- Steve Neff Music Blog: The Best Saxophone Embouchure: Where’s that Bottom Lip?
- Jazz-Sax.Com: Pedalboard 4.0
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): When to Cheat
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Should you take a practice break? and 21 Clarinet Compositions from the 21st Century
Here is a version of a handout I provided recently to graduate students at the American Band College, a summer program for school band directors.
Band directors, don’t say this to your beginning oboists:
- “Shh.” As a university oboe teacher, I routinely meet young oboists who play like they are terrified of making a sound. They often report that in their school band experience, every time they play the director gives them “the hand.” Playing softly on the oboe (or any woodwind) is an advanced technique. If you possibly can, encourage your beginning oboists to make big, resonant, confident sounds. Defend them from classmates who compare them unfavorably to waterfowl. It will pay off when you have a rock-star oboe soloist, with a glorious, ringing sound, for your high school wind ensemble.
- “The oboe is really hard.” There’s a pointless myth that the oboe is at or near the top of the list of “hardest” instruments. Like any instrument, it has its own learning curve. But it’s quite manageable for a motivated student. Don’t give them unnecessary reasons to stress over it.
- “Take this fingering chart home and figure it out.” Of course ideally all your students would be taking private lessons, right? But the oboe has a few unique quirks, like its fussy and delicate reeds, that really heighten the need for some specialist instruction. If you possibly can, get your beginning oboists in touch with qualified private teachers ASAP.
- “Lip it up.” “Tighten your embouchure.” This is bad advice for any woodwind instrument. It’s a band-aid solution for flat pitch, buzzy tone, or squeaks. A good oboe embouchure is almost no embouchure at all—the lips remain pretty close to a neutral, non-oboe-playing position. (Do allow the corners of the mouth to come inward, and the lipstick part of the lips to roll in over the reed a bit.) Solve pitch, tone, and response problems with a relaxed, light embouchure, powerful breath support, correct voicing (low, “oh” vowel, warm air), and good reeds (preferably handmade and/or adjusted by the student’s private oboe teacher).
- “Check out this oboe player on YouTube.” Listening and watching is a good thing, for sure. But be cautious about who you recommend: there are various “schools” of oboe playing in different parts of the world, that value different tone ideals and use differing posture, embouchure, and reeds. Generally the American-school players value a silky-smooth, relatively dark tone, and use a posture that keeps the oboe at around a 45° angle to the body. If you hear a livelier, brighter tone and see a more trumpet-like instrument position, that may not be the model you want for your young American oboists. (All the regional oboe sounds are lovely and valid, but oboe sounds from other locales should be presented with some context.)
- “You can’t march it.” You’re absolutely right that oboes do not belong on the marching field, and your oboists should find some other way to get involved. But please encourage the oboe as a worthwhile pursuit for young musicians. It has a noble history and repertoire, is sought-after by university music department scholarship committees, and will bring something special to your concert ensembles.
For many household items, screws should be tightened if they seem loose. But for woodwind instruments it’s a little more complicated.
Woodwind instruments (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and saxophones) have many screws on them. They are usually the slotted type, for which you would use a standard (“flat-head”) screwdriver. And some of them need to be tightened when they become loose, but some should be left alone—and it’s not always easy to tell which is which. If you aren’t sure, take it to your teacher or a professional instrument repair shop.
When tightening screws, always use a screwdriver that fits the screw very closely, to reduce the chances of damaging the screw. Mismatched screwdrivers can also slip, causing injury to you or scratches on the instrument’s finish.
Here are some kinds of screws you might find on your instrument:
Some screws simply hold some non-moving pieces together. For example, these screws on a saxophone hold this key guard onto the instrument. It’s not a moving part; the screws are just there so a professional can remove the key guard to do specialized work on the key. If these screws are loose, you can carefully tighten them just until they are snug.
The same is true of these screws that hold the oboe’s thumb rest in place—they are part of a non-moving assembly. If they won’t stay in place, the wood may be damaged (the hole is “stripped”). A good repair shop can fix it for you.
Woodwind instruments have many pivot screws, and also pivot rods that have slotted ends like screws. These allow some of the instrument’s keys to pivot (rotate) a little when you press and release them.
Here is one of the pivot screws on a flute. The threaded part screws into a post that is attached to the instrument, and the pointy tip of the screw fits into a void in the end of the key, holding it in place but allowing it to pivot smoothly. For a well-made and well-maintained instrument, usually you can screw these in all the way until they are snug and the head of the screw fits into the post without protruding. But if that makes the key stick or misbehave, it may be necessary to loosen it just slightly.
