Just a few to share this month:
Last fall, I had students in my university woodwind methods course select, evaluate, and vote on some online woodwind pedagogy resources they might like to use as future public school music teachers. (My blog is off-limits.) Once again, I’m going to share a sort of edited/curated version of the results.
This year, the votes got spread around quite a bit, but there were three articles that the class especially liked:
- Top 10 (+) Things That Beginning Clarinet Players Do Wrong and How to Correct Them, by Marilyn Mattei. My students were impressed with the troubleshooting ideas and solutions-oriented thinking. They successfully identified some areas that differ from what I teach in class, and made some thoughtful comments weighing the differences. They thought, correctly, that some of the exercises and techniques would be best used in a private lesson or sectional, rather than in a full beginning band rehearsal.
- Teaching the Beginning Bassoonist, by Terry Ewell. This is a repeat favorite from last year. (I may need to figure out a way to ensure that future classes don’t just recycle previous years’ selections from these blog posts.) My students appreciated the provided lesson plans, the level of detail, and the reassuring tone directed toward non-bassoonist band directors.
- The Flute Embouchure, by Bradley Garner. Students liked the depth of information, but disagreed on its presentation: some found the text clear and straightforward, but others found it dense reading.
A number of other articles got fewer votes. I’m listing, without additional comment and in no particular order, a few of those that I agree are worth a look:
- This annotated bassoon fingering chart
- Christa Garvey’s blog posts on embouchure and on breathing
- This article on the clarinet and the “break” [update: link dead]
- Some tips from Christina Guenther on teaching beginning flute
- Thomas J. West’s suggestions for non-clarinetists teaching the clarinet [update: link dead]
What I want my class to get from the assignment is a sense of how to sift through the information (“information”) available online, taking into account the author’s credentials or sources, a common-sense evaluation of ideas, and applicability to a particular teaching situation. Be careful out there.
- David Wells has updated his excellent bassoon fingering charts.
- Oboist Cooper Wright discusses shaper tip widths.
- Clarinetist Victoria Soames Samek suggests there are better options than just circling problem notes in your sheet music.
- Bassoonist Kristopher King explains the usage of the little finger whisper key. (Warning: auto-plays music. If you have a website, don’t do that.)
- John Witt reports on the Carolyn Hove English Horn Masterclasses, days 1 and 2 and days 3 and 4.
- Bassoonist Betsy Sturdevant warns about carrying musical instruments onto airplanes.
- Jennifer Cluff offers tips for cleaning a flute (spoiler alert: she suggests letting a professional do it).
- On the WindWorks Design blog, J. D. Smith shares a do-it-yourself modification for the Yamaha WX5 wind controller.
- Christa Garvey does some facial stretches for a tired oboe embouchure.
- Bassoon professor Christin Schillinger offers advice for musicians choosing a college.
- Saxophonist Anton Schwartz recommends “back-chaining” as a practice technique.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell muses on her choice to be a musician.
- Bassoonist Barry Stees continues his in-depth and insightful series on interpretation, with installments on motive and harmony.
- Flutist Cindy Ellis offers ten piccolo tips.
- Oboist Christa Garvey shares a breathing exercise for quieting performance nerves.
- Saxophonist Ben Britton experiments with some improved altissimo fingerings. And of course I would be remiss not to mention his very attractive saxophone fingering diagrams.
- Woodwind doubler Steve Moffet considers practicing instrument switches.
- Heather Roche catalogs extended clarinet articulation techniques.
- Bassonist David Pierce offers six words to inspire performers.
- Anna Norris explores some issues with beginners and the bassoon.
- Oboist Jill Cathey plays her scales backwards.
- Contraforte-ist Kristopher King shares his reed dimensions for this intriguing instrument.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell asks a question worth considering about music students and immunizations.
- Clarinetist Michael Dean addresses a surprising connection between posture and embouchure.
Here’s what I liked on the woodwind-related blogs this month:
- From Casa Valdez, some utterly fascinating recordings (with scores!) of Joe Viola playing overdubbed woodwinds. A must-see for doublers.
- I have been seeing this incredible video of Samuel Barber with the classic Philadelphia Orchestra Wind Quintet all over blogs and social media lately, but Donax Music was the first to bring it to my attention. Worth the half-hour.
- Saxophonist Jody Espina shares the concept he calls “Coltrones”—a sort of combination of long tones and transcription that can help you sound like Coltrane (and others).
- Oboist Jennet Ingle explains how your brain may be sabotaging your playing in a confused attempt to keep you alive, and offers tips for solving this problem.
- David Wells makes freely available his edition of Vivaldi G-minor bassoon concerto RV 495—solo part, score, and orchestral parts.
- Saxophonist Jeff Cunningham shares some tips on maintaining motivation to practice. Geared toward beginners, but solid concepts for experienced musicians as well.
- Trent Jacobs of Midwest Musical Imports does a brief video interview with bassoon maker Peter Wolf. It’s a little bit of an ad for Wolf/Midwest, but I’m a sucker for new technologies/materials in instrument manufacture, and Wolf is full of interesting ideas.
- Soprano saxophone specialist Sam Newsome walks us through a solo by Wayne Shorter (with video).
- Oboist Christa Garvey connects articulation to breathing.
