Prone Oboe


What Do You Do in a Bad Gig?

What can you do when you’re stuck in the crappy groups? I was on a call with a client the other day.  She was discouraged because she was finally able to go back to work in an orchestra – but the gig was lousy.  She’d been working so hard over lockdown, she had such great…

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Harder Isn’t Better

Harder doesn’t mean better. It is not the case that 12-year-olds need a certain EASY kind of reed, that high-schoolers should step up to MEDIUM, that adults all play on MEDIUM HARD or HARD.  You don’t just step up progressively according to your age, or your level – Rubank Intermediate Book reeds are not necessarily…

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What if it was EASY?

What if the oboe was easy? I speak about this constantly.  We spent a lot of time last week in my first Invincible Oboist class talking about strategies to keep our air low, conversational, easy, so we don’t have to get so worked up, so red-faced, so out of breath playing. I talked about using “conversational air” and taking a…

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Don’t Wait For It

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…

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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…

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How Do You WISH You Could Describe Your Reeds?

In Reed Club last Monday, we took a moment before we started scraping to set some intentions.  We each said one word – an adjective to describe what we WANTED our reeds to be.  An aspirational adjective. Efficient was a word that came up, and Consistent. Dark and Mysterious. Mellow. Predictable. Trustworthy.  Honest.  BIGGER. Reed affirmations actually…

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Micro Rests

For oboists, endurance is a huge problem.  We can play an endlessly long phrase, because of the way the instrument is constructed, but we can really only do that a few times in a row before our embouchure starts to get fatigued.  We develop a buildup of air that feels exhausting to hold onto, and…

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On the generosity of Instagram practice accounts

Classical musicians are trained to make it perfect. To make all the notes correct, to make it sound like the CD, to do it the way everyone else has done it. The only way to shine is to be BETTER – which means cleaner, more in tune, more perfect. We DO NOT SHIP until it’s…

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Choose the YES

Special moments come at the least expected times.This video, the one I circulate periodically whenever Facebook reminds me of it, was literally just a gig. I didn’t know Sullivan when he reached out to me to play because he needed the video for some application or other.  I didn’t even ask what it was for. …

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Coffee? COMMUNICATE.

Thesis: Communication is important. Letting the other person know your CONTEXT is a part of that. Scene: We’re walking the doggo, so I can’t step into the co-op with Steve.  We’re all wearing masks, which as you know makes communication a little bit more fraught. “I’m going to grab some coffee – what can I…

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COMMUNICATING Through the Mask

I was just trying to pick up my kid’s prescription at the pharmacy. No, it’s INGLE.  EYE ENN GEE ELLL EEEE.   Between the mask covering half my face and the plexiglass barrier, I was almost reduced to charades as I tried to communicate a simple order.   And we’ve all discovered this lately, I’m…

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When to Cheat

I got an email from an oboist a while ago, back before COVID.  After thanking me for the reeds I had sent, and complimenting the warm tone they had, they asked a question about the VERY FAST technical passages in the Polovetsian Dances. “There is a section of the piece where it is conducted in…

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You are the Music

You ARE the music. YOU are the music. It’s not the oboe. It’s YOU. Too many oboists live RIGHT up against the resistance of the oboe, blowing straight into the instrument and waging war against it DIRECTLY.  Using their mouths to try to compensate for the intonation or clenching their fingers to hold extra tight,…

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Make More Reeds

I recently met with a former student who proudly described THE reed she was working on to me.  She’d gotten it to a point where it made a beep, but it didn’t really play on the oboe yet, but i IT HADN’T CRACKED!  I celebrated with her – but I limited my glee.  One slightly…

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Separating it Out

Last semester, my student came in with the Hoedown from Copland’s Rodeo. Let me guess, I said – the low tonguing passage? Of course she assumed that she had a tonguing problem.  We always assume that. I started by checking her oboe. There’s no point in beating yourself up to tongue a low D if…

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Keeping My AIR to Myself

I was out running this morning and I crossed the street to avoid a perfectly nice lady walking her perfectly nice dog.  We smiled and waved at each other – but didn’t dare to get close.  Runners in this COVID season allow a lot of space.  The air I use when I run comes right…

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Top Six Reasons I Love Teaching Online Lessons

I’ve been seeing so many complaints among my friends and colleagues about the quality of their Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom lessons. I have to say that while I acknowledge the limitations of the media, I actually really LOVE teaching online.   1. Lesson transitions are better. Sometimes when we are live, our chit-chat can take…

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Reed Mindset

In our dress rehearsal Saturday morning I became aware of just how GREAT my reed was. It felt so EASY to play the oboe.  I could come in perfectly softly, with or without a strong attack.  I could enter loudly and in tune, with or without accent.  My pitch was centered, my tone was attractive. …

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Open Arms

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash In rehearsal last night, the concertmaster suggested to the strings that they play with a more open bow arm. I don’t know precisely what that phrase means to a string player – if it’s a technical term or more of a kinetic metaphor – but it immediately set my…

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Shaq and the Oboe

https://youtu.be/pxxPznV38Hk 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…

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Tall Poppy Syndrome

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash I’ve been reading about Tall Poppy Syndrome, since hearing SOMEONE mention it in a podcast interview.  I’m embarrassed that I can’t source that podcast – too much travel recently, too many amazing podcast interviews.  I have no idea who drew it to my attention.   Basically, though, it’s the concept that anyone…

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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…

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My Favorite Things: Printer Edition

“Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom” -Leonardo da Vinci “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution” – Igor Stravinsky “Sometimes constraints actually create success. Not being able to swim made me run.  And running taught me…

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I Love Auditions

I love auditions.  No, I do, really.  First of all, I like the game of it.  Fifty people come to the hall, one leaves victorious.  The drama is deeply fun.  I love playing auditions.  Picture it – you get to walk out onto an unfamiliar but beautiful stage, the home stage of an orchestra better…

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Reed Habits

How do you change your reed making habits?   Even if you feel like a reed beginner, I can promise that you have developed some habits, for good or ill.  This is how our bodies work, right?  If the way you hold your knife on day one gets you close to the scrape you want, you’ll hold…

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