)
Graduating with my Masters in Multiple Woodwind Performance from NJCU! (And seeing my students succeed due to my skills as a doubler/educator.)
Being the first call for many of the Music Directors in my area.
Making oboe reeds that work!
When I first made a decent sound on a flute and then again on piccolo.
Being able to sight read the music on tenor sax an clarinet. Being able to cover my own part w/out another player sitting next to me to cover the clarinet part.
I played the whole run of community theater Once Upon a Mattress splitting both the horn book and the oboe book. (1/2 the run on horn, 1/2 the run on oboe)
Doubling in a jazz band
Getting paid as a doubler in a community theater setting, which is what I love doing.
West Side Story
Making first woodwind chair in a regonal production of “The Wizard Of Oz”
Appearing on several albums and soundtracks
Subbing on shows with lots of fast horn changes, difficult technical passages, and exposed solos, and doing it well. Finding time to practice, heh.
A collegiate musical premiere
At a read-through, playing more accurately than my colleagues
1. Recital with a world-class pianist, playing major literature on flute, clarinet, and alto sax. 2. Subbing flute/picc/clarinet/sax book on the 1st National tour of Les Miz with no rehearsal
My reputation as a doubler has grown and people identify my musicianship with this skill.
Subbing for Beautiful a Carole King Musical National Tour!
Being able to play what I’m needed to play on the instrument wanted.
Playing almost all of the woodwind books of West Side Story during various production runs.
Broadway shows
Broadway
Being able to play nearly any woodwind asked for
Oboe
West Side Story WW books…having played 3 different books over different shows.
I can now fluently cross the break on clarinet.
Playing on Broadway and LA Studio work. I also currently play on all the Disney on Ice recordings.
Being able to play at a level on each instrument where people assume each instrument is my only instrument
Playing more professional gigs that more heavily involved doubles, even gigs only on doubles (no saxophone)
Playing some sax heavy show books, laughing about my soprano sax debut.
Being able to come into a sub situation and knock it out of the park. I’ve gotten most of my regular gigs from subbing in musicals and jazz bands.
Getting the opportunity to play the pre-Broadway run of Frozen
Being on two national Broadway tours
Playing for Penn State School of Theatre productions.
Performing as a guest artist at the Aspen Music Festival on flute, clarinet, saxophone, and oboe
Learning oboe/English horn on request from beginner to anchoring the chair for a production of Les Mis in 6 months, and playing well enough that everyone who didn’t know me thought I was an oboist and asked to hire me for orchestra gigs only on oboe. 😂
I was part of a professional recording session in high school. In graduate school, I got to play in a side-by-side performance with the local professional orchestra.
Sight-reading on Broadway
Developing my abilities on my secondary instruments to gain enough confidence to seek out gigs including those instruments, knowing that I can manage them reasonably.
Arranging wind books and playing all three for an album
Playing a show where i had to cover sax and clarinet parts out of 5 reed books because the only other WW player was flute/piccolo. I basically made my own book.
got a call when the band need some doubles
Reed 2 – Music Man
An American in Paris – Westchester Broadway Theatre 2019
Moving to a new area and almost immediately getting gigs – also companies enjoying my playing and keeping me in the loop
professional work
Playing 7 instruments in one show; flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, soprano/alto/tenor saxophone.
Getting the opportunity to play for a filled production of beauty and the beast for Disney’s “Encores!”
Phone rings again
Playing clarinet/bass clarinet in my university’s top orchestra, subbing on clarinet in a semi-professional orchestra, playing clarinet/bass clarinet/alto flute on a Gil Evans repertory concert and getting complimented by a flute professor who didn’t know me
I was very hesitant to write this, as the gig has not happened yet. — But I recently booked a Broadway tour as a permanent member. I will be going later this year. I feel that this is a major milestone for me & it’s something ive been working towards since my youth.
Hearing my students progress.
I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to play so many different musical theater productions.
Having others in the ensemble not be able to tell which instruments are my primary/secondary
Getting a (part-time) University job before even completing my Masters.
Making a respectable living performing full-time as a doubler.
Being able to hold my own in an orchestra section on my secondary (bassoon in this case)
Playing a regional broadway show.
Top call woodwind doubler in Houston and playing An American in Paris movie score with the Houston Symphony (tenor sax/Bb clarinet)
Being able to read and pick up most parts on the spot, and being able to translate jazz improvisation to doubles
Live performance concerts with stars traveling to town to perform.
Being able to go from tenor sax to clarinet w/out a glitch. Really being able to nail the parts.
Subbing on Broadway, hearing myself in a film score for the first time.
extending my flute register was so rewarding, something i struggled with for a while.
Being asked by the music director of a show I was subbing in , which instrument was my primary. She could not tell.
Recording an album last year
called again by the contractor of a big city musical show a second time :-)
Performing as Reed 1 at the American Repertory Theater.
Making music with some of the best musicians in the world
6 Instruments on one musical.
I have enjoyed being able to play across multiple books with facility. I enjoy the challenge of performing multiple woodwinds at a single performance (typically a musical).
Subbing on a well known and long-standing Broadway musical.
Having a fine violinist in NYC tap me on the shoulder with her now and ask which of my six instruments in the gig was my first instrument. Of course I never told her
International competition wins on multiple instruments
