- Betsy Sturdevant brainstorms some (tongue-in-cheek) reasons not to sharpen her bassoon reed profiler blade.
- Woodwind doubler Ed Joffe shares some practical advice about subbing on gigs.
- Flutist Nicole Riner explores some lessons about focus learned during an artist retreat.
- Joan Martí-Frasquier lists some repertoire for baritone saxophone.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle considers some ideas about motivation and doing difficult things.
- Clarinetist Michael Dean offers some small but useful performing tips.
- Flutist Jessica Quiñones shares some ways to build a private studio.
- Saxophonist Larry Weintraub recalls a day spent with Michael Brecker.
- Khara Wolf suggests solutions for oboe reeds with too-wide tip openings.
- Flutist Nicole Riner lists extended techniques with some sample repertoire and practice tips.
- Saxophone mouthpiece reviewer extraordinaire Steve Neff explains how to test a mouthpiece thoroughly.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell offers a somber reminder that sexual harassment is an issue in the music world, too.
- Clarinetist Liz Aleksander outlines a methodical approach to tuning.
- Bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson gives some perspective on teachers and teaching.
- The “Curious Clarinetist” tells a satirical tale of new instruments.
- Cynthia Ellis and Cate Hummel provide tips on playing the piccolo.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay shares ideas for mastering a new repertoire piece besides just practicing.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle discusses the importance of choosing the right reed for a performance (and which factors are most important).
- Ariel Detwiler discusses some of the issues of choosing which students are good prospective bassoonists.
- Flutist Jennifer Cluff offers advice on (not) playing with pain.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay invites you to enlist for Baermann Boot Camp starting October 1st.
- Cate Hummel shares tips on basic flute care.
- Flutist Jolene Harju discusses breaking the habit of playing “test notes.”
- Rachel Taylor Geier challenges you to test your flute knowledge with a quiz.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle finds inspiration in fancy fountain pens regarding “flourish.”
Each of these fine woodwind bloggers has been featured here repeatedly, so be sure to subscribe to their RSS feeds and/or social media streams. And get in touch to let me know who else I should be following! (You, maybe?)
This year I played all jazz at my Delta State University faculty recital. Program and some selected videos are below.
I’m very much a part-time jazz player, so it was fun to spend the summer trying to get my chops in shape to play tunes in a variety of styles on a variety of instruments. This was my new record for number of instruments on a recital: flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon (electric bassoon), soprano/alto/tenor saxophones, and EWI, 9 in all. I’ve written previously about the challenges of improvising on multiple instruments, which I suspect might be surprising to non-doublers or non-improvisers.
An additional challenge is that I live in a small town in an isolated area, so I had to bring in some rhythm section players from out of town and rehearsal time was extremely limited. Enjoy the videos warts and all.
I have previously done some things with bassoon and electronics, but I took that to a new level this time around with a Little Jake pickup and a few new effects pedals. This was lots of fun and I’m already brainstorming how I can use the Little Jake with some other instruments.
- Saxophonist Steve Neff explores the “holy grail” mindset with regard to mouthpieces.
- Flutist Nicole Riner offers tips on making a living as a freelancer.
- John Isley discusses finding a personal voice on wind controller.
- Oboist Jennet Ingle discusses integrity in musical interpretation. (Note: also some political content.) Jennet’s new video series on reedmaking is also worth checking out.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay shares a method for transitioning back into serious practicing after summer vacation.
- Kristopher King shares an interesting bassoon museum piece.
- Erin Nichols shows off acoustic paneling made especially for flute playing.
- Check out posts by a small army of bloggers documenting ClarinetFest® 2017.
- David Wells is working on collecting the Paris Conservatoire bassoon contest pieces.
- Woodwind doubler Ed Joffe encourages continuing your musical studies beyond school
- Saxophonist Roxy Coss discusses women as an under-represented group in jazz music.
- David Mankin shares a fascinating story about oboists Robert Bloom and Engelbert Brenner in a remarkable recording session.