Here is a flute pivot rod. When it is screwed in it looks the same as a pivot screw, but when it is removed you can see that it’s long enough to pass all the way through a post and the keys’ hinge tube, and then screw into another post. Like a pivot screw, a pivot rod can usually be screwed in until snug, unless that seems to cause a problem.
Most of the woodwinds also have at least a few adjustment screws. These allow a professional to fine-tune how some of the keys move. They need to be tightened a certain amount, no tighter and no looser, like turning the knob on an oven to get the right temperature. If it’s too loose or too tight, it will make the instrument difficult or impossible to play. Making these adjustments properly requires specialized skills.
Here are some of the many adjustment screws on an oboe:
And here is one of the few on a clarinet:
If you tighten these adjustment screws and don’t know what you are doing, you will probably need to take the instrument to your teacher or a repair shop to undo the damage. This can be time-consuming and expensive.
If you have screws that keep loosening on their own, this may be because they are dirty, damaged, or need lubrication. A good repair shop can clean and repair the screws or rods without damaging them (or replace them if necessary), and can determine and apply the appropriate lubricant. (Most household oils aren’t right for the job.) If the screws continue to loosen after this treatment, take the instrument to the shop again and they may use additional methods to secure the screws in place.
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Empty Stage & Pit
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Rhythmic fingering on bassoon—a K. David Van Hoesen concept, and Beeswax for Bassoon Reeds
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Clarifying A Common Misconception About “Tension” In Playing Music
- Hodge Products, Inc. Double Reed Supplies Blog: COVID-19 Reed Sanitizing
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Clarinet Method Books to Help Develop Diverse Musical Genres and Styles
- JazzBariSax.com (Andrew Hadro): Essential and Deeper Listening Lists
- Blog :: –– Jason Alder :: (Bass) Clarinetist: The Big List of Contrabass Clarinet Albums (with
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Keeping My AIR to Myself and Top Six Reasons I Love Teaching Online Lessons
- Jennifer Cluff (flute): Rampal’s embouchure micromovements
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: Tips for tips… (for tips??)
- Practice Monster (David Pope, saxophone): A Jazz Embouchure? and Creative Alternate Fingerings for Middle C-sharp
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Five Checkpoints For Healthy And Efficient Practice
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): Why We Should Love Our Ribs
- Blog :: –– Jason Alder :: (Bass) Clarinetist: A Guide to Understanding Bass Clarinet Clef Notation
- JQ Flute (Jessica Quiñones): 5 things I no longer believe about flute playing.
- Sax ProShop: #WednesdayWisdom: Making Saxophone Low Notes that whisper and wail! It’s all in the set-up.
- Bill Plake Music: The Value Of Having (But Not Always Following) A Daily Practice Plan
- International Clarinet Association: How to rock your college music auditions
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Reed Mindset
- Nicole Riner, flutist: You Will Survive Your College Auditions
- Rachel Yoder, clarinet: Clarinet Playing During the Postpartum Period: My Story
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): The devil’s in the details (Columbus Symphony Russian Winter Festival II)
- Joffe Woodwinds: How to Approach a Lesson
- Clarinet Divas (Diana Haskell): Short List of Favorite Works for Clarinet by Female Composers
- Peter da Silva Music: At the Repair Shop: A Playtest Checklist for the Saxophone
- The Flute View (Caitlin Rose): Tools to Help Combat Burnout
- Bill Plake Music: When Practicing Is More Than Just “Practicing”
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Shaq and the Oboe
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): The art of bassoon maintenance
- Just Flutes Blog (Adam Clifford): CITES Regulations of Wooden Instruments – Update
- Steve Neff Music Blog: Buyer Beware! Counterfeit Vintage Saxophone Mouthpieces Galore
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): A Very Good Reminder
- How To Make Oboe Reeds (Courtney Miller): The Joy of Scraping
- Just Flutes Blog (Roderick Seed): Tonguing tips
- International Clarinet Association: James Gillespie Library Weekly Roundup – Diverse Repertoire, Part I
- Peter Spitzer Music Blog (clarinet/saxophone): A Tufts University Study of Cryogenic Treatment of Brass Instruments
- International Clarinet Association (Heather Mogielnicki): The Clarinet [Online]: Healthy Habits for Musicians
- The Flute Examiner (Jessica Dunnavant): “The Holly and the Ivy” for Flute and Piano