- 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
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Conductors and Kindness, Part 3
- bassoon blog (Betsy Sturdevant): Characteristics of a top-notch wind quintet
- Bill Plake Music: Be Mindful of This Very Important Connection When Playing Your Instrument
- Sam Newsome’s Blogspot: Soprano Sax Talk: Teacher and Student: Then What?
- Practice Room Revelations – Jolene Harju: How I Regained Confidence In My Playing (After Becoming Too Afraid To Play)
- Joffe Woodwinds: Practicing on the Gig
- JQ Flute: Rough times happening? Oh look, there you are making gold out of it. Here’s 3 heartfelt observations about your playing to get you through the storm
- Oboemotions: Promising Research
- Kristopher King (bassoon): Low A
- The Flute View: Creating and Refining Better Habits in Your Practice Room by Rena Urso
- Wayne Leechford: Auditioning for All-District
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): My Winter Warm-Up Routine For Cold Days
- Stephen Caplan embraces plastic oboes. Related: Elizabeth Brown lists some signs that your wooden oboe has a crack.
- Clarinetist Miranda Dohrman gives advice on building a freelance career.
- Jennifer Mackerras provides solutions for recorders slipping and sliding around in your hands.
- Peter Westbrook shares a 2003 interview with Herbie Mann, covering aspects of jazz flute playing, woodwind doubling, and more.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle offers some suggestions on a good mindset for solo performance.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay lists some reasons you might not be improving as much as you would like.
- Oboist Jennifer Stucki offers some suggestions and resources for keeping a reed log.
- Clarinetist Diana Haskell shares ideas on helping students avoid injury.
- Flutist Roderick Seed explains a comprehensive method for memorizing music.
- Anne Norman reports on the 2018 World Shakuhachi Festival.
- Oboist Nuria Cabezas demonstrates hand and finger stretches.
- Heather Roche shares a list of easy/reliable clarinet multiphonics. Useful information here for composers and performers.
- Eric Schultz examines the history of multiple tonguing on single reed instruments.
- Jenny Maclay explores clarinet orchestral excerpts. (Also consider enlisting for the October Uhl Boot Camp.)
- Flutist Kelly Wilson explains the anatomy and function of the arms.
- Jennet Ingle discusses producing a resonant sound on the oboe.
- Oboist Nuria Cabezas demonstrates some stretches for musicians.
- Flutist Jessica Dunnavant deals with performance nerves.
- Ariel Detwiler shares thoughts on fitting into a band or orchestra bassoon section.
- Patty Mitchell spends some time away from her oboe.
- Hannah Haefele offers some suggestions for warming up on the flute on a tight schedule.