Review: Multiple-woodwinds works by Darren Lord

I heard recently from Paul Saunders, whose compositions and publications for multiple woodwinds I have previously reviewed. He called my attention to an astonishing number of recent multiple-woodwinds compositions by Darren Lord, a musical director, keyboardist, and more who has worked on London’s West End theater scene.

At the time of this writing, Lord’s music for multiple woodwinds includes:

  • Five volumes of mostly musical-theater-style pieces for multiple woodwinds soloist, with piano or downloadable fully-orchestrated backing tracks (with synthesized orchestra). Most or all of these pieces can also be purchased individually. (I got to look in detail at volume 2 for this review.)
  • Five recital-type pieces for multiple woodwinds soloist with piano.
  • Six pieces for quartets of multiple woodwinds players.

All can be purchased on Lord’s website. There are also extensive audio demos, some played by Saunders and some synthesized.

These are high-quality, worthy additions to the multiple woodwinds repertoire. And the sheer quantity and variety of available material should make Mr. Lord’s website a certain stop for anyone looking for pieces for study or performance.

I’ve made a substantial update to my Music for woodwind doublers page to include these pieces. Please continue to keep me updated on new or rediscovered multiple woodwinds repertoire!

Favorite blog posts, August 2021

See the woodwind blogs I’m following, and suggest others!

How to behave at your first classical music concert, and why it’s so weird

woman playing violin in front of people

I hope you enjoy your first classical music performance! Sometimes the etiquette can seem a little foreign. I’ll try to help you understand what to do, and why classical music fans do things that way.

The most important thing is not to distract the audience and the performers. Some common concert etiquette “rules” include:

  • Be in your seat before the music starts. Then, stay there until intermission (if there is one) or the end of the concert.
  • Don’t talk, even at a whisper.
  • Keep cell phones silenced, screens off, and put away.
  • No snacks.
  • If you have kids who might have trouble staying still/quiet, consider leaving them at home. (Except for designated family-friendly concerts.)
  • Applaud only at the “right” times. (More on this later.)
  • Avoid unnecessary fidgeting, coughing, and anything else that makes noise.

Why are the “rules” so strict? One reason is that classical music is usually performed in a special concert hall. Usually the music isn’t electronically amplified. The concert hall’s special design makes even the smallest sounds clear from a distance. That’s good when it’s a hushed moment in a violin solo. But it’s bad when it’s an audience member’s crinkling candy wrappers or ringtone. At an amplified rock, country, or hip-hop concert you can make noises like that, and no one will hear. But at a classical music concert people might hear those sounds even if they are far away. The performers can maybe even hear them from the stage.

Classical music wasn’t always such a stuffy affair. Some of the music was originally performed in more boisterous settings. And there are people in classical music interested in changing the current etiquette. But for now, the (mostly-unspoken) “rules” lean toward pretty strict and formal behavior.

And, for classical music fans, it’s one of the things they might love about it. The quiet atmosphere is a blank, unblemished canvas for the musicians to paint on. It’s chance to hear every fine detail of a performance by highly-trained musicians. It can be immersive and meditative. You might find you enjoy it too.

To seasoned classical music fans, a disruptive audience member (even unintentionally!) might feel like someone standing in front of the TV during a crucial moment in the big football game. And, unfortunately, they might react like a sports fan, with dirty looks, unkind words, or other rudeness. That’s bad too, because it can scare away potential new fans of classical music. But it probably comes from a place of wanting to experience the music in a pure, uninterrupted way.

A polite audience member also shows appreciation to the performers, usually with applause (not so much yelling, whistling, “woo,” etc.). But pieces of classical music sometimes have multiple parts, with silence between. It can be tricky to know when is the right time to clap. If there’s a printed program, that might help you figure it out. But if you’re not sure it’s best to follow the lead of some of the other concertgoers. (There’s no prize for being the first one to clap.) Sometimes there’s a long silence between the end of the music and the start of the applause. Audience members may be waiting for the last note to finish echoing in the hall. And they might even wait a little longer to savor the magical moment of silence at the end. Don’t worry. The musicians will appreciate that too, and won’t take your hesitation as a lack of enthusiasm.

