Taking your doubles to the next level

August 7, 2009

I think that as a doubler it’s easy to consider your ability level “good enough” on a secondary instrument. Check your doubles below, and ask yourself what you can do to raise the level of your playing. I’ve given just a few examples of “next level” techniques on each instrument.

  • Flute
    • Can I play up to the highest notes (4th octave C, C-sharp, and D, for example) with delicacy?
    • Can I play the lowest notes with power and confidence?
    • Can I double and triple tongue fluently and without having to think about it?
  • Oboe
    • Has my tone progressed past the “duck” phase? Is it rich, dark, and flexible? Even in the high register?
    • Am I thoroughly comfortable with the various F fingerings—right, left, and forked—and prepared to choose the right ones even while sightreading? How about E-flat fingerings?
    • Do I depend on others for reeds, or am I capable of making (or at least adjusting) my own?
  • Clarinet
    • Am I completely fluent in the pinky-finger notes? Can I make good choices about which pinky fingerings to use, and make them automatically?
    • Do I know and use good resonance fingerings for the throat tones?
    • Have I thoroughly habituated good practices for crossing the break (efficient hand position and finger motion, putting the right hand fingers down early when ascending, keeping the airstream supported and constant…)?
  • Bassoon
    • Can I make or at least adjust my own reeds?
    • How is my tenor clef reading? Okay, now how about the low notes in the tenor clef?
    • Do I not only know alternate fingerings, but know their characteristics (pitch, tone, response, slurability…)?
  • Saxophone
    • Can I successfully and smoothly navigate passages using the left hand pinky? How about the palm keys?
    • Am I fluent in the altissimo register?
    • Do I have a good grasp of jazz and “legit” styles (tone, articulation, inflection, equipment choices…)? Can I improvise convincingly in various styles (Ben Webster? Charlie Parker? John Coltrane? David Sanborn? Michael Brecker?)?
  • Folk/ethnic/period instruments
    • If called upon to do so, am I prepared to play, for example, recorder? Pennywhistle? Bamboo flute? Native American flute? Do I have at least a nodding acquaintance with the styles and performance practices associated with those instruments?

Back to the practice room for me.

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