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.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 4: gigs

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

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.

What is your main source of income? (under normal circumstances)

“Retired” was an option I neglected to include, but enough of you wrote it in that I’ve added it to the chart here. Some of you also wrote in other things, most of which I felt fit into the existing categories, so I’ve used my best judgment to include them here.

2021 DATA
playing gigs5118%
teaching music9735%
working in another aspect of music207%
working in a non-music field6322%
student, supported by family/financial aid/etc.4014%
2011 DATA
playing gigs4021%
teaching music4223%
working in another aspect of music42%
working in a non-music field4424%

Which types of paid woodwind doubling gigs have you done in the past?

Some of you wrote in additional categories such as church gigs, concert bands in the community or the military, and theme parks.

2021 Data
school/community theater22981%
large-scale tour of a musical (as traveling orchestra member)4215%
large-scale tour of a musical (as local hire)7426%
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as permanent orchestra member)4315%
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as sub)7426%
orchestral, opera, or similar15655%
chamber music15856%
studio recording (as leader or permanent group member)4616%
studio recording (as hired gun)11842%
television/radio/broadcast (live)3613%
television/radio/broadcast (pre-recorded)3813%
jazz big band15856%
jazz small group or solo10939%
rock/pop group7527%
cruise ship176%
2011 Data
school/community theater153
large-scale tour of a musical (as traveling orchestra member)17
large-scale tour of a musical (as local hire)47
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as permanent orchestra member)29
Broadway show or other major-city musical production (as sub)29
orchestral, opera, or similar86
studio recording (as leader or permanent group member)28
studio recording (as hired gun)72
television/radio/broadcast (live)26
television/radio/broadcast (pre-recorded)29
jazz big band112
jazz small group or solo87
rock/pop group65
cruise ship18

Which of these do you play?

Some of you wrote in additional genres. A handful mentioned musical theater as being its own genre or mish-mash of genres.

2021 Data
classical music27095%
jazz music22981%
pop/rock music15655%
folk/world music7827%
2011 Data

How often do you improvise (such as jazz improvisation) on gigs?

2021 Data
always or nearly always5721%
2011 Data
always or nearly always4323%

On average, how frequently do you have woodwind doubling gigs? (under normal circumstances)

2021 Data
Every week or more4516%
Every month or more7638%
Every three months or more6423%
Every six months or more5319%
Never or almost never3613%
2011 Data
Every week or more4424%
Every month or more5228%
Every three months or more3217%
Every six months or more2312%
Less than once every six months3619%

What kind of competition is there for woodwind doubling gigs in your area?

2021 Data
slim or nonexistent4516%
don’t know or not applicable3814%
2011 Data
slim or nonexistent4023%

Which of the following teaching situations are part of your income?

2021 Data
private lessons15354%
ensemble directing or chamber music coaching5720%
teaching from home or a private studio9734%
teaching at a school (elementary through high school)7025%
teaching at a university or conservatory6222%
teaching more than one woodwind instrument10437%
teaching classroom-type (including online) courses about music (such as music theory, history, etc.)4215%
2011 Data
private lessons93
ensemble directing or chamber music coaching39
teaching from home or a private studio58
teaching at a school (elementary through high school)38
teaching at a university or conservatory31
teaching more than one woodwind instrument66

How has woodwind doubling affected your employability?

2021 Data
no discernible effect239%
slight improvement to employability2711%
moderate improvement to employability5823%
significant improvement to employability14357%
decreased employability00%
does not apply2810%
2011 Data
no effect2313%
slight improvement to employability2514%
moderate improvement to employability3218%
significant improvement to employability9354%
decreased employability11%

Which of these have resulted from your woodwind doubling?

2021 Data
more non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)10738%
more non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)13648%
fewer non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)228%
fewer non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)41%
none of these9233%
2011 Data
more non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)69
more non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)86
fewer non-doubling gigs on my primary instrument(s)19
fewer non-doubling gigs on my secondary instrument(s)6

What woodwind-doubling-related goals or ambitions do you have, that you have not (fully) achieved yet?

Responses given here in random order and lightly edited.

to be a professional historical woodwind doubler
LA studio musician (not likely as I don’t live in LA and health of industry)
Double tonguing on flute with success. Playing jazz clarinet successfully at my saxophone skill level.
* Excellent question! I found it clarifying to put down some of my doubling goals in writing.

