Wednesday, June 26, 2024


I decided since I am posting so much about the exercise I do starting the note with no tongue, I should probably record myself. Not my favorite thing to do so please don’t be judgy! 

This is an a which, of course we all have to play 1 billion times as oboists- And it has been the bane of my existence because I always get a catch at the beginning of the note. Since I’ve been doing my peep exercises, it has improved so much, especially in the low range. I’m not sure if it is stored up trauma, but the A is still difficult for me. 

Typically, I start on the A with an equal temperament drone in the background, and then I proceed chromatically down to Bb.

Sunday, June 2, 2024


 The Oboe Path has caused me to take a closer look at many aspects of my playing - mostly because I'm just taking the time to consider! Just having face time has been good of course, but because I'm trying to come up with ideas for my warmup, I have focused on articulations. I mentioned the "peeping" where I start the sound without my tongue at all - this has been a total game changer! I have always done that on the clarinet (super easy and intuitive) but I had always assumed it was IMPOSSIBLE on the oboe. Apparently with the right reed (must respond easily) and removal of tension I can do it just fine on the oboe. So amazing.

But now I'm looking at repeated notes with the tongue. First I was just articulating the scales (repeat tonic 8x, up to +1, back down and repeat tonic 8x = 32 tongues and trad long tone at the end) That was useful and I got much smoother with practice, but then Erin pointed out short tonguing and super long tonguing feels VERY different. Intellectually I thought I could do it, but in practice I was all over the place! So now I'm trying each scale with three different articulations - it is helpful to have to switch since I'm bad at that! Already seeing a difference.

Got a call to sub (last minute) for the local college symphony (EWU) - would just be 2nd oboe no big thing. 2 rehearsals (that day and day of concert, which was 2 days out) and concert. Turns out they were doing some concertos, a student composition (lovely) and Brahms Variations (!!!!!) which is on every 2nd oboe audition! I have played the excerpt but never the actual piece. Low notes (especially repeated) have always been the bane of my playing, and I was so happy that rehearsal went GREAT! I have been working on exactly these things and the Oboe Path made what would have been a anxiety inducing nightmare and actual pleasure! Actually looking forward to the concert tomorrow. Yay.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Warm up

 One of the concepts of the Oboe Path is creating your own curated warm up, tailored to your current needs. I believe the idea is to change it up pretty regularly. My current warmup is

Peeps - starting each note (using a drone for tuning) 9 times, going from piano - forte- piano, then the last peep is a traditional long tone. I do this on the 12 pitches in the lowest range (A-Bb) going down. Seems best to work from the middle of the range down. Perhaps at some point I'll work on the upper notes, but my trouble area has been the low range so for now this works.

Pitch matching and articulated scales - On each tone (A-Bb) I put on the just tuning and work especially octaves and fifths. I was doing thirds but that seemed too much for general work right now. After I've got my pitch centered in all the octaves (up to ledger line high G) I articulate 16ths (at mm80 for now), 8 of the tonic, 8 up to the octave +1 and back down and 8 more on the tonic, ending with a traditional long tone. Only one octave presently. Have been doing major and then harmonic minor, trying to make sure the articulations are all clear throughout.

I think the idea is to take problem bits from pieces I might be working on and make them into little exercises, but at this point Ive had so many gigs I'm just plowing through. Hoping to work on bits of Secret Garden (a few nasty runs) this general work has been keeping me busy! 

After that I suppose you could practice actual pieces, but mostly Ive been happy if I do the warmup and then I usually have a rehearsal or gig so I'm playing a fair bit every day. About to start a little break in reharsals (2 weeks maybe) but Palmer is coming so I'm not wanting to spend hours practicing then. My goal will be to get through the warmup every day and anything else is bonus!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Oboe Path

 It's been a while, but rather than write about everything that has happened since I last posted (COVID! and the aftermath) I have recently started a program called the Oboe Path. It is run by the amazing Erin Brophy from Saskatoon Canada, to help oboe players "play with joy and ease". Who doesn't want to play with joy and ease?! Her catchphrase is "be the oboist everyone wants to play with" and I just love that.

So, I've been following the path for about 6 weeks now, and here are some of my take-aways.

* make a curated warmup tailored to your needs. Update it regularly

* get two reeds wet. Play on what you have instead of endlessly fiddling with fixing reeds

* scales are the backbone of technique. play them every day. 

* beginnings of notes don't have to be tongued (!) this has been a huge breakthrough for me and I have no idea why no teacher every pointed this out (or did they, and I didn't hear?). Almost 50 years of playing and I'm just getting the idea of how to make a soft entrance!

