Don’t wait for it.
The lowest notes on the oboe are notoriously difficult to play. They don’t want to speak, they MIGHT splatter, they are SLOW to respond, they feel flat. And if your instrument is even slightly out of adjustment, they can be even more resistant – sometimes literally impossible.
And some students WAIT for that low note to come before they go on, and THIS disrupts the rhythm, the tempo, the flow of the piece, and the musical line they are trying to create. It distracts the listeners, it throws the ensemble off. The pianist has to lurch to catch them, the conductor has to stop and yell.
One missed note, or one note that doesn’t quite speak – THAT doesn’t ruin your communication. But the distraction and disruption for both you and your listener that happens when YOU acknowledge the problem, when YOU make us all wait patiently for the response of a low C – that’s when you lose us.
I think every low note has three possibilities within it.
1. It can “ghost”, or fail to speak at all
2. It can speak perfectly, on time
3. It can squawk and splatter all over the room
We can all agree that version 2 is the ideal. But if you’re feeling tentative about it, if you think you might not get 2? I think it’s clear that leaning toward version 1 is the safer choice.
Allowing low notes to exist on a spectrum in which perfection is not the ONLY acceptable answer is a great relief to me and to my students.
Sometimes, in life, we can get a little bit stuck, or frozen, looking for the one PERFECT action. If you’re trying to start a business, if you’re trying to create a relationship with someone, if you are trying to increase your visibility on social media because your orchestra has shut down and you need an audience – you might feel like there’s no way to know what to do, there’s no way to know how to start.
If there’s an imperfect okay choice, a perfect one, and a BAD one, just make sure you’re leaning away from the BAD choice – then don’t wait.
I don’t want to go on record as saying that your notes don’t have to speak, or that sloppy playing or careless behavior is acceptable. That’s not really what I’m saying. BUT – the intention of the musical line is more than any one note, and ANYONE, even a great player, might miss a single note. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
So here’s my message, to my students and my clients and sometimes myself. Don’t wait for the note to arrive. Give it your best try, but let it be all right for it to ghost instead of speaking on time. Move ON with your big picture communication. The momentum of your line need not be disrupted for a mere technical matter.
Play me something worth listening to and I don’t need your low B.