- Saxophonist Bill Plake discusses the relationship between strength and coordination in instrumental technique.
- Jenny Maclay lists some important clarinet repertoire, in a festive format.
- Clarinetist Denise Gainey shares a funny and relatable gig story.
- David Pierce offers exercises for upper-register bassoon playing in sharp keys. I also liked this mini-etude for dealing with some common in-the-staff issues.
- Khara Wolf compiles some information on making English horn reeds.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell reminds us about posture and practicing.
Some woodwind blog posts I liked in February:
- Bassoonist Barry Stees shares an interesting idea about reed autopsies, plus a method for practicing the Rite of Spring solo.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell has some advice for students who think they have unfixable technique problems.
- Rachel Taylor Geier has some suggestions if you need more flute etudes to work on.
- Saxophonist Andy Austin discusses the role of passion in pursuing a musical career.
- Specific instrument brand/model recommendations should always be taken with a grain of salt, but woodwind doubler Josh Johnson discusses the importance of backup instruments, plus some of the issues involved with choosing instruments for situations where crack-proofness is important.
- Clarinetist Meri Dolevski-Lewis shares a process for developing sight-transposition skills.
- Flutist Jennifer Cluff offers some ideas on increasing success on the problematic high B.
- Jolene Harju plays the flute with her feet. (Okay, it’s really a post about having “a grounded, rooted connection between the feet and the floor.”)
- Gaenor Burchett-Vass discovers some favorite treasures of the English horn repertoire.
- Clarinetist Sandy Herrera seeks a new balance between a musical career and family life after having a baby. (Congratulations, Sandy!)
- David Wells has updated his excellent bassoon fingering charts.
- Oboist Cooper Wright discusses shaper tip widths.
- Clarinetist Victoria Soames Samek suggests there are better options than just circling problem notes in your sheet music.
- Bassoonist Kristopher King explains the usage of the little finger whisper key. (Warning: auto-plays music. If you have a website, don’t do that.)
- John Witt reports on the Carolyn Hove English Horn Masterclasses, days 1 and 2 and days 3 and 4.
- Bassoonist Betsy Sturdevant warns about carrying musical instruments onto airplanes.
- Jennifer Cluff offers tips for cleaning a flute (spoiler alert: she suggests letting a professional do it).
- On the WindWorks Design blog, J. D. Smith shares a do-it-yourself modification for the Yamaha WX5 wind controller.
- Christa Garvey does some facial stretches for a tired oboe embouchure.
- Bassoon professor Christin Schillinger offers advice for musicians choosing a college.
- Saxophonist Anton Schwartz recommends “back-chaining” as a practice technique.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell muses on her choice to be a musician.
One of the cool people I’ve come in contact with through this blog is Jay Mason, a very busy southern California woodwind player. If you’re a fan of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (and you should be), you have heard Jay’s baritone anchoring the saxophone section. You may have also heard him on film scores (like the recent Monsters University), on television (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for one), in the theater (numerous productions around southern California), on high-profile recording projects (Patti Austin, Barry Manilow, Chick Corea…), and backing up a wide variety of marquee acts in concert (Barry White, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Bob Hope, and many more). He also teaches at Cal State Long Beach and Concordia University – Irvine. Jay was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions about his work.
BP: What do you do for a living?
JM: A combination of playing saxophones and woodwinds in recording and live situations, and music education.
What education (formal or otherwise) and experience prepared you for the work you do?
I was very fortunate to have several great young players in my high school bands, both jazz and concert band, who have gone on to successful careers in music. The choir director there started a music theory class during my junior year, which was very thorough and inclusive of many styles, which really helped me to understand how music works, not just how to play. In college, quite a few of the professors either were or had been involved in studio and live work, and working with them, talking shop, etc. helped me to understand what I needed to do if I wanted to become part of that scene. In terms of experience, the opportunity to double on flute and clarinet, as well as all of the different types of saxophones, came along in college in a variety of situations in and outside of school: musicals, different ensembles, saxophone quartets, you name it. After college, I performed at Disneyland for quite a while, which put me into a huge variety of situations, playing everything from piccolo to bass saxophone, often having to read new material or learn new parts quickly, and make it happen day in and day out, no matter the weather, the crowd, or my mood and health.
What is a typical work week like for you?
As you know, I require my university woodwind students (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone) to grow their personal listening libraries by a minimum of one recording per semester. Here are this semester’s picks. They are all available from Amazon on CD or MP3 or both (links provided), and also on iTunes.
Carolyn Hove: English Horn & Oboe
Oboists get some key English horn repertoire this time around, as performed by the reigning queen.
Repertoire: Hindemith Sonata; Salonen Second Meeting (oboe); Marvin Pieces; Persichetti Parable; Carter Pastorale; Stevens Triangles IV
Some of the best woodwind-related stuff I’ve read this month:
- Clarinet professor Adam Ballif shares some thoughts on going paperless as a musician, and takes an easily-digestible look at voicing and the clarinet.
- Flutist Catherine LeGrand gets super-methodical about interval practice and note shapes.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell attends the IDRS conference and provides a sneak peek into pedagogical sessions with Peter Cooper, Carolyn Hove, and David Weiss (and friends). Jealous.
- Bassoonist Cayla Bellamy tries playing like a superhero.
- Rigid saxophone harnesses seem to be popping up from several makers lately. Barry Caudill tries one on for size. (Inclusion here isn’t an endorsement of this particular model; I’m just glad to see a nice thoughtful review of this type of product. I would like to see Vandoren sending some of theirs out for review—hint, hint?)
- Woodwind doubler Steve Moffett passes along a good clear approach to determining how far in or out to roll the flute.
- Saxophonist Ben Britton clarifies a few things about reed strength.
Enjoy! If you or one of your favorite woodwind bloggers writes something especially awesome in July, drop me a note and I’ll give it a look for next month’s list.
A new Internet friend shared this gem with me (click for slightly larger):