Hello, my name is [XXXX]. I’m kinda new at the oboe and solos are my biggest problems. I’m also a freshman in high school so I’m not used to the large band group. I’ve had several solos but it’s all still new to me. So is there any advice you can give me about playing solos or not being so scared to play them?
Hi, [XXXX]. I’m so glad that you got in touch – I love meeting oboists, whether virtually or in person!
Without knowing you, it’s hard to know exactly what advice to give – but here are two (related) ways I might approach being nervous about solos.
The first suggestion is about the solos themselves. Make sure that you REALLY know how to play them. If you are struggling with rhythms or notes, that will make you even more nervous. Bring them to your teacher, if possible. Practice at home, in private, so you can work out the kinks. Use a metronome and make sure that you understand exactly where the beats should fall. If your solo starts off the click, make sure that you can place the pickup note reliably. In addition, practice counting the rest beforehand and coming in. Sometimes the scariest part is just getting started, and no one ever thinks to practice One two three, Two two three, Three two PLAY, but that is also something you can take care of in the privacy of your practice room. Then, once you are so prepared that you can play the thing perfectly, five times in a row, with good air and a good sound, move to the next suggestion.
Which is to take a GOOD DEEP BREATH and to PLAY LOUDLY. No matter what dynamic is printed in your part, if you are a freshman in high school playing in a large band you should be blowing a LOT of air through the oboe for a solo. Your instrument is already quieter than most of the others, and it will sound wimpy and tiny unless you REALLY PLAY IT. If you blow good air you will produce a good sound that is naturally better in tune than the teeny pinched sound that FEAR produces. Plus, if you have a good full sound and then you make a small mistake in your solo, you will sound like a good player who has made a mistake, and there’s no shame in that. Everyone makes mistakes.
I hope this helps – feel free to stay in touch if you have more questions!