Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 8: final comments

I decided to leave a space in the survey for general comments, and many of you took the time to remark on a variety of subjects. Many of them were directed to me personally or seemed otherwise non-public in nature, so I’m not going to list them all, but I’ll share a few and summarize the rest.

Some of you politely made suggestions on how the survey could be better:

  • There’s a big gap between “casual dabbler” and “semi-pro”. I suggest an additional category: “serious amateur” or something like that.
  • It would be good to have a skill level between casual dabbler and music major (something along the lines of “good amateur”). As the poll currently is, it suggests that I play recorder to the same standard as sax. I would consider my recorder and flute playing better than “not at all” but my sax and clarinet playing not to be at the level of “music major”, hence they all closest to “casual dabbler”. I guess it’s too late to change the poll now, but I thought I’d offer my opinion anyway :).
  • maybe ask music arranging abilities. Small ensemble writing for different woodwinds is necessary in my working fields.
  • Not sure what your intent is with this data, but I do think that there are some fields that would be nice to have/know of (of course maybe for the next time you do this)…  For example,
    -“what do you consider your strongest/primary instrument”,
    -consider having three columns in the instruments section like:  own/play/don’t own
  • Didn’t know how to answer some of the questions because I’m still a high school student

I think these are all good suggestions, and ones that I would probably take if I could do the survey over. (At this point I have no specific plan for future surveys, but haven’t ruled the idea out, either.)

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 7: doubling tips

We’re close to the end of the results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011. I’m particularly excited to share your answers from one of the final questions:

Q. What is/are your best woodwind doubling tip(s)?

Your answers covered a lot of ground, but a few main themes showed up in many of your responses:

A little explanation:

  • Practice (quantity, quality): No surprise here—a large number of you mentioned the need for consistent, organized, focused, and/or extensive practicing.
  • Each instrument is different: A number of respondents pointed out that each instrument must be studied and played on its own terms, without depending on skills to transfer from one to the other. (It’s worth noting that a few of you saw the other side of this issue: that similarities between the instruments can perhaps be leveraged for more efficient improvement.)
  • Get good instruction
  • Work on fundamentals
  • Practice switching: Several of you suggested practicing the actual act of switching quickly between instruments.
  • Get quality gear
  • Flute-specific advice: Some of you offered advice about the flute, mostly about the particular challenges of maintaining a good flute embouchure on limited practice time.
  • Get experience: A few of you mentioned university or community groups as good ways to log some hours of experience on secondary instruments.

Here’s the full list of woodwind doubling tips. If you missed out on the survey, you’re welcome to add your own tips in the comments section.

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 6: benefits

In this installment, we look at why woodwind doublers do what they do.

Q. What is the greatest benefit of being a woodwind doubler?

Here’s my own breakdown of the most common types of answers. Many answers fit into more than one category.

  • More gigs: Unsurprisingly, this was a factor for over half of the respondents. However, many if not most indicated some non-monetary motivation:
  • Variety
  • Fun/satisfaction
  • Artistic expression: A number of respondents mentioned the ability to access a variety of tone colors as a motivating factor.
  • Cross-training: Several respondents indicated that playing one instrument improves their skills at another.
  • Challenge

Here is the complete list of responses, with only very minor editing, in random order.

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 5: challenges

Back for more, I see? Thanks to all who are still reading results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011. At this point we are getting into some more of the questions with free-form answers, and I think your responses are really interesting.

Q: What is your greatest challenge as a woodwind doubler?

I categorized the answers as best I could, with many of your responses falling into multiple categories. Here are some of the most common issues raised:

By far, the most common issue reported was finding the time to practice multiple instruments—I’ll reveal that this was my own answer, as well.

Flute-specific problems were also frequently mentioned, with oboe, clarinet, and bassoon appearing lower on the list (the saxophone got only a mention or two). I do think that the flute as a double has some particular challenges, but, as we know, it’s also one of the most common doubles. It would be interesting to assemble a group of doublers who play all five major woodwinds at a somewhat equal level, and take a poll to see which instrument they think is the biggest challenge.

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 4: employment

I hope you all are finding this as fascinating as I am. Here’s the latest batch of results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011.


Q. Which of these do you play?

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 3: education and training

More results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011. Enjoy!

Education and training

Q: Which of these have been part of your education on woodwind instruments?

Out of 187 total respondents, every one answered this question. The complete wording of the possible responses was as follows:

  • school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)
  • private lessons outside of school
  • summer camps, workshops, or other formal programs outside of school
  • university band/orchestra program
  • university/conservatory bachelors degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • university/conservatory masters degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • university/conservatory doctoral degree with concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds
  • university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration
  • other university/conservatory music degree or certification
  • self-taught on one or more instruments

The biggest surprise to me was the number claiming bachelors degrees in multiple woodwinds. I assume that many of these must be double majors or other oddities, since there are very few true bachelors degree programs in multiple woodwinds available.

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 2: instruments

In the previous installment of results from the Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011, I shared some basic demographic information about the 187 survey respondents. In this installment (and those to come), we’ll dig into some real doubling stuff.


Q: Which woodwind instruments do you play, and at what levels?

The top results are unsurprising: saxophone, clarinet, and flute being the most widely-played, with oboe in a distant fourth place. I was a little surprised to see folk/ethnic/period woodwinds edge out the bassoon.

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Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 1: demographics

First things first: thank you thank you thank you to all who participated in the survey, and especially those who Tweeted, Facebooked, and otherwise spread the word. I was bowled over by the number and diversity of woodwind doublers who responded: top professionals, rank amateurs, and everyone in between, for a grand total of 187 responses. Wow! It has been fascinating to see your answers and read your comments. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revealing what I’ve learned in installments. If you’re not already subscribed in some way, you can grab the RSS feed, sign up for updates by email, or follow me on Twitter. And you can see all related posts in one place, tagged as .

And now, with no further ado, I give you:

Woodwind Doubler Census results, part 1: Demographic background


Although a number of talented and versatile ladies responded, as a group we are mostly of the male persuasion.

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The Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2011

Attention: woodwind doublers!

The time has come to stand up and be counted. The linked survey is for anyone who considers themselves to be a woodwind doubler of any ability level at all.

All the questions are optional, so you can skip anything you don’t feel like answering, but thorough responses are much appreciated. The survey will remain open for an as-yet-undetermined amount of time. When there are enough responses to be interesting, I’ll post some analysis here.

The more responses, the better, so please share this with your woodwind doubling buddies. You can use the “Share” buttons (to the left, if you’re reading on a large screen) to pass this along to people via email, Facebook, Twitter, and others, or use this short link as you see fit: http://wp.me/pfZdF-TZ


Update: The survey is now closed. Thanks for your participation!

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