I'm treating the program like an extention of grad school, you know, with me actually paying attention and focusing on the oboe this time. There are lots of concepts and a never ending list of things I could improve, but for now I'm really trying to get control of the soft entrance, both with and without tongue. Then articulating repeated notes (on scales!) focusing on the low register. And pitch - SOOOO much shame is surrounding tuning in my mind - I realize I don't really listen when I'm tuning, I just tense up and watch the needle! For the first time ever I'm trying to hear what being in tune sounds like (with the awesome just tuning available on TE Tuner). It is a process, and my gut reaction is to lower pitch ALWAYS (since so many unhelpful people said I was sharp back in the day). Well, I probably WAS sharp, but without HEARING the note come into tune it isn't helpful. I know these poor teachers didn't have time to help individuals, but wow. If anyone reading this (no one) knows of a great ear training app, I'd love to know about it.

It is my goal to start posting more, and put my progress on the path here! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sort of Sabbatical

After never missing a concert for the past 16 years, I decided to take a concert off. Because of conflicts with another gig, and bad management with my symphony, and disgruntlement with other principal players taking every other concert off, and feeling under appreciated for my playing as well as all the other grunt work I do for the symphony. A perfect sub showed up out of the blue, and then amazingly this perfect person was available until summer. So I decided I needed a break. And now I'm off until June! And it feels great. Should people take sabbaticals from "normal" jobs? I certainly don't categorize my job as "normal". I know taking sabbaticals is a thing in the academic world, although I understand it's getting harder these days. But I think taking a break will really help my attitude and maybe my playing. I will get some perspective, and maybe the other players with either appreciate me more, or decide they'd be better off with someone else! Either way, it is good to shake things up. I have heard from other players about the concerts I'm missing, this last one had Peter and the Wolf and Pictures. I would have loved to play both those things again, but not one pang of regret as I listen to my friends telling me the highlights. So I know this was a good decision for me. For now.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Reeds reeds reeds

I have been very lucky to have a LOT going on the past few months, but of course that means I'm going through reeds faster. I would guess most oboists have tried "saving" a reed - playing the dreadful reeds hoping the "good" one will still be good when you need it! But in my experience reeds don't wait for the big performance...there are so many factors involved that your perfect reed on Monday may be just awful on Friday. So I don't tend to save my best ones, I just play on whatever is working at the time. I have been thinking about reeds more and more, partly because I have been asked to teach at a reed making camp this summer! This is not something I have done in the past, although of course I have taught my students to make reeds (to varying degrees of success). So I've been pondering what exactly makes a reed good, and how to explain that to someone else, and how to consistently make good reeds - which is what we ALWAYS want to do but at least in my case, I just don't! So I'm trying some new things. First I'm naming all my reeds. Boy names. Alphabetical. Has been fun to think of names but also I notice that I can remember George and how he behaved easier than R24, or the varigated blue with a streak on the bark. Secondly, I'm counting my knife strokes. Seriously. I figure why not. So 20 strokes on each quarter before I cut the tip. Then depending on the hardness of the cane, about 100 strokes on each tip quarter, and maybe 40 on the sides of the heart. I use a dial micrometer so I have a number I'm aiming for, but counting seems to work pretty well. Thirdly I'm keeping a journal of every reed - which type of cane and what shape, date, where I tied it on, thread color and maybe if it had anything weird, like soft cane, or really narrow opening or anything. That is something I have tried to do in the past but haven't been very successful at continuing. Seems to help that I'm naming them, maybe I feel more of a commitment. So I'm off to make some more reeds. William and probably Xavier - I mean, what else can you do with X?

Friday, January 8, 2016


I am finding myself in a conundrum. Sometimes my big mouth gets me into more troubling spots!

One of the chamber groups I play with meets at a local church, where they allow us to keep instruments and rehearse for free. We have played for their service, and recently I noticed the choir director passing out parts to the Vivaldi Gloria when we were rehearsing. Thinking I could help this little church choir out with my fabulous playing skills, I offered to play the oboe part with them. I assumed this would be for their church service and that they would probably have someone playing the organ and the church choir. 

It came to light that I was unable to attend rehearsal since I have orchestra the same night as the church choir rehearsals. The director seemed OK with this, and since I have played it before I wasn't too worried about it. Since there is an obbligato part, he mentioned the soprano might give me a call so we can go over that movement before the performance. When I didn't hear from her, I called the director as time is getting short and found that in fact this was not for church service, but for an afternoon concert. He had forgotten to tell me that they had agreed we would just run through the movement right before the concert at two. Still not a big deal, I figured it was just a special after-Christmas event for the church.

Yesterday I went to my chamber music rehearsal, and I noticed a large number of chairs set up in front of risers--as though for a small orchestra and a large choir. I saw some names on stands which made me realize all the A-Team players from the big orchestra in town would be playing for this ensemble. The soloist is apparently not a little old church lady, but the fairly well known opera singer. And instead of offering my services for free to help the little church choir, I am involved in this rather big event with all the musical hoi polloi in town! 

It is possible I could've been asked to play this gig, although I would guess they would've asked a few other people first given the other names in the orchestra. I think I can still do a pretty good job, but I am feeling very insecure about the whole thing, since I had such a wildly different perception of what I was doing! Not really sure why I am dwelling so much on this event. Hoping things go well on Sunday, but I will think twice before blindly offering to help out the next time!