– starting a woodwind quintet consisting of doublers
– performing solo recitals on flute/clarinet
– make a living primarily through professional level musical theater work
Proficiency on double reeds
I really want to pick up some double reeds! Oboe has been calling to me for years but I don’t have the money yet to get my hands on one.
And some day I’d love to play in a West End show.
playing double reed instruments
Ability to make double reeds.
Synth work.
Proficiency on double reeds
I would love to own one of each type woodwind from each instrument family.
Playing more pops orchestra shows
Playing more professional shows like a regional musical theater gig
Playing a musical and having a book that has oboe, flute, sax, and clarinet.
Broadway show in New York
Parity across all families of instruments
Become more fluid with double reds and flute
Better at jazz improv; skill on my doubles at level of primary instrument.
Broadway subbing, traveling tour sub
Getting a more consistent flute tone, and soloing better on both flute and clarinet
Be a consistent member of a union theater
Playing all instruments at the same skill level
I would LOVE to play in a real Broadway (or even touring) pit. With all that life demands, at this stage, that’s not a likely thing. But it would be rad. That’s about the only thing that could ever make me consider leaving teaching :)
Developing my own line of single reeds
Greater level of improvisational ability in various jazz styles, familiarity with a larger variety of ‘world’ instruments (esp. flutes)
Own remaining missing ‘standard’ instruments across all families (have still studied most that I don’t own but will lose access upon graduation)
I have a few dream shows, I’d like to commission a piece for 5 woodwind doublers
Great fluency in the jazz idiom. I was going to reserve that as a sabbatical project, but I got a head start with it as a pandemic project and it’s benefiting my classical playing on all instruments as well.
More theatre work
I want to create an online course or program to help woodwind doublers improve their flute/piccolo/alto flute skills, but I need to make sure there’s a market for that!
Learn bassoon, better flute ability
I would like to become a regular hire for a downtown theatre company in Boston. I would also like to learn bassoon.
Playing union rate shows more frequently
I would love to feel more confident while playing gigs. Even though I get called back, I never feel like I sound as good as some other doublers and I feel that I sound better at home than I do at the gig. Also I’d love to play at higher profile venues, Broadway tours, etc.
More frequent and regular doubling gigs
Find consistent playing opportunities.
To complete my doctorate and befome a professor of woodwinds at a university.
Owning an English Horn. Maybe Bassoon as well?
Improving my skills on instruments I have the least experience at. Purchasing more secondary instruments that I don’t have.
Play orchestral clarinet gigs
I would like to hone my skills on bassoon and clarinet (the two instruments I think I am best at besides my primary) and would love to gain more experience on the doubles I struggle with (flute and oboe). I would also enjoy becoming a “low reeds doubler” of sorts who specialized in A/T/B saxophone, bassoon, and bass clarinet.
Play with a professional show
Improving skills on my secondary instruments
Practice more
Try oboe again, but need an instrument.
learning oboe
Owning all the instruments most often seen in a reed 1 boom
Learn the double reeds. Play in a big tour/original production or West end. Study a multi woodwind degree, Play in an ensemble on just flute.
Do a paid gig
To sub on additional Broadway shows.
Just to get better?
To create my own music
Fluency in bassoon/flute, making multitrack videos which allow me to get chops up for wider array of woodwinds
A true Broadway gig, but that will have to wait!
the abilities of playing on each instruments at the same level as my primary instrument.
I achieved a tenure-track position this year. That was my goal. I need a new goal!
To play in national level musical theatre
Still working on tenor sax. I plan to branch out from the greater flute family at some point but reeds are incredibly different and require much more work on my end before I’ll feel comfortable with them.
To achieve the same level of proficiency as my main instrument.
Get better on flute
Study of double reeds
playing all my instruments at approximately a college undergraduate level, learning the oboe (no money for one yet), acquiring more of the secondary instruments (alto flute, bass clarinet, more saxophones – no money for those either)
Playing in some shows that, musically, are extremely complex and would be very challenging.
Full time woodwind playing work
Get pit work regularly
Mastery of oboe and bassoon.
Being proficient on all of the major woodwind family of instruments.
More Broadway shows as a local hire
I still want to get my flute and clarinet playing strong enough to do work in an orchestral setting
To be better at Oboe and Flute.
I would like to have regular, paid doubling gigs.
Improvise at the level I want to on oboe and english horn. Also to buy my own bass clarinet and set of low flutes.
I still need to improve my flute chops
Perform at the Dallas Summer Musicals
Publish a book on woodwind pedagogy, record a multiple woodwinds album and form a woodwind doubling chamber ensemble.
Would like to own every saxophone and eventually learn the double reed instruments
I want to reach the level of a Broadway doubler. Eddie Daniels is one of my heros.
Record more standard solo works on various woodwind doubles
Piccolo has always been a struggle for me and i would like to get some proficiency on that
Improve my clarinet playing.
Bringing my secondary instrument (Oboe) to the level of my primary instrument (Saxophone)
Take oboe lessons and become a stronger oboist
Would like to be called for more musicals
Learn Bassoon, Get clarinet to a very high level. Play on Broadway
Play musical theatre show on flute which is my weakest instrument
I would like to get better at bassoon and low reeds.
learn bass clarinet, and get hired for gigs on only secondary instrument[s]
buying a pro flute and reaching the same level on flute as my clarinet and sax. I might be interested in learning oboe later.
To improve my sax playing so that it is the same standard as my other instruments
Would like to get into folk woodwinds more.
I want to spend more time on improving my flute, sax, and bassoon to match my level on clarinet (the instrument I studied longest/most). My doubles are fine for playing shows and I have not run into any issues performing on them, but I know that there are areas of my playing on those instruments that I want to improve with continued study.
Adding a 3rd instrument
I would love to woodwind double professionally. My dream is to be able to have a seat in a Broadway orchestra or on a cruise ship. I am also trying to get accepted to a woodwind doubling program in college (I’m a high school junior right now).
I play sax primarily, can play clarinet and oboe, want to be proficient on flute
Double reeds in musicals
Would like to play on a Broadway tour
Consistent musical theater doubler.
Playing on Broadway eventually
– to play every single woodwind instrument as best as possible. The listener should not hear differences between your primarly and secondary instruments.
– someday to play in NYC in a broadway show as a sub :-)
Playing in regional tours of Broadway shows, or playing in pits for more local/professional productions
Hoping to do my first doubling gig this fall!
I would like to add piccolo and alto flute capacity. I’d like to purchase a new high quality bass clarinet.
Play a Broadway show tour.
Making use of electronic wind instruments more mainstream in theatre pits as an alternative to shifting multiple parts to keyboards.
Saxophone altissimo work
College professor of one or more woodwind instrument
Sub on Broadway. Work to diversity Musical Theatre Pit Orchestras nation-wide through social justice initiatives.
I would like to achieve semi-professional level in at least one of my instrument families, and get paid to perform in a doubling context.
Permanent musical theatre pit orchestra member.
I’m looking to study clarinet in college, not necessarily in a woodwind-doubling context, but I would like to work both as a doubler and as a classical musician after college.
Playing certain musical theatre shows like Phantom of the Opera.
To get more comfortable with my flute playing. I’d like to get more comfortable with my technique in all registers so less overall practice is required when I take a flute gig. I’d also like to improve my tone quality so I feel less like an imposter when performing on flute.
Get better at my doubles
Wish I could play flute. Wish I owned a bari sax and a bass clarinet.
Adding bassoon— the final frontier!
Masters in multiple woodwinds
I want to play as a permanent member of a national/ international tour and possibly play on Broadway some day.
I would like to play in musicials, and i would like to become fluent on all 5 of the woodwind family members.
Learn to play oboe
I would very much like to improve my skills on flute.
I would like to play a doubling book for an original musical & record its cast album. Also, as a young student, my goal was to work towards a permanent doubling seat on Broadway. But now as an adult, I realize that theater can be made anywhere & there are other major cities producing fine theater.
Playing in professional level theatre orchestra
None to be honest. I’m completely satisfied with the opportunities I’ve had and there’s nothing really left on my doubling bucket list.
Feel confident taking a musical theatre gig with heavier flute requirements.
To better my double reed proficiency. I’ve taken oboe lessons for six months during Covid and improved significantly, but I need to purchase a different bassoon with short-reach keys before I can do much with it.
Play for a professional tour
Play in musicals at Broadway.
Getting my flutes chops on the same level as my sax/clarinet abilities. Improvising, particularly on flute.
Play more recitals.
Play for a professional level theater production
Being versatile enough on all the secondary instruments to not be nervous for a theatre or session call.
Playing for touring theatre shows
Technique-wise, get to a solid skill level on flute, bass clarinet, and soprano/baritone sax, and improve my tenor chops. In the future (after college), I’d like to be able to make a living at least partially from doubling in musical pits/cruise ships/etc.
To play in a pit on Broadway. Be a part of a studio recording
There are a few shows I’d like to do still.
I aim to play with characteristic expression & tone color on all my instruments, and to feel as comfortable improvising on all my instruments as I do on my primary.
I have yet to enter the world of paid doubling gigs, as many of my instruments are newly acquired. I’d love to double in a pit band/orchestra for theatre or similar.
Maintaining skills is a challenge. Steady practice time.
Acquiring a larger number of students on my secondary instruments
Release a jazz album displaying all my doubles on improvised solos.
To be known as a doubler on all 5 major woodwinds
Experience most of the major wind instruments
Learning bassoon
Improvising as comfortably on doubles, as on saxophone (primary instrument)
Play with a touring Broadway musical
Met my career goals, in general.
Making music with some of the best musicians in the world
doctoral level degree and college teaching
To be widely known as the best in my market.
Learn bassoon
Get the double reeds going, starting with Bassoon
A few more recordings I wish to do.
Get better on saxes
The goal is to be as proficient on clarient as saxophone.
I would like to get a gig in a significant production outside of community theater.
I would like to become proficient on all saxophones
Growth as an improviser, not only in “traditional” jazz, but also in folk/world and contemporary/avant-garde stlyes;
increased mastery of contemporary playing techniques (multiphonics, microtonality, etc.) on all instruments;
recording projects (multi-track and single instrument);
Possibly authoring pedagogical materials for aspiring doublers, especially aspiring double Reed musicians
Getting the last two familes of woodwinds up to the level of my “primary” three. Also, buy a contrabassoon.
learning bassoon
Be more regularly employed locally, without touring
Playing all instruments at a more accomplished level. If not then understanding better to be a better teacher of each instrument.
Solo recording with own arrangements
Extended technique knowledge/facility on “secondary” instruments
Master flute
Would love to do a few pro show seasons or even just sub.
Bring up the double reeds to a higher standard!
I’d love to become equally proficient in every woodwind instruments.
Getting in a Broadway musical pit
Be able to play flute equally well as clarinet and saxophone, buy an oboe/be able to use it as a double for theater and/or jazz big band, become a regularly contracted musician in my local professional theater scene

What are your proudest or most significant achievements as a woodwind doubler?