- Saxophonist Bill Plake shares some ideas about attitude and progress toward musical goals.
- Maarten Vonk of Bassoon.com starts a kind of census of the world’s bassoonists.
- Clarinet Cache points out some resources for finding and reading clarinet dissertations.
- Bassoonist Jolene Mason wrestles with the competitive aspects of music and academia.
Enjoy, and keep writing good stuff!
Read these excellent mostly-woodwind-related blog posts from the past month, and thank me later:
- Bassoonist David Wells shares and comments on early 20th-century recordings of the Weber Andante e Rondo Ongarese by William Gruner and Fernand Oubradous.
- Multi-instrumentalist Mark Catoe shares some clear thinking about teaching the concept of time signature. This will benefit even some of my college students, who are still trying to shed the “quarter-note-is-always-one-beat-no-matter-what” misinformation they were fed years ago.
- Viviana Guzman at The Flute View declares the first Canadian Flute Convention a success.
- Sherman Friedland offers some comments about purchasing clarinets. He mentions a couple of specific makes and pulls no punches about his opinions, but regardless of your personal taste in instruments there are some general points worth drawing out: just because “everybody” uses one model doesn’t mean it’s the “best;” a good teacher is crucial to the process of obtaining a fine instrument and making it sing; and it doesn’t hurt anybody to at least consider the advantages of instruments made from non-traditional materials.
- Matt Stohrer explains why getting your saxophone overhauled is good for your playing and for your bottom line. Good advice for any woodwind player, really, though of course some of the instrument-specific details will differ.
- Oboist Christa Garvey gives college music majors some sage advice for the new academic year.
- Saxophonist Craig Buhler suggests that a joyful performance requires joyful practice.
- Clarinetist Meri Dolevski-Lewis gives some tips on reading (and, by extension, on writing) advertisements for private teaching. Also: tips on diversifying your musical income streams (including a strong case for woodwind doubling).
- Patty Mitchell shares a compelling argument, in video form, for learning the play the oboe the right way rather than looking for shortcuts. (Spoiler alert: It’s a demonstration of a single-reed mouthpiece for the oboe.)
- Christa Garvey reports on this year’s John Mack Oboe camp, and shares some masterclass notes. Her post about the fallacy of “doing more with dynamics” is really excellent, too. Christa wrote several other top-quality posts this month, but I’m going to just mention those two to avoid embarrassing everybody with my gushing.
- In other conference reports, David Davani covers ClarinetFest in a five-part series, and Robin Tropper tries out oboes at the IDRS conference in a series of extremely detailed posts.
- Saxophone repair genius Matt Stohrer takes a refreshingly rational look at the effect that a saxophone’s finish does or doesn’t have on its tone. (Obligatory: my own post on this topic.)
- In a perhaps-related vein, The Life of the Flute Player reviews a flute and a piccolo constructed of non-traditional materials. I’m including this post not because I have opinions on these specific products, but because more and more plastic woodwinds are popping up, and I think it’s a trend worth watching.
- The always-insightful Bill Plake, saxophonist and certified Alexander Technique teacher, looks at practicing in terms of adding new ideas and subtracting old habits.
- Saxophonist Sam Newsome recommends a thoughtful approach to using or not using a metronome when practicing.
- Saxophonist Bob Hartig conquers less-familiar keys so that they become natural and intuitive.
- Bassoonist Barry Stees recommends continuing your musical education after graduation.
- Jennet Ingle doesn’t mind playing second oboe.
- Doubler Steve Moffett has an epiphany about flute articulation and the “ta” syllable.
- Adam at A Classical Journey explores career options for musicians, and discovers that sometimes plan “A” isn’t the one you wanted after all [update: link dead].
- Clarinetist Sherman Friedland wrote an incisive post on the basics of crossing the break, which has since disappeared from his site. So instead of linking, I’ll just recommend that you subscribe to his RSS feed so you can read his posts before he deletes them.
Here are some high-quality woodwind-related blog posts from May, in no particular order.
- Mark Catoe and Tim Gordon discuss music education, careers, and, of course, woodwind doubling: Interview with Tim Gordon
- Flutist Meerenai Shim opens up about success, failure, pursuing your dream, and dealing with the practicalities: To Each Her Own
- Jennet Ingle is always one of my favorites. I already responded to her post on sound quality and individuality, but I also liked this one about the realities of freelancing: A Freelance Week
- David Erato learns a difficult lesson about swabs, and offers to let others learn from his experience: Don’t do this. Ever.
- Helen Kahlke patrols the internet for weird saxophone stuff, and discovers this interesting approach to the octave vent problem: Frankensax’s Offspring Gets Its Patent
- Saxophonist Shannon Kennedy deals with a hazard of being a musician in the internet age: There’s Honest and Then There’s Hurtful
- Christa Garvey suggests listening to more music, and provides a nice jumping-off point for developing your oboe ears: Living a life WITH music—a guide to listening for the aspiring oboist
- Flutist Jolene Harju has an epiphany about making her best sound in a natural, easy way: Open Sound: Why I Love Middle C!
- John Bogenschutz of Tone Deaf Comics apparently buys his bassoons from Ikea: “Bundlövstx”
Enjoy! If you have some favorites that I missed, please share them in the comments section below.