Skip to main content

The AIR is the Sound

It's never wrong to go back to basics.

I was working with some college freshmen and we were playing two-bar phrases. I talked about arcing the air over the barline. I talked about singing. I talked about how the tongue is just the consonant of your speech, not the punctuation. I talked about D articulation as opposed to T.  I have a LOT of different words I can use for any given concept, and I pulled all of them out. I drew the phrase on my whiteboard, I explained how the LINE is longer than the SLUR, and how the BARLINE is not a STOP. 

Still, though, this ONE articulation brought the whole thing to a standstill, every time. So the piece moved measure by measure and not phrase by phrase. They were frustrated and I was too. 

And I finally realized that the thing I wasn't saying was this - if the AIR is moving consistently through the oboe, THAT'S what is making the sound.  Within that, every instant that your tongue is touching the reed is an instant that sound is not happening. So for a legato tongue effect, you paradoxically have to move your tongue faster than normal, and just touch the reed like a hot potato and get RIGHT BACK OFF OF IT. 

It's so basic, so physical, so NOT fancy at all. But it made all the difference. We played some long tones with quarter note DAH articulations, we worked on eliminating the silence between the notes - and then we played beautiful, meaningful two bar phrases that arced over the line and had progression throughout the piece. 

This is what is FUN for me about teaching - the creativity in finding the right words for each individual student.  Sometimes I can be a little high-minded and flowery in my approach - but I don't mind going all the way back to first principles.  The air is the SOUND, the tongue is the SILENCE.  It's a lovely reminder for me too. 



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 …