- 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
A few years ago I reviewed Gene Kaplan’s Duos for Doublers, a set of duets for woodwind doublers playing flute, clarinet, and saxophone. I was pleased to hear from Gene again recently about his new Duets for the ‘Double-Reed Doubler.’ It contains seven duets in a variety of styles, with one doubler playing oboe, clarinet, and alto saxophone, and the other playing clarinet, bassoon, and tenor saxophone. (No flute in either part.)
The books (a set of two, one for each player) are neat and easy to read, with well-placed page turns and spiral binding. Like the Duos for Doublers, this set currently costs $30.
I’m pleased to see more materials making their way into the world that address the growing pressure on woodwind doublers to be skilled double reed players. The idea of “doubling” meaning just flute, clarinet, and saxophone is increasingly a thing of the past. Working on doubling in a chamber music setting, like these duets, is a useful way to improve your skills as a soloist-level player of multiple instruments.
Here’s a demo of one of the duets, called “Machinations:”
I wouldn’t call these duets easy, exactly, but they aren’t overwhelming for doublers with a little background in each instrument. All the instruments stay mostly in their lower and middle registers. The oboe rarely ventures outside the staff, and the bassoon stays squarely in bass-clef range. There are some fast switches (catch me trying to play bassoon with the tenor in my lap in the demo video), some tricky navigation of the clarinet’s throat-to-clarion break, some articulated low notes in the saxophones, and other real but not unusual challenges.
These duets are a fun an interesting challenge if you have a doubler friend to practice with. Head over to Gene’s website to get your copy.
- Everything Saxophone (Ben Britton): Kenny Garrett & Jazz Articulation
- The Flute View (Rena Urso): Understanding the Connection Between Your Arms and Tongue Can Improve Your Articulation
- Clarinet Divas (Diana Haskell): Female Clarinetists In U.S. Part Two – College Professors/Teachers
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Discouraging Words
- Practice Room Revelations – Jolene Madewell (flute): How I Practice Vibrato: 6 Self-Awareness Questions [Video]
- Jess Voigt Page (saxophone): Making money as a private music lesson teacher on public holidays!
- Jennifer Cluff (flute): Presto Young Person’s fingerings
- MATTHEW EMANUELSON – Blog (bassoon): 10 Tips for Audition Day
- The Flute Examiner (Keith Hanlon): Modern Piccolo Mechanisms
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): Choosing a new recorder – wood or plastic?
- Jess Voigt Page: Selecting repertoire while you’re in school
- Bill Plake Music: Remember to Pay Attention to This Important (Yet Too Often Overlooked) Component of Your Practice Routine
- Dr. Cate’s Flute Tips (Cate Hummel): The Secret of Tuning Up Db (C#)
- Jenny Maclay: 30 Day Self Care Challenge for Musicians
- LearnSaxophoneOnline.com (Jeffrey Cunningham): Crystal Clear Articulation
- Observing Focal Dystonia (Andrée Martin): Lose your GPS
- Trent Jacobs, bassoonist: Addressing Stress VPI
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): The Internet Is Not Always Your Friend
- International Clarinet Association (Nicola Buckenmaier): Caroline Schleicher-Krähmer: The First Female Clarinet Soloist
Here are videos from my recent faculty recital at Delta State University. I performed the Saint-Saëns oboe, bassoon, and clarinet sonatas, plus the flute Romance and “The Swan” from The Carnival of the Animals as a baritone saxophone transcription.
“The Swan” is originally for cello, so I assumed it might work well as a baritone saxophone transcription. It turns out it really fits quite comfortably in the alto saxophone’s range, but I decided to take it on as a baritone piece anyway as a personal challenge.
- Bill Plake Music: Clarifying A Common Misconception About Your Lungs To Help You Breathe More Optimally
- ClarinetMike Blog (Michael Dean): ClarinetMike’s Top 10 Tips for Successful Private Lessons!
- Nicole Riner, flutist: Developing your Home Music Studio: A Worksheet
- LearnSaxophoneOnline.com (Jeffrey Cunningham): 6 Steps for Learning Music by Ear
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Acknowledge the Listeners!
- Sam Newsome’s Blogspot: Soprano Sax Talk: Teachers Versus Role Models, and The Note Onion Theory
- Jenny Maclay: Common Clarinet Emergencies and How to Fix Them, and Questions to Ask Yourself for a More Productive Practice Session
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: How does the altitude affect your reeds?
