I’ve posted some new sound clips over on my audio page, to show off what I’ve been up to lately.
I perform my final doctoral recital on Monday. It is my third recital on my “major” instruments (flute, oboe, and saxophone); I also performed one “minor” recital (clarinet and bassoon). The major/minor instruments are somewhat arbitrary, since I’m trying to play them all equally well.
If you aren’t reading Jennifer Cluff’s blog, I highly recommend surfing on over and spending a few hours: www.jennifercluff.com/blog/
Ms. Cluff’s blog gets my vote for being the most useful woodwind-related blog currently on the web, with long and in-depth posts about flute playing, including, sometimes, answers to readers’ questions. There is really excellent stuff here for beginners and very advanced flutists alike. I just finished reading her latest post, on excess movement in flute playing. Ms. Cluff’s posts are sporadic but always worthwhile, so subscribe to the RSS feed if you’re cool like that.
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.
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.
Hindemith’s father, Robert, was a manual laborer and amateur zither player, who, despite a necessarily tight budget, saw that Paul and his siblings received musical training. Robert Hindemith raised his children with strict discipline, especially in terms of their music education. He took them to the local opera house, often on foot, and quizzed them on the way home, rewarding unsatisfactory answers with spankings. Later, Herr Hindemith organized his children into the Frankfurt Children’s Trio. Guy Rickards suggests that it was “despite” this “exploitative” upbringing that Paul and his brother Rudolf both went on to successful musical careers.