I agreed to play a production is Oklahoma, knowing it would REALLY stretch my clarinet chops. I knew I’d be playing 2nd, to a far superior clarinetist/friend so I thought it would be great. All the bass was in the 2nd book, so she took that and said “You’re on 1st. Have fun!” It was terrifying, at first, but ended up being one of my best experiences and that one run raised my clarinet chops from passable (at best) to a place I felt confident, moving forward, taking predominantly clarinet books.
Receiving a return call to play from a contractor.
Live tv, session work, pro theatre
Being able to switch onto clarinet and still feel somewhat comfortable. Being given a very heavy doubling book all to myself show coming up!)
Playing West Side Story professionally.
Finally feeling comfortable on all my doubles but always more to learn
Regular, paid theater work at a local professionally managed theater
The Cor Anglais solo in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Forty years on Broadway, Concerts, recordings, tours
Working in musical theatre
Learning to play the Eb Clarinet for a specific gig.
Playing for a major cancer fundraiser cabaret event, personal connection and great musicians.
Playing the original US production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dixieland and ragtime solos in musicals on secondary instrument, playing with a group of reeds where everyone is formally trained on their primary and very very good on the others
I have fairly quickly become one of the top woodwind players in the area and I (under normal circumstances) often have more offers to perform than will fit in my schedule. What more could I ask for?
Playing in the orchestra for the premiere of “Ain’t Too Proud”
Playing for touring musicals in Denver
Played in 117 different shows on Broadway
Become a competent oboist
Creating Doublers Collective
Touring Broadway show local hire.
I recorded an an album that featured a set of original music and features myself as a soloist on 10 different woodwinds.
Played on a few Broadway shows that passed through town
Broadway and first national tours.
Playing an entire reed book for a musical is very satisfying, particularly as a non-major/non-career musician
Performing on multiple secondary instruments that I taught myself and haven’t played very much and being successful. Playing 6 instruments for one Broadway musical.
Playing in multiple ensembles for fun
learning and playing in two community theatre performances at the same time
Community theatre is enough for me!😁 at least thus far
Playing the flute in a show, and people commenting that they thought it was an actual flutist. Playing clarinet in a Dixieland group.
High level of ability across most major woodwind families, high level of flexibility, and ability to learn quickly (either styles or instruments)
Hired to play flute books on shows
Playing several touring shows as local hire. Being by company to play in another city because they liked my work.
That I can play multiple instruments
Playing (tenor/clarinet) with Lady Gaga in her Jazz & Piano show in Vegas. Outside of that, all of the subbing I’ve done on production shows and musicals.
National Tour
Becoming the alto sax player at six flags fiesta texas
easily switching between different families of winds
Being reviewed by you!
When someone thinks a double is my primary
Building a solid reputation as being a great musician and nice person.
Woodwind-doubling has checked items of my bucket list I never knew I had! Because of doubling, I have gotten to tour the world and have landed in a lovely corner of the world.
Touring Japan with a show. Also performing with celebrity artists like Johnny Mathis
Reading an entire musical book that used 98% flute
I have a contracted position in a pit orchestra where I play over 100 performances per year.
My flute sound.
Masters recital at UNT where I performed on all five woodwind instruments
1. Writing and recording my own works. 2. Film scores
Being able to play both flute and dizi for multiple concerts in a wide variety of musical group types (ethnic orchestra, concert band, guitar ensemble, etc.)
Being told that they couldn’t tell what my primary instrument was.
Traveling with a production to perform at the International Thespian Society Conference in Nebraska
Playing flute for the first time in a show this weekend!:)) Being flexibile!:) Being able to play so many shows!:)
Flute: learning Nielsen’s flute concerto
Clarinet: learning the Brahms sonatas
Saxophone: final recording project (small group jazz) for my undergraduate degree
Being hired to do full performances on secondary instruments
Being the first to incorporate electronic wind instruments into professional theatre pits in my area.
Talking about ocarinas long enough that people around me became interested in the instrument, eventually resulting in the credits song of this piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92HX8Zstijs
I landed myself on a national tour of a musical
Getting a gig where I had to play 14 instruments in one night, while simultaneously compèring for the event!
Becoming just as sufficient on flute as the other flute majors at my university.
playing bassoon and contrabass clarinet for my university’s production of a musical after having “played” clarinet for all of six weeks
Winning a Premier Military Big Band seat
I had to pick up clarinet for a university jazz gig after having not played in about two years and it went really well.
Hired for a show at a professional summer stock theater
Some shows made me get good at instruments. For example bass clarinet and clarinet.
I’m proud of when I played reed 3 on Annie as it was the first time I did a show that didn’t include my primary instrument.
Playing a show with a Bari on a harness and making the switch to the bass clarinet in 4 beats
I am most proud of getting into a Master’s degree and switching from a flute primary to oboe primary.
Being the only doubler in high school band concerts
I received two awards for “best instrumentalist” in high school for two different instruments. It allowed me to get a significant music scholarship.
Being a big band MD commissioning new works and being able to offer composers the choice of lots of woodwinds
Getting my first paid gig in a pit band
Playing in various orchestras with directors on different Instruments at different times, and then not suspecting that I wasn’t on my primary instrument.