If you find all this off-putting, there are ways to appreciate classical music performances from home instead. If you enjoy it you can work up to an in-person concert. Or you may be able to find free or inexpensive concerts in your area, especially if there’s a university with a music department. You can try one of those and leave at intermission if you’re bored or uncomfortable.

Thanks for your interest in live classical music, and I hope you enjoy!

Becoming a professional musician

person holding white paper

Sometimes when my students get paying engagements for the first time, I joke with them that they are now “professional” musicians. That’s true in a sense, but I think there’s more that goes into being a true professional.

If you are a college student aspiring to be a professional musician, here are some things you might ask yourself:

  • Am I reliably on time to things?
  • Do I always have a pencil? Extra reeds? Whatever else is needed?
  • Do I show up to rehearsals with my parts learned and ready?
  • Am I self-motivating when it comes to practicing?
  • Am I pleasant and cooperative on a gig or in a rehearsal?
  • Am I easy to contact, and prompt about replying?
  • Is my closet stocked with clean, sharp gig apparel?
  • Do I keep my instruments well-maintained?
  • Do I have a sense of what my time and talents are worth, and a firm but polite way of expressing that?
  • Do I meet and exceed my teachers’ expectations?
  • Am I willing to play any part, including the less-prestigious ones? Am I willing to put my best into supporting someone else’s solo moment, even if I think that opportunity should have been mine?
  • Have I recorded myself lately? Did I come away from it with some ideas of what needs improvement?
  • What are the most common issues my teachers or ensemble directors mention about my playing? Am I addressing those in a focused way?
  • Am I responsive to useful criticism, thick-skinned against non-useful criticism, and able to tell the difference?
  • Is there anything about my playing or demeanor that would cause stress to someone who hired me for a gig? Am I currently stressing out my teachers, directors, or fellow students?

Graduation from college doesn’t guarantee you any gigs. Become the person that other musicians want to work with.

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.

Favorite blog posts, July 2021

See the woodwind blogs I’m following, and suggest others!

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.

Favorite blog posts, June 2021

See the woodwind blogs I’m following, and suggest others!

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.

Ada, OK
Ada, Oklahoma
Archer City, Texas
around Boston
Around Raleigh, North Carolina
Asheville, NC
Ashland, KY
Auburn, ME
Austin TX
Austin, TX
Baltimore, MD area
Bangkok, Thailand
Berlin, CT
Birmingham, England (studying)
Bolivar, MO
Cambridge, UK
Centra Michigan
Charlotte, NC
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
Chicago Suburbs
Chicago suburbs
Cleveland OH
Coburg, OR (but still gig in San Jose, CA, my previous residence)
Comerío, Puerto Rico.
Conroe, TX (40 miles north of downtown Houston)
Coopersburg, PA
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
Fort Worth, Texas
Fresno, Ca.
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 TX
Houston, TX
Iowa USA
Jersey City
Kanagawa, Japan* (originally from Maine)
Kansas City metro area
Lancaster area PA
Lancaster, CA
Las Vegas
Las Vegas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Liverpool, NY
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, TN
Memphis,TN USA
Metro Atlanta
Miami, FL
Miami, Florida
Middleton Massachusetts
Midwest U.S.
Milwaukee WI
Minneapolis, MN
Montgomery, AL
Myrtle Beach, SC
Nashville, TN
Nashville, TN
Nashville, TN
Near Eugene Oregon
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
NY area
Ocean Reef, Perth, Western Australia
Oklahoma City
Orlando, Florida
Oxford, UK
Perth, Western Australia
Pickering, ON Canada
Piedmont Triad Area of North Carolina
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
Seattle, WA
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF Bay Area
SF South Bay Area
SF South Bay Area
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
Toronto CA -> Greensboro,NC
Toronto, Canada
Troy, AL
Trumansburg, NY
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
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 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 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
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
Rockland County Concert Band
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (studying)
Sam Houston state
Saxophone with ***
School band
Schriener University
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 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 Musician
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
VVGO, RSO, UFB – virtual ensembles.
WAAPA – Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
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.