Friday, September 7, 2018

Five Minute Reedmaker: Tone

OMG the Five Minute Reedmaker is Back!

Here’s what I’ve been up to:  I have a few videos ready to drop - I think I’ll put them out on Fridays.  I don’t know if Season Two can take us all the way to the end of the year, as Season One did before.  There may not be that many more topics to consider.  But I love you guys so I’ll try.

The playlist is still up on Youtube, but I’ve ALSO curated Season One onto my own website.  I never can figure out the best way to organize things in a Youtube playlist and this way you can see all of the videos really easily on one screen.  I think this will be helpful.  Perhaps you will let me know if you like it.

Now onto today's video...

I say this all the time - DON’T choose a reed for its tone.  DON’T keep scraping for sound, scrape for function.  Get the reed to work.  The sound will follow. 

But the sound is not UNIMPORTANT, right? 

Tyler wrote to me:  Your videos are great! (Thank you, Tyler! ) Do you think you could do one on tone and how scraping different sections of the reed affects it? I know it's a loaded, complicated topic, but anything you give will help a lot.

This is a loaded topic, first of all because a good tone means different things to different people, and secondly because different people might play the same reed differently.  The shape of your mouth is a factor, how far in on the reed you like to have your lips be, how mouthy you choose to be on the reed.  But I think we can agree on some elements that go into a good tone - core, stability, and flexibility.  Focus.  Sweetness.  Diffuseness. 

That’s a lot of elements, actually.  As I started writing them down I started thinking of more and more.  And this is why the question is complicated. 

But in this video I look at the most COMMON cause of a bad tone and work through two manifestations of it.





Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas, at which point Season Two will end.



Saturday, September 1, 2018

Never Trust an Oboe, Part 2


(Part One HERE)
(Similar story HERE)

Mercifully, THIS one didn't happen to me.  But my poor student was playing an audition for his orchestra, and reached up with his right hand to turn the page of his music.  And heard a "plink".  And when, a split second later, he returned his hand to his oboe to continue playing, he found that his entire thumb rest had fallen off onto the floor, leaving only the post it had been mounted to.

With his hand now contorted uncomfortably, he finished the audition - ably, I am sure - and tracked down the crucial little piece of metal.  Evidently the screw that secures the adjustable thumb rest into its most optimal position had come out - never to be found again - so the thumb rest itself now can escape at will.

He devised a workaround - teflon tape to keep the thing in - but let this be a lesson to all of us.




Seriously, the oboe is not your friend.  It's like a cat trying to slip out the door - it's just WAITING for an opportunity to betray you.  Don't get complacent.


Never trust an oboe.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Creating Ritual

Today I’m thinking about Ritual.

This year, 2018, I have called my Year of Temperance, because my project is to find and feel more balance in my life. So I’m not just running from one thing to another all the time. So I’m not glossing over crucial moments in my life, always focussing on other tasks. So I don’t feel so frantic, and I have more white space in my mind to dream bigger and build bigger.  I like the concept, and the intention.  Five months in, I can't say I'm all that Temperate yet.  But I'm working on it.

On Wednesday I drew the Page of Pentacles as my Crux Finder Card of the Day.  I suggested to my community that we LOOK at our money, and our income streams.  On Thursday, by and for myself, I drew the Daughter of Discs.  Different deck, same card.  What exactly am I supposed to look at, Tarot? What is the message I need?

This card shows a young girl holding a coin up before her.  Gazing at it, exploring it, wondering at it, seeking to understand it.  The image in the card appears ceremonial, ritualized, but the child simply looks curious and interested.  I decided that I wanted a ritual to connect me with money and foster an abundance mindset.

It's not that I need to make more money - though I wouldn't say no - but that I would like to feel more at peace with the income streams I have and their overall continuity.  Musicians - freelancers in general - bring in money intermittently and from a wide range of sources.  Some weeks my income is primarily from performance, sometimes from teaching, sometimes from my reed business.  Some months are exceptionally lucrative, some nearly barren.  The money always comes from somewhere - that's my mantra - but sometimes it can be hard to trust in it.  The older I get, and the more responsibilities I have in my life, the more I need, right? So the flow of money through my life is important and relevant.

So on Friday I went into my journal, and I ceremonially wrote down all of the money that came in that day.  I had a number of checks and direct deposits.  I  thought about each of the people and organizations that had paid me, and about what I had done to earn that money, and I felt grateful for each check and for each gig and each reed and each lesson. I wrote down my feelings of gratitude, and honored the work I had done and the people who had trusted me to do it.

And I loved this.  I felt better when I had done it.  I felt more confident about the future, remembering how many different things I do and do well.  I felt more connected to my customers, students, employers. I felt more connected to my money, in a good way.  This is a Friday ritual I will keep.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Talking about Tchaikovsky

I always like to share what I do on this blog.  The South Bend Symphony closed its season last night with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, and the Maestro asked that four members of the orchestra introduce the four movements of the piece, before we played the symphony through.  He provided some formal notes but encouraged us to personalize our speeches with our own thoughts - and you never have to ask me twice to write stories and speak into a mic, you know? I’m shameless like that.

The first time I played Tchaikovsky 5 was after my junior year of high school. It was the first summer music camp I had ever been to, and I'm sure all of my colleagues here on stage can attest to a similar story. Your first music camp is when you first find your tribe, and the first time you realize that you're not a complete weirdo outcast. I met a whole group of people who like me vibrated with the sheer excitement of creating music, of pulling together to realize this symphony, the most monstrous thing we had ever undertaken.

And the thing I remember most is that after a full day of rehearsals and chamber music and masterclasses and bruising amounts of mental concentration and physical effort my new friends and I would gather in the common room of the dorm - a group of maybe 8 or ten of us - and pull out our Tchaikovsky parts and play through the symphony AGAIN just because we hadn't had enough EVEN YET. Just imagine the glorious dorkiness of this tiny skeleton crew of 15 year olds scraping and blowing and wailing joyously through this masterpiece just because we were all too excited to go to sleep.

You know, I'm all grown up and jaded now - but still I get a thrill when the fourth movement starts and the strings start playing our fate motive in E MAJOR, so warmly and positively. I still get chills when this movement gets fast and terrifying and the brass and clarinets have to howl over the whole texture to be heard. I still want to clap at the false ending in the middle of the movement - though I'm old enough not to get tricked - and I still haven't decided for sure if the piece actually ends on a note of triumph or of devastating frustration. Or both. Please enjoy this amazing work.