Responses given here in random order and lightly edited.

Playing my first book without a primary instrument.
Giving degree recitals on all of them.
Playing at major university graduation ceremonies
Being able to play flute proficiently as a sub on a show in Florida. I no longer have to transpose flute parts on the clarinet!
Getting into a DMA program in Multiple Woodwinds
Performed West Side Story multiple times.
Being able to teach beginners in middle school band settings and help them see it’s possible to do more than one. One student has gone on to become proficient in multiple woodwinds and is considering it for employment after college because of this setup.
Cover an Oboe/Eng Horn pit orchestra part after 6 weeks of playing (after not playing oboe for 30 years).
I’ve been a hired member of a national tour.
That sometimes at a gig people will think I’m a clarinetist until they hear me play the saxophone. The other proudest achievement was getting that look people give you when something really stood out in a good way, and it was after one of the piccolo solos in the Addam’s Family Reed 1 book
Helping with a workshop production of a new musical
Generally speaking, the times that I have been able to take what was once a double and represent myself as a specialist on that instrument are the memories that stand out (ex. playing principal chair or a major solo in an orchestra on my former “double,” performing on a former “double” at major a conference). Nothing too major to report here. :)
Feeling confident enough in my abilities to accept any and all doubling gigs… and getting called back to do more
Professional oboe/English horn playing
25 years in the Orpheum theater orchestra in Memphis.
Performing with a major musical production touring through the city. Also performing with one of the finest opera companies on earth (though not as a doubler)
Touring with a show and getting to know the other band members
Playing the oboe/English horn parts on WEST SIDE STORY and TUCK EVERLASTING.
Learning to play the flute to a professional standard
Getting non-doubling gigs on my secondary instruments as it makes me feel like I am legit on them rather than the stereotype of just a doubler who is dabbling.
Playing my first pit gig on oboe and tenor saxophone, and mostly teaching myself tenor sax and clarinet
Performing in over a hundred different groups / situations.
Being asked to play an off Broadway tour
Feeling adequate enough to finally step up and attempt flute for a live gig (Drowsy Chaperone)
I achieved a tenure-track position as assistant professor of flute and clarinet.
Traveling with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, being a first call sub at a union opera house.
my first season as a gig muscian
My proudest accomplishment was subbing on a few shows on Broadway, and having it all go well! I worked very hard preparing the books and following all of the advice I was given by peers and past teachers. The recurring positive comments I have heard from other reed players, music directors, and contractors has confirmed that I am on the right path. Working as a regular sub on Broadway has been one of my greatest performance (and life) accomplishments.
Depping in the west end
Being able to do orchestral excerpts better than majors – eg rhapsody in blue opening excerpt better than a clarinet major
Also getting recognised for my efforts.
Getting a contra alto clarinet solo in a wind ensemble.
Making a living on Broadway in NYC
One of my proudest achievements as a woodwind doubler was learning the book for my first show as a doubler. Another achievement was playing the Oboe/English Horn book in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I wasn’t proficient with double reeds at the time, so I transposed the whole book to saxophone! It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. Getting to play in a show gives me such a sense of joy!
Getting props from Edgar Meyer while playing contrabass clarinet on his own bass concerto
composing and performing a concerto for woodwind doubler and orchestra
One of only very few people within a 100km radius that plays all five woodwind families at a pro level, and owns the instruments.
Playing major difficult community theater pits like West Side Story and Chicago.
Being the teacher of record on two different instruments at a major university.
playing as a local hire of broadway tours in multiple cities in the region
Don’t know if this counts: In High School, after my sophomore year, our only oboe player graduated. My band director asked if I wanted to learn oboe over the summer, so I did. Played it the next two years in concert band (while playing alto sax in jazz band)
Graduating with my Masters in Multiple Woodwind Performance from NJCU! (And seeing my students succeed due to my skills as a doubler/educator.)
Being the first call for many of the Music Directors in my area.
Making oboe reeds that work!
When I first made a decent sound on a flute and then again on piccolo.
Being able to sight read the music on tenor sax an clarinet. Being able to cover my own part w/out another player sitting next to me to cover the clarinet part.
I played the whole run of community theater Once Upon a Mattress splitting both the horn book and the oboe book. (1/2 the run on horn, 1/2 the run on oboe)
Doubling in a jazz band
Getting paid as a doubler in a community theater setting, which is what I love doing.
West Side Story
Making first woodwind chair in a regonal production of “The Wizard Of Oz”
Appearing on several albums and soundtracks
Subbing on shows with lots of fast horn changes, difficult technical passages, and exposed solos, and doing it well. Finding time to practice, heh.
A collegiate musical premiere
At a read-through, playing more accurately than my colleagues
1. Recital with a world-class pianist, playing major literature on flute, clarinet, and alto sax. 2. Subbing flute/picc/clarinet/sax book on the 1st National tour of Les Miz with no rehearsal
My reputation as a doubler has grown and people identify my musicianship with this skill.
Subbing for Beautiful a Carole King Musical National Tour!
Being able to play what I’m needed to play on the instrument wanted.
Playing almost all of the woodwind books of West Side Story during various production runs.
Broadway shows
Being able to play nearly any woodwind asked for
West Side Story WW books…having played 3 different books over different shows.
I can now fluently cross the break on clarinet.
Playing on Broadway and LA Studio work. I also currently play on all the Disney on Ice recordings.
Being able to play at a level on each instrument where people assume each instrument is my only instrument
Playing more professional gigs that more heavily involved doubles, even gigs only on doubles (no saxophone)
Playing some sax heavy show books, laughing about my soprano sax debut.
Being able to come into a sub situation and knock it out of the park. I’ve gotten most of my regular gigs from subbing in musicals and jazz bands.
Getting the opportunity to play the pre-Broadway run of Frozen
Being on two national Broadway tours
Playing for Penn State School of Theatre productions.
Performing as a guest artist at the Aspen Music Festival on flute, clarinet, saxophone, and oboe
Learning oboe/English horn on request from beginner to anchoring the chair for a production of Les Mis in 6 months, and playing well enough that everyone who didn’t know me thought I was an oboist and asked to hire me for orchestra gigs only on oboe. 😂
I was part of a professional recording session in high school. In graduate school, I got to play in a side-by-side performance with the local professional orchestra.
Sight-reading on Broadway
Developing my abilities on my secondary instruments to gain enough confidence to seek out gigs including those instruments, knowing that I can manage them reasonably.
Arranging wind books and playing all three for an album
Playing a show where i had to cover sax and clarinet parts out of 5 reed books because the only other WW player was flute/piccolo. I basically made my own book.
got a call when the band need some doubles
Reed 2 – Music Man
An American in Paris – Westchester Broadway Theatre 2019
Moving to a new area and almost immediately getting gigs – also companies enjoying my playing and keeping me in the loop
professional work
Playing 7 instruments in one show; flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, soprano/alto/tenor saxophone.
Getting the opportunity to play for a filled production of beauty and the beast for Disney’s “Encores!”
Phone rings again
Playing clarinet/bass clarinet in my university’s top orchestra, subbing on clarinet in a semi-professional orchestra, playing clarinet/bass clarinet/alto flute on a Gil Evans repertory concert and getting complimented by a flute professor who didn’t know me
