Skip to main content

A Narrow Escape

I almost fell into the trap last night. I almost said it. Almost confessed in public to a reed problem. I had been playing along, and things were fine, and then suddenly there was a little gunk in the reed, or a little corner tore, or something, and the oboe mumbled for a couple of beats instead of singing out proudly. And the conductor stopped and asked for more sound. And I said "Yes, absolutely, it was just a… a thing." Stopped myself just in time.

This is the lesson that I drive home for my students constantly. It's the lousiest thing about the oboe, and it's the ugly truth. No one cares about the reed issues. Any problem that is audible to others is STILL YOUR FAULT.

Sure, sometimes that bratty piece of cane does change abruptly, or miss an attack, or sound a little raw. A reed is never perfect, and you should have controlled it better. If the reed just refuses to do what you want, you should have made a better reed. Not making your own reeds yet? You should be. At minimum, you should have CHOSEN a better reed from your case. Don't have another? That's your fault too. The details of what just happened in your mouth are of no interest to anyone but you.

It took me a long time after graduating from school to stop allowing the reed to be an excuse for MY misses. Everyone knows the oboe is hard, and that the reeds can be problematic, and people will pretend sympathy, which makes the whine all the more tempting.

Ultimately, though, either the playing is good and competent and present or it's not, and if it's not it should have been. Allowing myself an out just keeps me from taking care of business, and I can't have that. I'll struggle and gripe in the privacy of my practice room, but at the gig the Unfussy Oboist makes it work, or apologizes for her own errors.

So that little slip was a near miss. I caught it in time this time, but I will stay on my guard for future moments of weakness.

Comments

  1. Well said! I succumb to the temptation of Reed Whining far too often, and you're so right - no one cares!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

We took a vacation this summer.This is not news to anyone in my life - anyone who knows me or especially Steve on Facebook followed along with all of our pictures.We took our travel trailer out to Arizona - via St Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Roswell, Santa Fe - and then stayed a week in Clarksdale and Flagstaff and visited some ancient pueblo ruins, Sedona, Jerome, the Lowell Observatory, the Grand Canyon.We swam in swimming pools, lakes, and icy mountain streams.We hiked.Eventually we came home again, via Albuquerque, Amarillo, Tulsa, and St Louis. (our inventiveness had somewhat worn out).After a week at home we took another trip, and drove to Vermont via western NY and the Adirondack Park (stayed an extra day to hike a mountain), lived four days in East Franklin VT, and came home via Catskill and eastern Ohio.
This vacation felt different from all of our previous ones.In the 21 years we’ve been married, I can name only one - maybe two trips we ever took that were not For Work or For …