The practice grew out of the need for players to cover parts on more than one instrument in the big bands of the 1920’s and 30s, and spread to the pits of Broadway shows and the TV staff orchestras at NBC and CBS. Saxophonists were initially expected to double on the clarinet until it was largely replaced by the flute in the 50’s, as it saw more acceptance in jazz. The 60’s brought new colors, adding oboe and bassoon parts for doublers—or triplers—to deal with, until players such as the legendary Romeo Penque appeared on the New York studio scene prepared to play every woodwind instrument known to man, often in quick succession, a situation further complicated by the re-emergence of the clarinet on the 1980’s. I counted over 20 instruments stacked up in front of the five-piece reed section of the Maria Schneider Orchestra at a recent concert.
I recently got my own copy of The Woodwind Anthology, a massive two-volume collection of articles from The Instrumentalist and Flute Talk magazines. I’ve used this anthology from various university libraries throughout my long college education, and found it to be a go-to source for pedagogy classes and comprehensive exam preparation.
I’ve been reading The Woodwind Player’s Cookbook, published last year by Meredith Music and edited by Charles West. It’s a collection of 57 pedagogical essays by a pretty impressive roster of woodwind folks. You can download the table of contents here to see the authors and titles.
I always enjoy Patty Mitchell’s “BQOD” (Blog Quotes Of the Day) over at oboeinsight. I’m in the thick of dissertation writing these days (technically, it’s “doctoral document” writing, since I’m working on a DMA, not a PhD), and this morning I ran across a couple of items that won’t make it into the finished product but are too fun to keep to myself. And so I present my Dissertation/Document Research Quotes Of the Day: Continue reading “DRQOD: Ghandarvas and powdered wigs”→
I 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? Continue reading “Review: Improve Your Doubling, by Chris Vadala”→
The New GroveDictionary of Music and Musicians is widely used by college music students and is regarded by most (for better or for worse) as the unimpeachable source of all musical knowledge. In my studies for upcoming doctoral comprehensive exams, I ran across this in the “Flute” article:
Materials used for the tube and mechanism include nickel-silver, sterling silver, gold and platinum, while the springs are usually of tempered steel or phosphor bronze, occasionally of gold or another metal. The choice of material, especially for the head joint, influences the flute’s tone: wooden flutes produce a rich tone with a very full fortissimo in the lower register; metal flutes produce a limpid, flexible tone with great carrying power and also allow the player very sensitive control over the tone-colour; gold produces a mellow sound while silver is more brilliant. To achieve a combination of these qualities a head joint of wood or gold is sometimes fitted to a tube of silver.
The idea of different materials having different sounds is, of course, seen as conventional wisdom by flutists (and indeed by wind players in general), but it flies in the face of 100 years of acoustical science. Continue reading “New Grove on flute materials”→