Monday, September 23, 2013

Are you avoiding articulations?

Hi All-

After a year sabbatical,  I'm back teaching. I'M SO HAPPY TO BE BACK AT SCHOOL WITH MY UNIVERSITY OBOISTS!  They're great people and I learn SO MUCH from them!

In our first week of lessons,  my students inspired me to produce numerous  blog topics, including vibrato (this will be a multipart post coming up), resonance, beginning notes from silence, and avoiding articulations.  So much inspiration, so LITTLE TIME. I'll get to all of these topics and more,  but please be patient since I'm inundated with teaching oboe, aural skills courses, an American music course, chamber music, performing recitals, having great rehearsals with colleagues, attending meetings, meetings, meetings, and grading, grading, grading, grading.  It's all good stuff,  but...

But here's the first gem: Avoiding articulations.

So a lovely new student was playing a Barret etude in her lesson and it was quite good. Except, most of the articulations were ignored. This got me thinking:

Just like there are people in the world who press the SNOOZE button and those who never do,  there are oboists who either ALWAYS play the correct articulations, or others who seem to make articulations up as it pleases them.  And you know who you are, dear readers!

So, the question is: WHY do some oboists avoid articulations.  It's easy to just think that it is a matter of not noticing,  but I believe the issue is usually much deeper. I think it is actually a matter of AIR USE.
Now stay with me here.

As a student is learning to play oboe,  most are not taught that articulated notes on the oboe need really good air support. If there is inadequate air support,  the reed will usually fight back, either making a resistant sound, not sounding at all, or squawking. By increasing one's air pressure through the reed and maintaining good support, then this will go away. You also must make sure that the reed is not too resistant, etc.

But,  if you never really learn this, you'll likely not have consistent and clean articulations. So it sounds better to slur notes instead. And hey,  your band director probably won't notice anyway, because there's 10 million other things on their plate.

So you've just instilled a habit:  avoiding articulations because it sounds better and is easier if you don't have good air support.

The next question is how to replace this habit, right?
Awareness is the first step. Notice if you are consistently avoiding articulations. Then go back and read my posts on air support and breathing:

air assignment #1
breathing--the nuts and bolts

Then,  BLOW MORE CONCENTRATED air through your oboe. Really fill the instrument with a big, resonant sound. Then make just one articulation. Notice how much easier it was with adequate air use?  Cool, huh?

Then try articulating multiple notes. Not so hard anymore, right?  Now, go back to your practicing and ENJOY every opportunity for articulation that your music provides.


The Oboist

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

UWEC Double Reed Day is Sunday, October 27th!

Come join us for a day of double reed-filled fun in the Haas Fine Arts Center at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire! All ages, levels, and backgrounds of oboe and bassoon players are welcome to attend. The day will begin with UWEC double reed faculty performing a short recital to welcome everyone to the day. Then we’ll break into smaller groups with sessions of specific interest for bassoonists and oboists. After lunch we invite all of you to participate in the rehearsal for massed double reed ensemble led by Dr. Stewart, UWEC director bands. After the rehearsal the UWEC faculty will lead masterclasses for both oboe and bassoon. The day concludes with our massed double reed ensemble concert. Throughout the day specialists from Midwest Musical Imports ( will have new instruments to try, as well as tools and accessories for purchase.

We hope to see you there!  Don't forget to register by Oct. 15. You can register by emailing me:

Oboe and out,

The Oboist