I was very hesitant to write this, as the gig has not happened yet. — But I recently booked a Broadway tour as a permanent member. I will be going later this year. I feel that this is a major milestone for me & it’s something ive been working towards since my youth.
Hearing my students progress.
I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to play so many different musical theater productions.
Having others in the ensemble not be able to tell which instruments are my primary/secondary
Getting a (part-time) University job before even completing my Masters.
Making a respectable living performing full-time as a doubler.
Being able to hold my own in an orchestra section on my secondary (bassoon in this case)
Playing a regional broadway show.
Top call woodwind doubler in Houston and playing An American in Paris movie score with the Houston Symphony (tenor sax/Bb clarinet)
Being able to read and pick up most parts on the spot, and being able to translate jazz improvisation to doubles
Live performance concerts with stars traveling to town to perform.
Being able to go from tenor sax to clarinet w/out a glitch. Really being able to nail the parts.
Subbing on Broadway, hearing myself in a film score for the first time.
extending my flute register was so rewarding, something i struggled with for a while.
Being asked by the music director of a show I was subbing in , which instrument was my primary. She could not tell.
Recording an album last year
called again by the contractor of a big city musical show a second time :-)
Performing as Reed 1 at the American Repertory Theater.
Making music with some of the best musicians in the world
6 Instruments on one musical.
I have enjoyed being able to play across multiple books with facility. I enjoy the challenge of performing multiple woodwinds at a single performance (typically a musical).
Subbing on a well known and long-standing Broadway musical.
Having a fine violinist in NYC tap me on the shoulder with her now and ask which of my six instruments in the gig was my first instrument. Of course I never told her
International competition wins on multiple instruments
I agreed to play a production is Oklahoma, knowing it would REALLY stretch my clarinet chops. I knew I’d be playing 2nd, to a far superior clarinetist/friend so I thought it would be great. All the bass was in the 2nd book, so she took that and said “You’re on 1st. Have fun!” It was terrifying, at first, but ended up being one of my best experiences and that one run raised my clarinet chops from passable (at best) to a place I felt confident, moving forward, taking predominantly clarinet books.
Receiving a return call to play from a contractor.
Live tv, session work, pro theatre
Being able to switch onto clarinet and still feel somewhat comfortable. Being given a very heavy doubling book all to myself show coming up!)
Playing West Side Story professionally.
Finally feeling comfortable on all my doubles but always more to learn
Regular, paid theater work at a local professionally managed theater
The Cor Anglais solo in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Forty years on Broadway, Concerts, recordings, tours
Working in musical theatre
Learning to play the Eb Clarinet for a specific gig.
Playing for a major cancer fundraiser cabaret event, personal connection and great musicians.
Playing the original US production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Dixieland and ragtime solos in musicals on secondary instrument, playing with a group of reeds where everyone is formally trained on their primary and very very good on the others
I have fairly quickly become one of the top woodwind players in the area and I (under normal circumstances) often have more offers to perform than will fit in my schedule. What more could I ask for?
Playing in the orchestra for the premiere of “Ain’t Too Proud”
Playing for touring musicals in Denver
Played in 117 different shows on Broadway
Become a competent oboist
Creating Doublers Collective
Touring Broadway show local hire.
I recorded an an album that featured a set of original music and features myself as a soloist on 10 different woodwinds.
Played on a few Broadway shows that passed through town
Broadway and first national tours.
Playing an entire reed book for a musical is very satisfying, particularly as a non-major/non-career musician
Performing on multiple secondary instruments that I taught myself and haven’t played very much and being successful. Playing 6 instruments for one Broadway musical.
Playing in multiple ensembles for fun
learning and playing in two community theatre performances at the same time
Community theatre is enough for me!😁 at least thus far
Playing the flute in a show, and people commenting that they thought it was an actual flutist. Playing clarinet in a Dixieland group.
High level of ability across most major woodwind families, high level of flexibility, and ability to learn quickly (either styles or instruments)
Hired to play flute books on shows
Playing several touring shows as local hire. Being by company to play in another city because they liked my work.
That I can play multiple instruments
Playing (tenor/clarinet) with Lady Gaga in her Jazz & Piano show in Vegas. Outside of that, all of the subbing I’ve done on production shows and musicals.
National Tour
Becoming the alto sax player at six flags fiesta texas
easily switching between different families of winds
Being reviewed by you!
When someone thinks a double is my primary
Building a solid reputation as being a great musician and nice person.
Woodwind-doubling has checked items of my bucket list I never knew I had! Because of doubling, I have gotten to tour the world and have landed in a lovely corner of the world.
Touring Japan with a show. Also performing with celebrity artists like Johnny Mathis
Reading an entire musical book that used 98% flute
I have a contracted position in a pit orchestra where I play over 100 performances per year.
My flute sound.
Masters recital at UNT where I performed on all five woodwind instruments
1. Writing and recording my own works. 2. Film scores
Being able to play both flute and dizi for multiple concerts in a wide variety of musical group types (ethnic orchestra, concert band, guitar ensemble, etc.)
Being told that they couldn’t tell what my primary instrument was.
Traveling with a production to perform at the International Thespian Society Conference in Nebraska
Playing flute for the first time in a show this weekend!:)) Being flexibile!:) Being able to play so many shows!:)
Flute: learning Nielsen’s flute concerto
Clarinet: learning the Brahms sonatas
Saxophone: final recording project (small group jazz) for my undergraduate degree
Being hired to do full performances on secondary instruments
Being the first to incorporate electronic wind instruments into professional theatre pits in my area.
Talking about ocarinas long enough that people around me became interested in the instrument, eventually resulting in the credits song of this piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92HX8Zstijs
I landed myself on a national tour of a musical
Getting a gig where I had to play 14 instruments in one night, while simultaneously compèring for the event!
Becoming just as sufficient on flute as the other flute majors at my university.
playing bassoon and contrabass clarinet for my university’s production of a musical after having “played” clarinet for all of six weeks
Winning a Premier Military Big Band seat
I had to pick up clarinet for a university jazz gig after having not played in about two years and it went really well.
Hired for a show at a professional summer stock theater
Some shows made me get good at instruments. For example bass clarinet and clarinet.
I’m proud of when I played reed 3 on Annie as it was the first time I did a show that didn’t include my primary instrument.
Playing a show with a Bari on a harness and making the switch to the bass clarinet in 4 beats
I am most proud of getting into a Master’s degree and switching from a flute primary to oboe primary.
Being the only doubler in high school band concerts
I received two awards for “best instrumentalist” in high school for two different instruments. It allowed me to get a significant music scholarship.
Being a big band MD commissioning new works and being able to offer composers the choice of lots of woodwinds
Getting my first paid gig in a pit band
Playing in various orchestras with directors on different Instruments at different times, and then not suspecting that I wasn’t on my primary instrument.

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 3: training/education

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

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.

Which was your first instrument, among the major woodwinds?

