Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A bit of a slump

Soon as I posted all my wonderful goals for my second year of oboe playing I ran into a week of finals and then a nasty slump (or was the slump a result of the week of finals). During the finals craziness I was unable to practice every day and when I did I could only go for about 30 minutes or so. I think I was too stressed out perhaps. Then once finals were over I felt too tired to "work" on practicing. Plus I had fallen out of habit and it felt a bit like starting over again.

So the last two weeks were hit or miss until tonight when I finally forced myself (with the help of the hubby) to resume my old practice habits. I got a good hour plus in and was feeling so much better by the end of it. My sound didn't suffer tremendously from the craziness of the last few weeks but my fingers did feel a bit stiff and my embouchure tired easily. Maybe in a way this is a good thing. Maybe I will finally forget my old, wrong, smiley embouchure.

I've tried to keep a positive outlook regarding reeds but I feel that I must mention them as being at least partly at fault for my slump. I don't have a single good reed right now! I had been using one that my teacher made me in October and it is now officially dead. I should take a picture of it, it's pretty funny. It kept playing even though it was almost completely frayed. The ones that I started are all mediocre even though my teacher helped me finish them off. I think I was supposed to make further adjustments. Or perhaps I am tying them wrong. Today I ended up resurrecting my previous "wonder" reed. It has problems with some of the low notes and with the high A, but most everything else sounds nice and in tune. If I had had a nice reed during the last few weeks practicing could have been a nice outlet for me. I could have gone downstairs and just played a few tunes and called it a day. However, I knew that I had to contend with 10 bad reeds. How much fun is that when you're worried about synthesizing alkyl halides or transcription errors? I think I avoided the instrument partly because of the reed problem. Because I knew I would get frustrated which is exactly what happened each time I played. Our instrument is sooooooo beautiful when the reed just does what it's supposed to do. Why can't they all be wonder reeds?? *sniff sniff*

But anyway, now that I am no longer stressed out I was able to be more positive again and I tackled my fear and faced it and it wasn't half bad. Yes, I still have no good reeds, but I am still able to get some practicing in until I meet with my teacher on Saturday.

So guess what I will be doing tonight while I watch House?? Ding, ding, ding, 10 points for you if you guessed that I'll be tying new reeds.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I heard something I really liked on Monday night as I was driving home from one of my finals. It was Dvorak's "Serenade for Winds in d, opus 44". Simply amazing!

I am really startig to think that it might actually be better to play in a smallish ensemble than in a big orchestra. I mean I would still love to play a symphony but there is so much out there for smaller ensembles, pieces which really showcase all the instruments and which sound like a lot of fun to play.

Someday! I've been bad bad bad with my practicing because of finals. I need to get back on track!

But first I must catch up on sleep. I've gotten around 16 hours for the last 4 nights combined.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Oboe anniversary

December was usually a busy month at work as all the client teams were involved in year-end processing. In spite of all the work I had, I remembering running out of work early on this day last year. I *had* to get to Greenwich before 6 and the weather was a bit crazy that day. A few weeks before this I had decided I would try out an oboe and had finally found a place that had one. My oboe was waiting for me at Greenwich Music so long as I got there by 6.

I did get there on time and so I drove the rest of the way home with an old Selmer oboe (and two store bought reeds) as my passenger(s). I had downloaded a little "how to play the oboe" book from the Fox website and it was what helped me take those first steps.

I played three notes that day: B, A, and G, all of which were horrendously out of tune and all of which sounded like a cross between a bagpipe, a kazoo, and a goose. I was undeterred, however, and with those three notes I began a wonderful new journey.

When I told my friends I was thinking of playing oboe most of them warned me of all the hardships that lay ahead. Because of the dire warnings, I had very low expectations. I figured it would be years before I could even play scales. And maybe 10-20 years to play in an orchestral setting. It's a wonder I took up the instrument at all, me being as impatient as I am. But for whatever reason it passed the trial and since December 9, 2004 there has not been a day that I have not at least thought about the oboe.

So today I've been playing oboe for a year and I'm happy to report that things are going much better than I initially expected. Though I only played 3 notes that first day within a month I was playing almost two octaves. I was able to start on scales within months, not years. I still need to work on even-ing out the sound of my scales (oboes have some notes that can sound pretty funky if you're not careful) but as of right now they are pretty much in tune and decently clean. I've been practicing scales with up to 4 flats or sharps. With the help of my new teacher, I've learned a lot about reed making (though I'm not completely independent yet) and have been working hard on correcting my embouchure. My sound has definitely progressed to something more oboe-like. Every once in a while I'll be playing something and it actually sounds nice. That's the best feeling in the world!

I've already started playing with some friends who play other woodwinds and I no longer think it will take 10-20 years to play in a community orchestra. Maybe just 5. I should also mention that I eventually bought my very own Lorée oboe.

I am pumped because though the going has felt slow on a day to day basis I see now that I have advanced pretty nicely this year.

For the coming year these are my goals:
* To finally nail the correct embouchure consistently.
* To practice more consistently and for longer periods of time. I averaged an hour a day every day this year but I know that I can do way better. There were probably only 20 days or so during the entire year where I didn't practice at all. I want that total to be less than 10 for next year. Also I want to bring up my practice time to two hours a day minimum.
* To work on all scales: adding the ones with 5-7 accidentals, working more on minor scales, and doing arpeggios. I need to work on an even tone in all registers and on consistent intonation. I also need to work on speeding things up.
* To work on dynamics and articulation.
* To start working on some of the easy pieces from the standard oboe repertoire.
* To get close to being independent with reed making (hopefully my teacher will only need to make minor adjustments to the reed I bring in).
* To attend a Summer chamber music festival (I'm applying to applehill).
* To perform with my friends (as a duo, trio, or quartet) at small functions.
* I may even audition for the Wind Ensemble next September depending on how I am sounding by then. They only have 1 oboe right now!

So there you have it. A recap of my first year as an oboist. I am even more passionate about it than when I first started and an ever thankful for finally finding my life's love.