Posts in category “Woodwind playing and pedagogy”

February 12, 2019

Switching between saxophones

If you are an alto saxophone player and pick up a tenor or baritone for the first time, it’s pretty common to have a thin, weak tone, to be on the sharp side, to struggle with low note response, and to have issues like the top-of-the-staff G and G-sharp squeaking. If you are a tenor ...

January 22, 2019

Decrescendo to zero

Woodwind players often struggle with decrescendos that quit too soon. (“Decrescendi” if you prefer.) It’s pretty disappointing to play a graceful phrase and have the last note end abruptly instead of fading down smoothly to zero. There’s not a special technique to deploy in order to make successful decrescendos to niente. This delicate dynamic effect ...

January 15, 2019

Observing woodwind playing objectively

I have my woodwind methods classes do a lot of observing of woodwind playing. They comment on each other’s woodwind playing in class, write concert/recital reports, and make written comments on each other’s playing exams (for my eyes only). This is a crucial skill for their future teaching careers. I try to push them to ...

December 22, 2018

The difference between “student” and “professional” instruments

Visit a music store or an instrument maker’s website and you will frequently see band instruments sorted into categories like “student,” “intermediate/step-up,” and “professional.” It’s important to understand that these distinctions are not bound to any specific criteria, and not policed by any governing body. The labels have a lot to do with target market, ...

December 14, 2018

FAQ: Ligatures

These are questions I am often asked about clarinet or saxophone ligatures, by blog readers or by my students. Is there a ligature that can accomplish _____ for me? If you are looking for something to hold the reed onto the mouthpiece, then yes. If you are hoping to achieve something loftier, then probably not. ...

December 10, 2018

Things beginning band directors say to clarinet sections

Tough love for teachers of beginning clarinetists.

November 23, 2018

How to get 10 good reeds from a box

If you are getting less than 80% playable reeds from the boxes you are currently buying, buy different ones.

November 15, 2018

Planning breaths

When learning a new étude or repertoire piece, it’s common to practice at first with focus on the notes, often playing them at a slow tempo and/or divided into chunks. This is a good approach for mastering the needed finger technique, but it may neglect one of the crucial parts of a performance: breathing. In ...

October 29, 2018

Bassoon jaw movement: survey of published opinions

I was under the impression that there were advocates of jaw movement in bassoon articulation. A skimming of some pedagogical materials at hand seems to debunk this.

September 5, 2018

Music practice and technical debt

In a perfect world I would always tackle an issue head-on. In reality sometimes a looming performance means plastering over the problem and promising myself I'll fix it later, at a greater price.
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