2021 Data
none of these apply1~0%
2011 Data

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

2021 Data
school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)26293%
private lessons outside of school24888%
summer camps18867%
university band/orchestra program24185%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds2710%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration18265%
bachelors-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program11139%
university/conservatory masters degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds3512%
university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration7527%
masters-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program3111%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds104%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration249%
doctoral-level study on secondary instrument(s), but not as part of a formal multiple-woodwinds program62%
other university/conservatory music degree or certification145%
self-taught on one or more instruments16759%
2011 Data
school band/orchestra program (high school or younger)17594%
private lessons outside of school17091%
summer camps13170%
university band/orchestra program14376%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds2714%
university/conservatory bachelors degree with single-instrument or other music concentration9752%
university/conservatory masters degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds137%
university/conservatory masters degree with single-instrument or other music concentration3720%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with formal concentration(s) in multiple woodwinds42%
university/conservatory doctoral degree with single-instrument or other music concentration53%
other university/conservatory music degree or certification126%
self-taught on one or more instruments11863%

What factors influenced you first to get involved in woodwind doubling?

Besides the provided answers, several of you included personal anecdotes of influences including boredom, norms of the early music scene, orthodontia and injuries, career aspirations like instrument repair and studio work, and the Lawrence Welk Show.

2021 data
just interested in more than one instrument20272%
required/helpful for a jazz (or other improvisatory music) group you played in or wanted to play in13949%
had or wanted opportunities to play for musical theater19670%
influenced by a teacher or role model13648%
wanted to improve employability13849%
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) needed someone to play a specific instrument, and you were willing to learn it11842%
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) didn’t include the instrument you already played and you needed to learn another4616%
your training/experience as a teacher required you to branch out5620%
2011 Data
just interested in more than one instrument40
required/helpful for a jazz (or other improvisatory music) group you played in or wanted to play in37
had or wanted opportunities to play for musical theater35
influenced by a teacher or role model23
wanted to improve employability19
an ensemble you were in (or wanted to be in) needed someone to play a specific instrument, and you were willing to learn it19
your training/experience as a teacher required you to branch out9

What sources have you used to learn about or otherwise engage with woodwind doubling?

Besides the provided answers, nine of you wrote in something to the effect of “lessons” or “teachers,” which I didn’t include as an option because I covered formal training in other questions. A few of you also wrote in “YouTube,” which I have lumped in with “social media sites.”

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 2: doubling abilities

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

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.

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

Based on feedback from the 2011 survey, this year I added the option “Strong amateur.” I also provided an option for respondents to affirmatively state that they play an instrument “Not at all,” but the “Not at all” data shown here also includes those who didn’t provide an answer for that instrument.

2021 Data
FluteOboeClarinetBassoonSaxophoneAny folk, ethnic, or historical woodwind(s)Any woodwind-style electronic instrument(s)
Not at all26 (9%)126 (45%)14 (5%)151 (53%)7 (2%)149 (53%)219 (77%)
Casual dabbler43 (15%)47 (17%)24 (9%)39 (21%)8 (3%)59 (21%)27 (10%)
Strong amateur64 (23%)45 (16%)53 (19%)30 (12%)53 (19%)33 (12%)14 (5%)
Semi-pro or college music major79 (28%)31 (11%)90 (32%)29 (10%)90 (32%)29 (10%)14 (5%)
Professional70 (25%)32 (11%)100 (36%)34 (9%)123 (44%)13 (5%)9 (3%)
2011 Data
FluteOboeClarinetBassoonSaxophoneAny folk, ethnic, or historical woodwind(s)Any woodwind-style electronic instrument(s)
Casual dabbler42493928285816
Semi-pro or college music major6832682759115

Which instruments do you own?

2021 Data
alto flute8530%
other member(s) of the modern flute family3211%
English horn6122%
other member(s) of the oboe family83%
E-flat clarinet8430%
B-flat clarinet24788%
A clarinet8932%
bass clarinet14351%
other member(s) of the clarinet family4416%
soprano saxophone16157%
alto saxophone24085%
tenor saxophone19770%
baritone saxophone12444%
other member(s) of the saxophone family2910%
bamboo, wooden, or similar sideblown flute(s)6021%
other folk, ethnic, or historical woodwind(s)6021%
electronic wind instrument(s)3613%
2011 Data
alto flute35
other member(s) of the modern flute family17
English horn24
other member(s) of the oboe family4
E-flat clarinet47
B-flat clarinet171
A clarinet61
bass clarinet84
other member(s) of the clarinet family26
soprano saxophone106
alto saxophone160
tenor saxophone138
baritone saxophone81
other member(s) of the saxophone family26
bamboo, wooden, or similar sideblown flute(s)53
other folk, ethnic, or historical woodwind(s)32
electronic wind instrument(s)24

Which instrument(s) do you consider your “primary” instrument, if any?

A number or respondents selected, for example, flute and piccolo as primary instruments, or all four major saxophones. I’m guessing that boosts the results here for some auxiliary instruments; there probably aren’t many doublers who would really consider piccolo their (single) primary instrument.

alto flute83%
other member(s) of the modern flute family31%
English horn124%
other member(s) of the oboe family10%
E-flat clarinet155%
B-flat clarinet9534%
A clarinet2810%
bass clarinet4014%
other member(s) of the clarinet family62%
soprano saxophone4115%
alto saxophone10236%
tenor saxophone7326%
baritone saxophone4917%
other member(s) of the saxophone family41%
other folk10%
electronic wind instrument(s)31%

Which instruments do you not own, and have had to turn down gigs because of that?

alto flute22%
other member(s) of the modern flute family00%
English horn66%
other member(s) of the oboe family11%
E-flat clarinet00%
B-flat clarinet11%
A clarinet00%
bass clarinet66%
other member(s) of the clarinet family00%
soprano saxophone22%
alto saxophone11%
tenor saxophone33%
baritone saxophone77%
other member(s) of the saxophone family22%
other folk00%
electronic wind instrument(s)00%

How do you primarily identify yourself as a musician?

For this question, many of you typed your own answers. Some of you wanted to provide more detail, such as which instrument(s) you consider your primary, some wanted to include non-woodwind instruments, and some wanted to use (essentially) some other synonym for woodwind doubler. In these and a few other cases, I felt that those answers did ultimately fit into one of these two categories, so I’ve shoehorned them in. A few others wanted to identify by some other career/hobby choice entirely, or wanted to say something like “it depends,” and I’ve omitted those so as not to muddy the original intent of the question.

2021 Data
as a woodwind doubler19269%
as an instrumentalist on one specific instrument (or family of instruments, such as the saxophones)8531%
2011 Data
as a woodwind doubler12064%
as an instrumentalist on one specific instrument (or family of instruments, such as the saxophones)6736%

Do you have “primary” and “secondary” instruments?

2021 Data
One instrument is a “primary” instrument, and one or more are secondary instruments. For example, you play the flute well, and the clarinet at a noticeably lesser ability level.11340%
Two or more instruments are “primary” instruments, but others are secondary. For example, you play the flute and the clarinet about equally well.12845%
You consider all the instruments you play to be at/near the same level.4115%
2011 Data
One instrument is a “primary” instrument, and one or more are secondary instruments. For example, you play the flute well, and the clarinet at a noticeably lesser ability level.8546%
Two or more instruments are “primary” instruments, but others are secondary. For example, you play the flute and the clarinet about equally well.10154%

Which of these challenges have significantly affected your success as a woodwind doubler? Define “significantly affected” and “success” as you see fit. You may choose multiple answers.