- Clarinetist Jeremy Wohletz explains the importance of aural training.
- Saxophonist Sam Newsome identifies some issues that lead to rhythm problems (particularly in improvised music).
- Flutist Tammy Evans Yonce explains how she approaches a new repertoire piece.
- Saxophonist Ben Britton catalogs some methods of dealing with sticky G-sharp keys.
- Eryn Oft outlines the history of Heckel bassoons.
- Nicole Riner offers suggestions on making first contact with a potential college flute teacher. (Applicable to other instruments, too.)
- Jenny Maclay dives deep on clarinet resonance fingerings.
- Clarinetist/doubler Gentry Ragsdale-Szeto finds ways to squeeze in practice on multiple instruments.
- Oboist Patty Mitchell discusses the energy musicians put into playing, teaching, and listening to themselves.
- Clarinetist and saxophonist Andrew Allen explores some difficulties and benefits of playing and teaching multiple instruments.
- Flutist Jolene Harju shares tips on keeping double-tongued notes resonant.
- Clarinetist Jenny Maclay doesn’t play rests, but does observe silences.
Mid- to late-20th-century music written for woodwind doublers, such as musical theater “books,” largely solidified around three main types of doubling specialists. The most common of these is the clarinet/saxophone/flute player. Less common but still widely used are the oboist with passable single reed skills, and the “low reeds” bassoon/bass clarinet/baritone saxophone player.
In the 21st century, “doubler” woodwind sections have shown a tendency to shrink in number of players while growing in number of instruments. That means that some new combinations of instrument are becoming common that weren’t before: for example, it would have been very unusual in the late 20th century to write both flute and oboe into the same book, but this is becoming much more commonplace.
My sense is that woodwind doublers today are more willing/likely to embrace double reed playing, despite those instruments’ reputation (deserved or not) for being more difficult and their reputation (deserved) for being more expensive. But there seems to be some emerging conventional “wisdom” that oboe or bassoon is the way to go, and that playing both is inadvisable. I have to disagree.
It seems unlikely to me that the trend of shrinking woodwind sections, with increasing demands on individual players, is going to reverse. I predict that within a decade or two we’ll see movement in major Broadway productions toward doublers playing oboe and bassoon in the same book.
There’s another wrinkle to this: not all doublers are making their living in top-tier performance situations. It’s quite common for a small- to medium-sized university, or a large high school to hire one person to teach “double reeds.” Nearly always, this means hiring someone who is well-qualified on oboe or bassoon and relatively clueless on the other. I think oboists or bassoonists headed for doctoral degrees and university teaching would be well-advised to consider getting a minor, or at least some lessons, in the other double reed. (There may even be room for someone to develop a graduate program in “double reeds,” or perhaps at least the ability to tailor an existing multiple woodwinds degree to accommodate this.)
Woodwind doublers already understand the benefits of being able to get the doubling gig, but also to get a broader array of single-instrument gigs. If you have the motivation to pursue both oboe and bassoon, I think you will find—as I have—more opportunities to make music.
- Bassoonist Anna Norris suggests showing up for auditions.
- Michael Shults switches between jazz and classical saxophone.
- David Freeman transcribes recorder parts for Stairway to Heaven (but plays them on an electric keyboard…).
- Michael Lowenstern addresses a bass clarinet reed question.
- Flutist Vanessa Breault Mulvey discusses squeezing’s detrimental effect on flute playing.
- Saxophonist Bill Plake discusses tone imagination.
- Flutist Jolene Harju shares ideas for getting the most out of your lessons. I also liked her “Fundamentals Workout Planner.”
- Jennet Ingle learns something about disappointing performances.
- Saxophonist Jay Brandford shares an Eric Dolphy anecdote about dedication to detail in practicing.
- Matt Stohrer shares his procedure for “setting up” a new saxophone. This is sort of a commercial post, but instructive about what a new instrument might need to play to its best potential.
- Flutist Jennifer Cluff explains anchor tonguing.
- 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.