Doubling reminders for the day

February 12, 2009

Non-doublers often seem to think that the most amazing thing about doubling is keeping all the fingerings straight. I don’t find that to be a major problem; the keywork of each instrument feels different enough in my hands that I think I tend to switch into the right fingering mode automatically.

It’s the other stuff that’s a problem. I find I often need to give myself a few reminders as I’m setting down one instrument and picking up the next. Here’s the stuff that has been going through my mind lately—maybe one or more of these will click for you, too.

  • Flute: Remember to relax your face. Small aperture, large oral cavity. Keep the right hand pushed somewhat forward, so the flute is parallel to an imaginary line running between my ears—not necessarily parallel to my shoulders.
  • Oboe: Keep the teeth apart. Prepare the air well in advance of the articulation. Keep the embouchure flexible and mobile.
  • Clarinet: Keep the jaw forward a little. Keep the tongue high in the mouth, but relaxed. Chin and corners of the mouth firm but not cramped.
  • Bassoon: Play with an overbite. Don’t be afraid to move the jaw and embouchure, especially for good low note response.
  • Saxophone: Be sensitive to how much mouthpiece enters the mouth. The oral cavity has to be just right—too big, and the tone is tubby; too small, and the tone is pinched.

Know what your weaknesses are with each instrument. Make a short but specific list. Write it down, but commit it to memory, too. Go over each item briefly in your head as you pick up the instrument to play.

Good luck!

Comments

  1. Michael P

    I would also add that with flute (and to some degree the double reeds) a single reed player will need to make an effort to roll their lower lip slightly outward at first so that the two lips meet. I’ve seen several saxophone and clarinet players that roll their lower lip under the upper one when trying to play flute, with limited success.

    Unless the lips are parallel, for lack of a better description, you will not be able roll them in and out in order to make the slight adjustments that control dynamics and pitch.

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  2. Geoff Allen

    Good stuff!

    Currently, with flute, I’m trying to remember to a) cover more of the embouchure hole with the lower lip and b) turn down the corners of my lips. The relaxed face and small aperture are spot-on.

    And after a bit of flute and clarinet, I really have to remind myself to take in what feels like a LOT of mouthpiece on the tenor sax.

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