A few of you provided additional specifics/details, but I’ve folded those answers into the larger categories. In 2011, this was a free-form answer, and I tried to sort them into categories.

2021 Data
Time (such as for practicing)18667%
Money (such as for equipment purchases)16258%
Career development (such as finding gigs, establishing a reputation…)11742%
Logistics (such as storage or transportation of instruments)3613%
Pushback (such as from teachers or others who think you should not double)4817%
Skill/talent/ability (such as particular difficulty with a specific instrument or technique)8631%
2011 Data
Fast switches1710%
Maintaining high level1610%
Instrument maintenance64%
Establishing reputation53%

Which of these benefits of woodwind doubling have made a significant difference for you? Define “significant difference” as you see fit. You may choose multiple answers.

In 2011, this was a free-form answer, and I tried to sort them into categories.

2021 Data
More gigs21477%
Greater variety in music-making22681%
Having more voices/tone colors available18366%
Feeling challenged (in an enjoyable, productive, or otherwise positive way)22781%
Cross-training effect (playing one instrument improves your skills at another)18366%
2011 Data
More gigs8352%
Artistic expression159%

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

These are presented with only very minor edits, in random order. (Inclusion here doesn’t necessarily indicate that I agree, though I mostly do.) See 2011 results here.

Sax tone is all about opening the throat and getting an appropriate level of pressure on the mouthpiece
Make connections between similarities/differences from instrument family to instrument family.
Start with the flute first in your practice sessions. If you don’t your lips will have no sensitivity after starting on the other instruments.
Practice any woodwind instrument as if it is your primary. Walk the same path every other Xist (flautist, clarinetist, etc) has.
Practice daily. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, practicing my doubles daily has been the best process in my experience.
Do not limit yourself! Have one primary but also a couple secondary instruments. You will make yourself more marketable!
Find ways to connect your knowledge to other instruments, but still treat each instrument as its own separate voice (e.g. be a piccolo player, not a clarinetist who is playing piccolo)
Practice and listen
Train on each individual instrument on as regular a basis as possible.
Finding great teachers for each instrument you play
Consistent practice
It’s all about tone quality. And reeds.
Passion and love of the possibilities and not just versatility for gigging is a must. Acquiring equipment that is easy to get back into and consistent has been key for me to be able to for example: not play bass clarinet for 6 months and still be confident that I could say yes to a gig and get myself together in 1 week.
Learn what the differences in playing styles between different instruments are, and why they come about. Knowing the context helps a lot in code-switching between instruments.
Let clarinet be the foundation of your doubling
take lessons with someone who has doubling experience. Practicing and familiarize yourself with all genres of music styles. practice playing multiple instruments back to back.
Learn what skills are transferable across which woodwinds and apply them appropriately. For example, a lot of dexterity technique applies to many woodwinds, however, not all fingering patterns or standard fingerings are the same. Also, voicing and overtones apply to all woodwinds, but you don’t voice all woodwinds the same way.
Practice – practice – practice
Focus on fundamental on all horns
If a particular instrument is inspiring you right now, use that inspiration and really work to improve on that instrument.
Practice every instrument regularly
Focus on each instrument now and then
Practice sight reading, especially with swing/jazz rhythms. Keep on top of your reed situation. Try to design practice to “even out” your strength on each “family”.
Practice each instrument as though it is a primary study – learn the known repertoire, study the history and the players, know the etude etc
Have a goal to play all of the woodwind doubles at a very high level.
Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge, especially on an instrument that is not your best
Get a teacher for every instrument if possible- not one teacher for all of them.
Long tones and scales with a drone/tuner
Play flute every day, learn to make your double reeds
Never be reluctant to schlep doubles you might need.
Practice baby practice!!
Voicing exactly as you describe.
Learn on a quality instrument otherwise a lousy one will hold you back.
Visit each instrument as its own thing when practicing. Use the same musical expression tools on your secondary instruments. Have patients when progress isn’t noticable.
Find similarities between the instruments you already know how to play, and the instrument you are learning to double on. Ask your musician friends for tips or little known “secrets” that you may not know of a non-primary instrument.
Open your teeth and jaw as much as possible and practical.
Let others help you, the pit is a team and if one run is too hard and another person has it and it’s easy on their instrument. Let them do it. The audience may very well not know the difference. Or if you have a solo passage. Don’t overplay. You’re not the soloist the person on stage is. Overall. Let others help you
Sometimes you have to go back to basics if it isn’t an instrument you’ve playing in a while and run scales or some some practice books.
Finding similarities between each instrument to begin learning, then going to extremes to find the differences.
Compare and Contrast each instrument – determine what transfers and what are specific to each instrument
practice the same things on any instruments.
Learn clarinets first, then saxophones.
Common tip: Eb sax (like baritone sax) can read C bass clef (such as tuba, trombone, bassoon, and string bass music) as Eb treble clef without having to transpose.
Less common tip: Once you’re comfortable with that, you can do the same with Bb clarinets (like bass clarinet) by using saxophone fingerings on the clarinet (exception being above the break, but it’s easy to get once you play it a bit). So using this you can read the bass clef parts of bassoon music on bass clarinet without having to transpose, and if the bassoon music goes into tenor clef you can read it as regular Bb treble because it works the same as reading C bass clef on an Eb sax. Blamo, you’re reading bassoon parts on bass clarinet and didn’t have to transpose or learn any new clefs.
That they’re not all that different at the end of the day. The concept of blowing into a tube with holes in it is the same across all woodwind instruments.
Compile a quick (approx. 5 minutes) gig warmup for each instrument type (flute, clarinet, etc.) that you play. You will rarely have time for a thorough warm up on each instrument on doubling gigs so you need something that lets you hit a number of fundamentals in a short amount of time.
be inspired by great models on each instrument
Learn your doubles. Get more bread
Practice, then practice some more
Really focus and learn the fundamentals for each instrument. I didn’t know I was playing oboe wrong until I took a lesson because I just figured everything would be similar to bassoon when I first picked it up.
Don’t ever stop practicing. Keep a schedule.
At different times, each instrument you play becomes your main voice— do so with love and a deep investigation of the traditions of each.
Be adaptable/flexible and if it works don’t question it. Just because a certain way of doing something is not the standard approach does not mean it is wrong.
Listening is key!
Know who to tell what you play. To many people, I am an orchestral clarinetist. Some have no idea that I play jazz saxophone. To some, I am a flutist. Many know I do all three at a high level. But some may judge you.
Whatever you are playing at the moment is, at least for the moment, your primary instrument. Treat it as such, with your full attention and consideration.
Be an excellent sight reader. Know your scales. Work on sound production.
Do what is comfortable for you.
Aim for consistent mouthpiece styles. ie: a consistent ratio of sizing (small tip, long facing, etc)… don’t try to sound like David Sanborn and Harold Wright at the same time.
Choose instruments that you like to play so that you’ll want to practice and improve on them!
breath support
Play everything you enjoy playing
Treat each one as your main one while you practice.
Get good stands, get to know the instruments you’re playing quickly
seek teachers for each specific instrument
Start with clarinet and maintain your skill on it.
Take things slow! Now even slower. Be mindful.
Listen to many. Develop your own sound.
Practise changing from one instrument to another as well as just practising the individual horns
Practice all at the same time.
Good instrument stands are essential! Also a stand shelf has been really helpful for me to hold reeds and a water cup, other equipment and accessories.
Sax and oboe have a ton in common in terms of using the reed or mouthpiece alone to train ways to avoid tension, and clarinet feels like the opposite in many ways, but at least it’s different enough that differentiation is straightforward.
It`s okay to start each instrument as a beginner.
Always be flexible
Just play and have fun, and the instruments will learn themselves
Use synthetic reeds for gigs you need to double on. Little to no warm-up/Reed wetting required when one instrument sits for a while before use.
Treat each instrument as a new primary and get a proper teacher for each new primary. Play in ensembles on your doublers.
They’re not the same
Long tones and scales are key
Everything comes back to air
Sound is everything. Learn flexibility on every instrument. Every instrument deserves individual attention, even harmony instruments amongst families.
Identify the connections between each instrument (fingerings, technique, etc.) and use that to help you succeed.
Use a calendar, try your hardest to view other woodwind doublers in the area as friends instead of competition. Play duets with them and try to learn as much as you can from other doublers and single woodwind musicians as well. Classical musicians, listen to jazz saxophonists and really try to replicate their tone and inflection even if you claim it’s not for you. Jazz musicians, listen to classical woodwind players as most rep for doublers requires classical tone and technique. Have fun!
consider the side range you enjoy the most and stick more on that end (high or low reeds)
Take lessons with teachers who only play the one instrument, but also study with some doublers who have a good understanding of the similarities & differences between instruments. Record yourself often, and listen to recordings of top performers on your doubles to form a good sound concept. Time, intonation, interpretive choices, and ensemble balance are all-important no matter what instrument is in/on your face.
If you’re struggling with switching to another instrument, find someone who is extremely proficient on it and pick their brains as much as possible, or even take lessons if you can. It helps if they’re a doubler too.
1) Study to have a classical foundation for every double. It’s the best way to have solid tone and technique.
2) Be kind to those you work with and low-maintenance for those you work for.
3) Don’t seriously study secondary instruments until you are competent on your primary instrument. Once you hit a semi-professional or pro level on one instrument, you will have a bar to reach for with your secondaries.
Try to draw connections where possible.
I think one should only double if they are genuinely interested in it and enjoy challenges. I’ve met too many people who double primarily with the goal of making more money, and it almost never worked out as well for them in the long run as it did for the ones who actually loved playing all of the instruments.
Flute is nothing like single reeds – not even the fingerings.
Turn all instruments into your “primary”. Each instrument deserves its proper respect and diligence. If saxophone is so easy, why do so many clarinetists sound so bad? Attitude in approach to a secondary instrument goes a long way.
it’s fine to make mistakes
Play with people who are better than you as much as possible.
Visualize and really hear the sound you want as you double, in whatever way works for you. Sometimes you can get caught up in the differences between the doubles, but visualizing and not overthinking allowed me to get by on many doubling gigs, and work through the parts more efficiently
If not preparing for a specific gig or show, have an instrument of the week rotation. Focus on that one.
Flute loses playing proficiency at a significantly faster rate than other woodwinds thanks to the extremely delicate embouchure – when a professional flutist misses 2 or more consecutive days of practice, it takes minimum 4-5 days to correct their embouchure again. So those that wish to maintain their flute fitness must make sure to set aside time for it at least every few days
Practice, practice and practice!
Think of each additional instrument you learn as an extension of musical mechanics— you’ve already learned the fundamentals of reading music, now you’re just learning a different pathway to create those sounds you read. Treat a new instrument, even one of the same family, as a whole new instrument with its own requirements and set points for pitch, resonance, and response.
Always be ready to play clarinet
Stick with one instrument per gig, if possible. Be careful of having a reputation as a doubler, as it may have negative connotations (jack of all trades, master of none).
Take each instrument seriously
Be proficient on clarinet first, then branch out.
Play secondary instruments in ensembles (band, orchestra, chamber music, etc).
Slow practice on all the instruments, don’t rush it on a “secondary” instrument because you can play it on a “primary” instrument
Practice all your axes and always learn from everyone.
Find an order of operations for your practice. I start my day on the flute and then move to the clarinet. When I get to tenor I am moving plenty of air and feel warmed up.