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): How to take apart stuck plastic recorder joints
- Angela Lickiss-Aleo: IDRS Class on Contemporary Techniques
- eflatclarinetproject (Jennifer Fraley): Getting Back to Practicing
There’s an increasing expectation that woodwind doublers be competent and confident oboists. It can be a challenging double, but a worthwhile one. Many of my doubling gigs have come to me because of my ability and/or willingness to play the oboe. And even though it’s not my strongest instrument, there are considerable spans of my career during which I’ve made more money playing the oboe than any other instrument.
Here are some of the common problems woodwind doublers, often coming from background in the single reed instruments, have with the oboe:
Fingering awkwardness. Dedicated, conscientious practice of scales/arpeggios and technical material goes a long way here, but there are some additional considerations specific to the oboe.
First, the oboe’s toneholes are rather widely spaced, maybe surprisingly so for clarinet and saxophone players. (This has to do with the oboe’s very narrow bore—the toneholes have to be quite small so as not to catastrophically weaken the instrument’s body, which means they have to be spaced widely to produce a scale.) This can be a cause of tension. Work diligently at keeping your hands relaxed. If it helps, use a neckstrap to further reduce hand strain.
Second, the oboe, more than the other woodwinds, tends to have more keys the more you pay for it. It’s very worthwhile to save up for an oboe with a left F key, and to learn to use it fluently. The left F key should be seen as part of the instrument’s core fingering technique. Many of the other keys available on professional or semi-professional instruments are less-used, but valuable in specific situations.
Uneven tone and intonation. The oboe requires a very low voicing, lower than a saxophonist is used to and much lower than a clarinetist is used to. It also offers little forgiveness for weak or inconsistent breath support. Learn to balance low voicing against steady support to even out the instrument’s sound and stabilize its pitch. (Like fellow conical-bore instruments the saxophone and the bassoon, the oboe’s response suffers particularly in the lowest register when your voicing is too high.)
Similarly, embouchure should remain open, not pinched, regardless of register. Remember that the embouchure’s function is to be a mostly-passive gasket between your air system and the instrument. Resist the urge to bite when moving into the highest register—rely on good breath support instead.
Overall response sluggishness/unreliability. My experience is that many, many intermediate (and especially self-taught) oboists are playing on reeds that are far too stiff. If your notes won’t respond reliably and delicately at a soft dynamic, and you’re sure your breath support, voicing, and embouchure are working well, you should consider a more responsive reed.
Because oboe reeds are so susceptible to change, the best way to sound like a pro reed-wise is to spend a few years’ worth of lessons learning to make (or at least adjust) them yourself. Failing that, it’s worth it to buy reeds face-to-face from a good reedmaker, rather than from a music store or a distant internet reedmaker, so that they can adjust them for you on the spot. Reeds from a local reedmaker are also adapted to your altitude and climate.
Another important and ongoing concern is adjustment of the instrument itself. The oboe has many adjustment screws that need occasional tweaking. It’s best of course to learn this art under the supervision of a good teacher. But if you’re mechanically-inclined and have a good oboe technician standing by to bail you out, there are a number of books and resources that explain the method in a clear and methodical way. A small tweak here and there can transform a stuffy, stubborn oboe into a responsive, cooperative instrument that is a joy to play.
Approach the oboe on its own terms, equipped with good reeds and a good grasp of tone-production fundamentals, and enjoy!
- Sax Spy – Blog: 3 Low-Note Exercises From the Masters
- Trent Jacobs, bassoonist: On forming blanks and cracking cane
- ProneOboe (Jennet Ingle): Psychology of the Oboist and Transitions
- Jenny Maclay: The Complete Guide to Developing Great Technique
- Sam Newsome’s Blogspot: Soprano Sax Talk: Websites: Relevant or Relic?
And, as always, this is an excellent way to get your blog post selected as a favorite:
- Joffe Woodwinds: Bret Pimentel
- Jennifer Stucki, oboist: Why is my Reed Playing Sharp and Flat?
- Rachel Yoder, clarinet: Objective Language in Applied Music Instruction
- Just Flutes Blog (Roderick Seed): Tips on Andersen Etudes: Op15, No. 3
- Sam Newsome’s Blogsite: Soprano Sax Talk: Acute and Chronic Practicing
- Bassoon Blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Contrabassoon for Dummies
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): 11 Cool Things About the Tongue
- Peter da Silva Music: Woodwind Tips – Venting
- Recorder Jen (Jennifer Mackerras): Why we should all start practising long notes
- The Flute View (Jolene Madewell): 7 Tips for Sparking Joy in Your Practice Room