From Google: Lord of the Rings on whistle, low A on bassoon, woodwind commonalities

Classes are canceled today due to a freak snowstorm in my little Southern college town. (Typical yearly snowfall: 0 inches. Yesterday’s snowfall: 5 inches.) So instead of teaching a woodwind methods class and rehearsing on contrabassoon with the university’s Wind Ensemble, I thought I would take a few minutes to do something I’ve been seeing some of my favorite bloggers do lately.

With some simple traffic-tracking tools, I can see what Google searches are leading people to my website. Most times, to my satisfaction, their search brings them to highly relevant content on my site. Other times I know they are not finding quite what they are looking for. So I’d like to address a selection of the searches that have brought people here unsuccessfully lately, and hopefully future searchers will find what they are after.

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Review: The Woodwind Player’s Cookbook

I’ve been reading The Woodwind Player’s Cookbook, published last year by Meredith Music and edited by Charles West. It’s a collection of 57 pedagogical essays by a pretty impressive roster of woodwind folks. You can download the table of contents here to see the authors and titles.

Most of the articles deal with technique fundamentals on specific instruments, which should make this book valuable to school band directors, but it also works quite well as a handbook for woodwind doublers; in fact, there are several articles that deal specifically with doubling, by Mike Duva, James Nesbit, Elsie Parker, and Albert Regni.

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Eight live microphone tips for woodwind players

If you are a classically-trained woodwind player, playing into a microphone might be a new experience for you.

A rock band that I play in (flute and saxophone) does a lot of shows in small clubs and bars, and the sound guy (or girl—I’m using “sound guy” from here on out, with gender-neutral intent) is usually used to miking vocals, guitar amps, and drum sets, and may or may not know what to do with a woodwind instrument. I can often help things along, and make sure the band and I sound our best, by coming armed with a small amount of knowledge.

Here are some basic tips for looking and sounding like you know what you’re doing. I’m assuming here that you’re not doing anything fancy gear-wise (there are plenty of options if you want to buy a clip-on mic), just showing up with your instrument and using the venue’s basic sound equipment.

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Bassoon as a double

I’d like to say up front that I really love the bassoon. I do.

The bassoon was the last of the major woodwinds that I added to my arsenal. Looking at it from a strictly pragmatic standpoint, I think that was the right choice for me, and would be for most doublers. Let’s face it: when it comes down to time and money, for woodwind doublers, the bassoon demands a lot of both and doesn’t always return a lot of either.

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Abe Weiss on practicing

I mentioned in a post yesterday how impressed I was by Abe Weiss‘s presentation at the IDRS conference. Mr. Weiss is principal bassoonist of the Rochester Philharmonic.

Here are a few points from his talk that stood out to me.

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IDRS 2008 Conference report

I just got back from a fantastic week at the International Double Reed Society annual conference at Brigham Young University. The IDRS folks really know how to put on a great event, better than any of the various other instrumental organizations whose conferences I’ve attended. They seem to draw lots of high-caliber talent to perform and lecture, and everything is always impeccably organized. And being both an oboist and a bassoonist, IDRS is a nice two-for-one deal for me.

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Public domain woodwind clip art

Artist Karen Hatzigeorgiou has posted some charming public domain images of woodwind instruments at her website, like this lovely clarinet. The others are in a similar pen-and-ink (or is it some kind of etching?) style.

clarinet

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Woodwinds in Art

Here are some paintings and drawings by significant artists that feature woodwind instruments. Click the images to buy posters from Art.com!

Know of another work that should be included here? Email me.

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Buying woodwind instruments

General advice

The information on this page is intended for beginning and intermediate players, including woodwind doublers who already play another instrument. Here are some rules of thumb:

  • Get the advice of a good teacher, preferably one that doesn’t get a sales commission from a music store. It’s okay to ask advice before starting lessons. A good teacher wants you to have a good, working instrument.
  • In fact, be very skeptical of anything you are told by music store salespeople. My students frequently begin lessons with poor, non-working woodwind instruments that were highly recommended by the guitar player working behind the counter. Ask the salesperson to demonstrate the instrument. If they can’t do it, there’s little reason to take their recommendations.
  • The most important consideration for a beginner’s instrument is its condition. Woodwind instruments use pads made of leather, skin, or cork that MUST seal properly. Poorly adjusted instruments are one of the top causes of frustration in beginning players. Don’t waste your time fighting with a leaking instrument. Cosmetic flaws like worn or scratched finish or small dents (except in vital spots such as a flute’s headjoint or saxophone’s neck) do not necessarily affect an instrument’s playability, but may be warning signs of larger problems. It is possible to buy a non-working instrument and have a good technician restore it to playable condition, but it would be a good idea to get their appraisal of the instrument before you buy it.
  • Don’t buy musical instruments from department stores, megastores, or warehouse stores. These temptingly cheap instruments are made from inferior materials and are almost always in poor adjustment. Good repair shops won’t even work on them because they tend to break under the normal strains of routine maintenance.

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