Scale practice on flute will help saxophone playing
Treat every instrument as a unique instrument of it’s own kind with similarities but unique.
Lessons, performing, recording, great equipment
Study each instrument you play with a non-doubler: major symphony/studio player.
Practice so you concepts can benefit across all instruments.
Take it slow
Be very intentional when learning technique. I learned how to play saxophone with a clarinet embouchure, which is not correct. Work with a professional teacher to ensure you have the fundamentals of new instruments and check in with them regularly to ensure you are maintaining key distinctions between the instruments.
Be cognizant of your body and the techniques you employ as you play (don’t go on autopilot); try to find complimentary mouthpiece/reed setups (if everything has a similar resistance level, switching will be easier)
Choreograph the switches and after getting comfortable with a new double practice the switch to get faster at creating a good sound on the instrument as soon as possible.
The goal of woodwind doubling is to be good enough on each instrument for people to think whatever instrument you are playing right now is your primary instrument, and not a double.
Practice, listen, and be patient
Never look for the “doubler way” to approach an instrument. Approach it as a serious study, as if you intend to make it your primary.
Treat each instrument as if it is your primary instrument.
Practice and take lessons. Continue to get better.
Play the flute every day, studying with a specialist when possible
If you have good air and support, you can play through the woodwinds without having to worry about their differences. Also, get good reeds!!!
Put in the practice hours
Practice. And then practice some more.
Learn and practice the basics
Get a teacher. You can’t learn all of these on your own.
It’s ok to make a mistake, just keep going.
I’ve found that taking the time to develop a woodwind practice routine has been super helpful! I’ve also found that I practice better when I start with my least proficient instrument, and work to my most proficient one. This helps me feel a bit better mentally when I practice.
Practice lol. The sooner you learn “Work SLOWLY on what you’re bad at,” the easier your musical life will be. It’s rough, especially if you’re pretty accomplished on one instrument/family, but the slower you practice, the faster you’ll learn! Trust me, I know the feeling. I’ve got two masters degrees…but I’ve still gotta practice fairly easy flute stuff like I’m one of my 7th graders. I feel your pain! Oh and scales are your friends…all of them :)
No matter what instrument you’re playing, no matter how much time you’ve had to switch, your goal should always be your best professional sound.
Moderate setups for all instruments make transitioning between them less onerous
Plastic reeds for the pit to avoid breakages
To make sure that if this is something you choose to brand yourself as, go with it 100%
Pick up each instrument with a new mindset as if it is your primary instrument. When I play flute, I’m a flutist. When I play oboe, I’m an oboist. Etc.
Find a professional teacher as soon as possible instead of trying to teach yourself and (potentially) develop bad habits.
Approach each instrument as if it is your major instrument
Practice each a little every day and practice switching back and forth at home, not just at the gig.
Stay w/someone who’s major instrument is your double.
High quality tuition from specialists in each instrument, excellent sight-reading, good fundamentals, good air support across the board (!), familiarity with as many styles as possible
While there are some universal fundamentals, each instrument (even within an instrument family) has unique characteristics that at the very least need their own mindset. Once you figure out the key differences, the things that are the same take care of themselves.
Treat each instrument as if it is your major instrument.
– Take regular (weekly/bi-weekly) lessons with excellent teachers on each instrument that you wish to play at a high level
– Focus on improving one instrument at a time (ex. for three months taking flute lessons and primarily practicing flute, while lighter practicing + preparing for gigs on clarinet and saxophone)
– Own high quality equipment and keep it in good repair
Learn to be a performer on all of your instruments, not just a person who dabbles on the others!
Learn each instrument as if you know nothing about how to play and learn to play it correctly from the beginning
Play whatever instrument you enjoy the most. For example, don’t double on flute as a sax player just because you feel you have to. Play the recorder and contrabassoon, or celeste and guitar. Do what makes you happy.
Listen to professionals to develop your best sound and practice your secondaries similarly to your primaries. Don’t be afraid to ask others for advice to improve your playing. Scales are good for everyone.
Learn to play cross genre music on each doubling instrument. This will increase your career viability tenfold.
“Book yourself on gigs you’re not quite ready for” – Don’t take the piss and lie in such a way that you’ll be unable to give a good show. But do book gigs where you are almost good enough but not quite yet. This gives you the motivation to reach that next step in your practice, and forces you to get better. Nothing to make you practice like an upcoming show!
Don’t stop practicing.
I would say treating your double as your primary horn (using the same techniques you used on your primary to learn). If you did scales, arpeggios, tone exercises, do the same on your double.
Say “Yes!”
Don’t have your instrument just be a work colleague. Noodle around and get to know them sometimes without a particular goal.
I always say, “view playing each instrument like speaking a different language. They have similar qualities as Winds, but each one requires a different mindset and physical setup.”
Think of each instrument separately, don’t try to transfer technique from one to another.
Compartmentalize your brain. (eg. When I hold a saxophone, I can’t easily tell you much pedagogically about anything else)
Take lessons on your secondary instruments with established teachers. Practice all of the music before the first rehearsal (especially for your secondary instruments).
Try not to sound like a saxophonist playing a clarinet. Try to sound as much as a clarinetist as possible.
The principles of tone production on single reed instruments are all the same, and that is more important to stress than the particulars of what will happen to achieve that on each instrument. e.g. the saxophone and clarinet embouchure will look different but for either all you need to do is make a seal with no unnecessary pressure or biting that minimally dampens the vibration of the reed
Don’t get too bogged down in the beginning/intermediate stages with perfecting any technique or piece of music. It’s probably more important to read a variety of music so that you are reinforcing a bunch of different techniques in a bunch of different scenarios. It makes it more real world, forces you to discover and engage with more of the instruments strengths/weaknesses, and I think it makes you learn faster too because you see things in more different places
Get a good teacher
Off the top of my head: STYLE; maintain your instruments well; be good with your finances and set aside a little money each month for new instruments, upgrades, accessories, reeds, repairs, etc.
Legere reeds are great for doublers!
Study instruments with teachers on that primary instrument (flute with a flutist, etc)
Show up confidently prepared!
Treat every instrument as it’s own when you start. Just cause you play saxophone doesn’t mean it’s a golden ticket for you being good at anything else.
Spend a reasonable amount of time on rudiments for your weakest, or non-native, instrument. Then spend an equal amount of time goofing around on the same instrument.
Synthetic reeds help with quick instrument changes, especially when the new instrument hasn’t been played for several minutes.
Which ever instrument is in your hand, practice/play it like it is your primary/only instrument
Master the basics of all your doubles.
You have to really want to do it. Nothing is wrong with not woodwind doubling ie. focussing on just one instrument. The opposite can also be true.
Study with a specialist on that instrument
Good instruments help a lot.
Study each instrument privately with someone who is highly accomplished.
Never neglect the basics when learning a new instrument. Long tones and scales are universally important for learning tone and technique, and those don’t usually cross over between instruments
Take lessons/listen/get the tone, intonation and musicality right and let the fingers work themselves out.
Don’t allow the mentality of being a doubler lessen your goals toward sounding you are a specialist on the horn in your hands.

