What’s in a name? What “doublers” call themselves, part II

May 27, 2008

In my last post, I listed some alternate titles for “woodwind doubler.” Here are my thoughts on some of them.

Woodwind doubler (or just doubler) – I mentioned in my last post two problems with this one. The first is that “doubling” seems to indicate only two instruments; the second is that the term, in some contexts, has come to suggest musicians playing instruments on which they are not especially skilled. A third problem is that a layperson may not be able to infer the meaning (which they easily could with “flutist” or “saxophonist.”) Still in all, this is by far the most frequently used term for a player of multiple woodwind instruments, and is the quickest and clearest way to indicate just what it is that I do—provided that I’m speaking to someone in the music business.

Woodwind player – The immediate problem with this is that it isn’t clear enough. A doubler is all of these, but so is a musician who plays only clarinet. Using a plural form, as in woodwinds soloist, solves this problem at the expense of grammatical awkwardness. Woodwind man for some reason, seems to me to suggest a doubler, but it’s too slangy for professional use (ditto for woodwind-er), and of course has the problem of being gender-specific. “Woodwind woman” doesn’t quite have the same ring. “Woodwind person?”

A number of the titles I listed used either artist, soloist, specialist, performer, or instrumentalist (as in “woodwind artist,” “woodwind performer,” or “woodwind instrumentalist,” for example). “Artist,” “soloist,” and “specialist” have a touch of self-aggrandizement; okay for self-promotion (as of this writing, I’m using “woodwind artist” in my bio), but it would be nice to have a non-judgmental term that simply suggests a player of multiple woodwinds, whether of “artist” stature or not. “Performer” seems to go the other direction, making doubling sound like a stunt or novelty act. And “instrumentalist” is just plain redundant—you wouldn’t say “oboe instrumentalist.”

Quite a few possible titles use reed in them (i.e. “reed player,” “multi-reed instrumentalist”). The brevity of “reed player” is appealing, but seems to indicate a player of reed instruments only—though many of the doublers whose websites yielded “reed” titles count the flute among their instruments.

Oddly, Wikipedia currently has an entry for multireedist, but not “woodwind doubler.” (There is an entry for doubling, which gives definitions of the term in several musical and non-musical contexts; the closest it comes to addressing true woodwind doubling is the use of flute-piccolo doubling as an example. There is also an entry for multi-instrumentalist, which doesn’t mention woodwind doubling. [Wikipedia entries are subject to change.])

So, here’s my wish list for a title for what I am (currently “woodwind doubler”):

  • Vague enough to allow for any combination of woodwind instruments
  • Specific enough to show that I play instruments of multiple woodwind families
  • No built-in judgments (negative OR positive)
  • Clear, preferably even to a nonmusician
  • Concise and grammatically acceptable

“Multiple woodwind player?” How about “multiwoodwindist?” Hmm.

Comments

  1. SL Miller

    I know this is a few years on, however I just stumbled over this post and thought I’d contribute.

    I normally use either “multi-woodwind player” or “multi-woodwind musician” (the last word dependent on whether I think the person I’m speaking to will understand what I mean by ‘player’). The inevitable (and loathed) follow-up question nearly always asks for a number to replace the ‘multi’.

    Reply

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