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 3: training/education

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

I got 284 responses, an improvement over 2011’s 187. The numbers for each of these questions don’t necessarily add up to exactly that number, since not everybody responded to every question.

Which was your first instrument, among the major woodwinds?

2021 Data
flute3713%
oboe135%
clarinet10638%
bassoon62%
saxophone11942%
none of these apply1~0%
2011 Data
flute2212%
oboe105%
clarinet7741%
bassoon53%
saxophone7339%

Which of these have been part of your education on woodwind instruments?

2021 Data
school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)26293%
private lessons outside of school24888%
summer camps18867%
university band/orchestra program24185%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds2710%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration18265%
bachelors-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program11139%
university/conservatory masters degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds3512%
university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration7527%
masters-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program3111%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds104%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration249%
doctoral-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program62%
other university/conservatory music degree or certification145%
self-taught on one or more instruments16759%
2011 Data
school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)17594%
private lessons outside of school17091%
summer camps13170%
university band/orchestra program14376%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds2714%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration9752%
university/conservatory masters degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds137%
university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration3720%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds42%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration53%
other university/conservatory music degree or certification126%
self-taught on one or more instruments11863%

What factors influenced you first to get involved in woodwind doubling?

Besides the provided answers, several of you included personal anecdotes of influences including boredom, norms of the early music scene, orthodontia and injuries, career aspirations like instrument repair and studio work, and the Lawrence Welk Show.

2021 data
just interested in more than one instrument20272%
required/helpful for a jazz (or other improvisatory music) group you played in or wanted to play in13949%
had or wanted opportunities to play for musical theater19670%
influenced by a teacher or role model13648%
wanted to improve employability13849%
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) needed someone to play a specific instrument, and you were willing to learn it11842%
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) didn’t include the instrument you already played and you needed to learn another4616%
your training/experience as a teacher required you to branch out5620%
2011 Data
just interested in more than one instrument40
required/helpful for a jazz (or other improvisatory music) group you played in or wanted to play in37
had or wanted opportunities to play for musical theater35
influenced by a teacher or role model23
wanted to improve employability19
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) needed someone to play a specific instrument, and you were willing to learn it19
your training/experience as a teacher required you to branch out9

What sources have you used to learn about or otherwise engage with woodwind doubling?

Besides the provided answers, nine of you wrote in something to the effect of “lessons” or “teachers,” which I didn’t include as an option because I covered formal training in other questions. A few of you also wrote in “YouTube,” which I have lumped in with “social media sites.”

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.