Review: Improve Your Doubling, by Chris Vadala

Improve Your DoublingI only know of one etude book geared toward woodwind doublers, and it’s Chris Vadala’s Improve Your Doubling: Advanced Studies for Doublers (Dorn Publications, 1991).

Mr. Vadala is on my list of “notable woodwind doublers,” and certainly he is an outstanding player on single reeds and flute, but I think what makes him really notable in the (tiny) world of woodwind doubling is that he jumped on the opportunity to establish himself as an expert in the field, by writing this etude book and by contributing a semi-regular column, “Tips on Doubling,” in Saxophone Journal throughout the 1990’s. If you find yourself in the odd position of trying to do scholarly research on woodwind doubling (like I do, now and then), you find a lot of Chris Vadala and not much of anybody else.

So. I’m generally leery of anything that is “for doublers.” I don’t want, say, a clarinet mouthpiece “for doublers”—I want a clarinet mouthpiece for clarinetists. What do I want to sound like when I play the clarinet? A doubler? No. And so I find the idea of an etude book “for doublers” to be a little problematic—wouldn’t I be better off using the tried-and-true etude books for each individual instrument?

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Recommended: Jennifer Cluff’s flute blog

If you aren’t reading Jennifer Cluff’s blog, I highly recommend surfing on over and spending a few hours: www.jennifercluff.com/blog/

Ms. Cluff’s blog gets my vote for being the most useful woodwind-related blog currently on the web, with long and in-depth posts about flute playing, including, sometimes, answers to readers’ questions. There is really excellent stuff here for beginners and very advanced flutists alike. I just finished reading her latest post, on excess movement in flute playing. Ms. Cluff’s posts are sporadic but always worthwhile, so subscribe to the RSS feed if you’re cool like that.

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Learning to play a woodwind: is previous woodwind experience a disadvantage?

I teach a woodwind methods class as part of my graduate assistantship (and was the teaching assistant in the class for several years before teaching it on my own). In this class music education students get a crash course in playing and teaching the woodwind instruments, in preparation (too little!—but that’s another blog post) for careers as school band directors. My class is made up of woodwind players, brass players, percussionists, keyboardists, and even vocalists. It is interesting to see how to woodwind players fare in comparison to the non-woodwind players.

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Why I don’t loan out instruments

I am slowly building a good collection of high-quality instruments. It’s not easy to do that on a graduate student’s budget; I accomplish it by living frugally, saving carefully, shopping around, and generally putting a great deal of thought and planning into each purchase. I don’t buy instruments on credit. I protect my investments with conscientious care and maintenance, as well as an excellent insurance policy by a company that specializes in musical instrument coverage. (Incidentally, this policy quickly paid for itself, several times over, when there was an “incident” with my flute a couple of years ago. Seriously consider getting one if you don’t have one already!)

Every now and then someone asks to borrow an instrument from me. Often it will be a saxophonist who needs a flute or clarinet for a gig they have already agreed to play. My policy, which I have upheld almost perfectly for several years now, is simple: I don’t loan instruments to anybody, for anything, period.

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Doctoral multiple woodwinds exams

I am starting what hopefully will be my final year in pursuit of a doctoral degree in multiple woodwinds performance (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone). Today I kicked off five days of written comprehensive exams. In addition to a musicology exam and a music theory exam, I have been preparing for woodwind-related test questions such as these:

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Instrument stands for doublers: mini-reviews and a wish list

Recently I have been getting a bit of pit work from a nearby community theater. They like to do month-long runs of their shows, which means that the musical director often hires two or more people for each seat in the orchestra, so that they can trade off playing the show according to their availability. One little perk of this method is that often the woodwind player who does the first show leaves his or her instrument stands in the pit for the other doubler(s) to use, so I’ve gotten to try out a variety of stands lately in a real-life situation.

I have, of course, a number of stands of my own, most of which do a basically satisfactory job, but none of which I’m overwhelmingly enamored with.

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Sal Lozano on doubling

Los Angeles woodwind doubler Sal Lozano makes some basic points about flute-clarinet-saxophone doubling. This YouTube freebie appears to be a teaser for the video lessons you can purchase at Stars Teach Music, which has a surprisingly impressive roster of video woodwind teachers (mostly saxophonists).

I enjoyed this little clip by the esteemed Mr. Lozano, but I don’t think I would have paid the $4.97 for it at the commercial website.

Abe Weiss on practicing

I mentioned in a post yesterday how impressed I was by Abe Weiss‘s presentation at the IDRS conference. Mr. Weiss is principal bassoonist of the Rochester Philharmonic.

Here are a few points from his talk that stood out to me.

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IDRS 2008: Confirmed doubler sightings

I don’t usually think of the double reed crowd as being terribly interested in woodwind doubling, but there were a number of doublers (ranging from amateur to professional) present at the IDRS conference this year. I know of these ones:

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IDRS 2008 Conference report

I just got back from a fantastic week at the International Double Reed Society annual conference at Brigham Young University. The IDRS folks really know how to put on a great event, better than any of the various other instrumental organizations whose conferences I’ve attended. They seem to draw lots of high-caliber talent to perform and lecture, and everything is always impeccably organized. And being both an oboist and a bassoonist, IDRS is a nice two-for-one deal for me.

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