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Showing posts from June, 2020

When to Cheat

I got an email from an oboist a while ago, back before COVID.  After thanking me for the reeds I had sent, and complimenting the warm tone they had, they asked a question about the VERY FAST technical passages in the Polovetsian Dances.

 “There is a section of the piece where it is conducted in one beat, but is in 6/8 time. The eighth notes I must play moved so quick that at the tempo I just cannot keep up. My fingers don't move that quick.

 When you play a section like this what do you do? Don't play at all, but fake it with the reed in your mouth?”


 I had some thoughts on this, which felt universal enough to share.


 As you might guess, I’m not a huge fan of just LEAVING THE WHOLE THING OUT.  It just feels so dispiriting!  All around you people are PLAYING the licks, and you are the one giving up?  There’s always something you can contribute, even if it’s just a light downbeat every other bar or so.  You don’t want to try to be a hero and wind up dragging the group down if yo…

You are the Music

You ARE the music. YOU are the music. It’s not the oboe. It’s YOU.

Too many oboists live RIGHT up against the resistance of the oboe, blowing straight into the instrument and waging war against it DIRECTLY.  Using their mouths to try to compensate for the intonation or clenching their fingers to hold extra tight, I guess so it doesn’t get away?

But what if you didn’t have to go in there, into the fray? What if you could maintain a bit of critical distance? What if you could be the boss of the oboe, instead of its timid colleague?

Here’s how I think about it - or at least how I teach it.   Play a note, play it beautifully.  Now.  See if you can take a metaphorical step back from the oboe.  Focus the air inside your mouth BEFORE it hits the reed.  Now see how it feels different.

How much LESS work can you do, and get ultimately to the same result? Could you blow 20% less, and project actually  more?  Can you find the resonance in your own body, and just allow the oboe to amplify that? T…