Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Moment Musicale

Check out this email I got today:

Hi Hilda --

My name is XYZ; I am co-musical directing "Merrily We Roll Along", a full-length musical written by Stephen Sondheim going up in Lerner Auditorium December 8 and 9. We are looking for musicians to play the Reed 3 part, written for clarinet, english horn, oboe and tenor. If you would be interested in playing oboe and any of those other instruments that you might play that would be fantastic. We are getting close to show time and are still very short on pit musicians.

More information is below; let me know if you're interested.

I am excited, but scared that I'm not good enough. I can only go for oboe because I am too rusty on sax and it would mess up my oboe embouchure.

Monday, November 20, 2006


In a little less than 3 weeks I will have been playing the oboe for 2 years. Can you believe it? I certainly can't. Because I can no longer imagine my life without the oboe, it feels as though I have been playing a lot longer. However, some days when I am working mostly on only "basic" stuff I feel as though I am still very much a beginner. I think that the reality is that I am somewhere in between; it's probably safe to say that I am firmly entrenched in the "intermediate" category. Considering the reputation my instrument has for being difficult, I guess I've progressed well in 2 years' time. What's even better is that I am still completely in love with the oboe. Even more so than before if that's possible. I have my moments where I feel discouraged, but all I have to do is listen to a few recordings and I am reinspired and re-energized. Hearing the oboe or EH still puts a huge smile on my face and makes my eyes well up. Every day I thank God for it because it has changed my life for the better forever.

I realized over the course of the last week that this upcoming year's theme will be control. At this point I have at least touched on all the basics. The goal now will be to gain control of them so that I am in control of my playing. I have to get to the point where I know what will be coming out of my instrument at all times. Right now I may try to play pp, but it might turn out a little louder than expected. Or I may get no sound at all. I spent a lot of this past year on my intonation so that major area is my best one. This coming year I need to spend more time on breathing/air flow, vibrato, sound, and dynamics. Oh, and reed making of course. At least I am starting to see some progress with the reeds. The one I took into my lesson yesterday was my best looking reed yet. She had to work on it some but they are turning out better and better. I took a picture of my new reed corner and will share it with you once I get it to the computer. I'm convinced that creating a comfortable place for me to work on reeds at is part of what's helping me improve.

I am excited about this coming year because I think that at the end of it I will finally be making some really beautiful music. At that point, hopefully I can really start to work on the repertoire, both etudes and solo pieces. Maybe at some point next year I will finally find a nice group to play regularly with.

Speaking of which, my bassoonist friend called me recently and is interested in restarting the quartet. I don't want to get up my hopes too much, but so far this has been the only group I've been happy in (aside from my duet buddies). Apparently he has a project with a Brazilian singer where we'd be accompanying her on some Villa-Lobos music. I think that means it will be hard! We might also prepare some more modern quartet pieces. I'll rejoice about it when it actually happens.

For now I guess I have to put up with well-meaning but clueless arrangers. My husband got invited to a church concert by an ambitious arranger. He even wrote in some parts for oboe. But then he forgot to show up to the rehearsal last week. And the papers are a mess. The rehearsal was another complete fiasco. The concert is this coming Saturday. I am not sure if I will bother participating or not because at this point it will probably end up just being my husband on piano. All the brass and wind players were very discouraged and will probably not show up to the concert.

I have another lead on a possible group, but have to look into it first.

The good thing is that tomorrow I meet up with my new duet buddy. We were supposed to be a trio but that didn't work out. I should get to play some more EH again tomorrow. WOOOOOT! I came *this* close to buying a Fox EH that a friend of J's was selling. But then I decided to hold off because I really didn't want to use up my entire savings and because I figured I should just keep focusing on oboe for now. I'll have one soon enough :-)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chinny Chin Chin

My last lesson went reasonably well. My reed wasn't as good as the one from last week; she had to work on it a lot longer. But it turned out ok at the end. Again, not great enough to play with others (not that I am doing that anyway) but good enough to use at home for practice.

I'm happy to report that she did notice improvement with the long tone/dynamics exercise. I was able to produce the different dynamics on demand (pp, mf, f, ff). She upped the ante by asking me to go from ff to pp on the same note. I wasn't able to control my air flow well enough and the sound ended up stopping. So that's one thing I will need to work on for this coming week. Also, my vibrato has taken a nosedive. The problem is that when I try to work the vibrato in, I tend to get louder. There are just so many things to think about! Well this week I need to try to figure out how to work the vibrato in without the dynamics changing. I also need to work a bit more on not going sharp with the fortisimos. More reed rolling exercise for me.

