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Showing posts from September, 2016

A New Challenge: Quarter Tones

I'm learning a piece now which features quarter tones, or the pitches that fall in between the normal 12 notes that we are accustomed to in Western music.  I have never worked with quarter tones before.

In works such as Ravel's Piece en forme de Habanera or Alyssa Morris's "Yellow", from Four Personalities, we see pitch bends.  These are usually done with the embouchure, and I have no problem moving most of the notes on the oboe even as much as a half-step up or down.  But this technique always involves a certain amount of scooping in the sound - I hit the real note then schmear my way to the adjusted one, and in my experiments this week I found that I was unable to reliably guess my way to a clean attack on an altered pitch using only my embouchure and air as a guide.  In other words, if I finger B natural, I can adjust that easily to a quarter step flat or sharp, but can't reliably hit that quarter step straight on without having to wiggle for it.  And this…

Playing on Your Own Reeds

Memo to students
Re: Playing on your own reeds

You should be playing on the reeds that you make.  Otherwise, the making of those reeds is purely an academic exercise, and a huge waste of time.  There's nothing that will improve your reed-making faster than the realization that you are about to play in public and that what you have is totally inadequate.  You will sink or swim very quickly, and you will make more reeds than you would if you were just working on them idly, and you will figure out a way to diagnose the problems you are experiencing, and you will hypothesize ways to fix them, and some of those fixes will actually work and in this way you will learn to make reeds.

If you are not yet a fantastic, consistent, competent reed-maker, and you are playing on reeds that you made, I salute you.  You will be a stronger, better person for facing this adversity.

But there's a caveat.  If your reed, that you labored long and hard over, still does not perform some of the basic f…

Is it Live? No, Decidedly Not.

I recorded my CD last week!

I was startled that my engineer's biggest concern in the editing room was reducing the sounds of my breaths.  This had never crossed my mind as an issue - an oboist has to breathe.  Any wind player has to breathe.  Humans breathe.  I didn't see the problem.

I understand  that you don't want to be wrenched out of the pretty music and back into an awareness of the performer's physical struggle - but I've always found an excitement in the sheer humanness of performers.  There was one  particular breath that we argued about a little.   I pointed out that it was dramatic, rhythmic, and integrated into the line of the exciting phrase I was making.  In a live performance that would have been 100% part of the act.

He pointed out that this was not a live performance.  He won the argument.

It was important to me to have my recording feel real.  I didn't want to use the studio magic to piece together something I was unable to play live.  But I also…