Even if you never sound like Tim McAllister (or whoever), be proud of your versatility: doubling has opened doors for me that specializing on a single instrument would have never done.

You may never arrive at what your musical ear wants to hear from your own playing, but enjoy the never-ending growth, exploration and discovery that comes along with chasing that ideal.
Practice your instrument switches!
Treat each instrument as if it is your primary, learning all of its specifics. Take good lessons to sure up lesser instruments, no matter how old you are. Practice!
have fun
Master one instrument before adding more.

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.

Woodwind Doubler Census 2021 results, part 1: demographics

Thanks to all who participated in my 2021 woodwind doubling survey, and to those who helped spread the word. I’m releasing the results in installments, so be sure to use my social media links, RSS feeds, etc. to keep up.

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.

Gender identity

I provided more options for gender identity than in 2011’s survey. Here’s the breakdown. (Percentages are of those who answered the question.)

2021 Data
Female, Transgender1~0%
Transgender, Nonbinary/nonconforming1~0%
2011 Data


As was the case 10 years ago, the numbers skew toward the younger end. I’m not sure if this is affected by the survey being distributed primarily online. No respondents claimed to be younger than teenaged or older than in their 70s.

2021 Data
2011 Data
Younger than 20191%


I provided options for this that broke down by continent. A few of you island dwellers responded with “other” and specified locations in Oceania and the Caribbean. I probably need to rethink this question for 2031, but for purposes of data reporting I have lumped everyone together into continents for now.

The continued absence of responses from Africa and South America may be related to language barriers and/or other factors. I did get a few responses from Asia this year, which I didn’t in 2011.

2021 Data
North America24988%
2011 Data
North America16287%

Which of these best describes where you live?

The “city, but not a ‘major’ one” option was added based on feedback from the 2011 survey. A few of you used the “other” option to explain more complicated living situations (such as multiple locations), and for reporting purposes I’ve taken the liberty of lumping those into the categories I thought were the closest match.

2021 Data
major city or metropolitan area12745%
city, but not a “major” one6924%
suburb or exurb6322%
rural or remote area248%
2011 Data
major city or metropolitan area9350%
suburban area6635%
rural or remote area2312%

Describe your current level of formal education (in any field).

“Less than high school diploma” is a new option this yea. The categories in the graph are abbreviated; the full text from the survey is in the data table.

2021 dATA
Less than high school diploma83%
High school diploma or equivalent62%
Some college3312%
Bachelors degree7025%
Some graduate school186%
Masters degree10337%
Other degree type or comparable certification62%
2011 Data
High school diploma or equivalent84%
Some college2815%
Bachelors degree5932%
Some graduate school169%
Masters degree5328%
Other degree type or comparable certification63%

Thanks again for your participation and stay tuned for more survey results.

The Great Woodwind Doubler Census of 2021

mockup of white clipboard with blank paper

Back in 2011 I did a “census” of woodwind players. It’s been 10 years, so I guess we’re due to be counted again. If you’re a doubler of any stripe/ability, you’re invited to take the survey. I’ll share the results as I did last time.

It’s a long survey, so set aside a little time if you’re willing, but all questions are optional and I’m happy to take whatever data you care to share. And of course feel free to share this survey far and wide with people who might be interested in participating.

At this point I’m thinking I’ll keep the survey active through the end of May, but if responses are still coming in strong I’ll be flexible.

Take the survey Update: the survey is now closed. Thanks!