My teacher was quite happy with the slow movement of the Marcello. She said that the intonation was great and she liked my dynamics. I've also improved in terms of air flow and line. It doesn't sound as disjointed as before where I was worrying about just note at a time instead of entire phrases. The two negative things she noticed were that I was moving my fingers more than necessary (especially with the half hole) and that my chin was moving around. Problem is that I don't even feel it moving. She thinks I may be doing it to try to tune up my notes but I wonder if it's me trying keep my embouchure in place. Either way I have to practice with my mirror again to make sure I am not chewing or otherwise moving my jaw/chin. UGH! I am quite disturbed by this habit because it's almost subconscious or something since I don't feel it happening. When will my corners and chin just stay in place? Hopefully soon!

I may have some playing opportunities coming up . . . more on that in a later post.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hilda 1 Reeds 87

Last Sunday I had a lesson and took two reeds in for inspection. Guess what? One of them was actually good! I've had nearly good ones before where my teacher would fix just a few things on them, particularly on the tip. But this reed's tip needed NO adjustment at all. When I looked at it under her light I almost got goosebumps. It looked how it was supposed to look! WOOHOO! She made a few scrapes in the back and that was it. The sound is not amazing but it plays comfortably and acceptably. I have been struggling so much with knife sharpening of all things and it was really hampering my progress in the reed making front. I knew that the knives felt better this weekend and that must be why the tip came out well. Let's hope that I don't have to make another 100 reeds before I get the next decent one.

That was the good news. The bad news is that E-flat minor kicked my butt. And the other bad news it that my embouchure still needs some work. It's improved, but as I tire I struggle to keep my corners and chin in the right place and sometimes I bite too. Is it normal to still be dealing with this? When do the child students rid themselves of these habits?

I guess I'm paranoid because I didn't get to play the Marcello at my last lesson. After celebrating the reed success (my other reed was a complete dud by the way) we did long tones and ended up staying there for the remainder of the lesson. So I left wondering if she noticed something really wrong with my tone production or she just happened to want to return to basics on that particular day. I know that we moved very fast at the beginning so maybe she just wants to backtrack a little bit for thoroughness's sake. She said that I am focusing way too much on intonation and that my sound has suffered somewhat because of it. Apparently I've started to overcompensate with my embouchure to ensure the proper intonation. She'd rather me not play perfectly in tune but focus more on getting a stronger sound. I'm been dampering my sound too much in trying to sound beautiful and in tune. At one point she told me I was trying to skip a year to which I replied that I have a lot of years to make up for. I think she really feels my pain for wanting this really badly but having a complicated life now.

My first few days of practice after the lesson felt weird. I spend the majority of my practice session doing long tones and slow scales. I do think I really needed it though. Today I finally felt better with the exercises she gave me. I think I am starting to understand where she's going with the sound thing. I don't have to damper the sound in order for it to sound pretty. Quite the contrary. When I am not biting and my chin and corners are correct, the sound that comes out is a lot more vibrant and "singing". It's a little harder to control the volume but I wasn't doing that well with the before anyway so now I am following her suggestions about air speed and support. Let's see what happens this coming Sunday.

In terms of the Marcello, I've been focusing on the 2nd movement ever since I switched to the C minor version. It's VERY hard on my chops to get through the whole thing. In fact, my embouchure tends to die out somewhere halfway and I need to take a few bars of rest before continuing. The good thing is that the soreness I feel is at the corners of my lips so hopefully that means that I am working that area and that it will get stronger soon, enabling me to keep the correct embouchure for longer and longer periods of time.

Sometimes I wish we were also working out of a method book too. Maybe it's because I'm a nerd or because I am so frustrated at not having start young and want to make up for that, but there's something satisfying about being able to say "I finished xyz book". *sigh* I just feel a constant need to be evaluated and to know how I'm progressing in all areas. Why is it that method books are not normally used with adult students?

And with that question, I am off to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day at work and I have to come home and practice AND start another reed before we go out to the movies. :-D Happy playing everyone!