You chose to play the oboe! Hurrah!!

In the past week or so you probably went to your first oboe lesson and came home full of all sorts of new information about how to put it together and what to do with your reed and all sorts of other things! Do you feel like you remember everything you were told? Don’t worry, its difficult in that first lesson as there is so much to remember. So, todays blog is aimed at all those wonderful new oboists to try and make things easier for you. I also hope this may be helpful for any parents who have recently been handed an oboe or a reed!


Putting your oboe together

There is an easy way of doing this to make sure you don’t put pressure on any keys that can get damaged, the trick is trying to remember it.

First, check the corks on the end of the top and middle joint. If they look very dry put a little bit of cork grease on them. If when putting the joints together they are quite stiff then again put a little bit of cork crease on the cork, never use much, just add a little bit at a time.

  1. Pick up bell in right hand
  2. If you have a key on the bell press it with your thumb. (If you play a junior oboe it won’t have a key)
  3. Pick up middle joint in your left hand. Hold it so that your hand sits under the instrument with your fingers curling round onto the keys on the top. Try not to press any of the keys that stick out as these don’t like having too much pressure put on them.
  4. Now put the two joints together, gently push and twist the two joints together until the link is in line and there is no gap between the two joints.
  5. Well Done, first bit done! Now for the next joint.
  6. Move your right hand to the joint between the bell and the middle joint and put your hand over and round this part of the instrument.
  7. Pick up the top joint and hold it in the same way as you held the middle joint. Place your hand under the instrument so your fingers curl round and press the flat keys. Keep your hand away from the keys that stick out.
  8. Push the top and middle joints together, make sure the long keys that stick out from each joint keep well away from each other as you don’t want the keys to crunch together. Now push and twist the joints together and either make sure the link is in line if you have one or make sure that the two bobbles are in line with each other.
  9. That’s it, well done. Follow these rules and soon this will be second nature. Make sure you take it apart holding the oboe in exactly the same way as you did to put it together and just take it apart in reverse order. Top joint off middle joint first then take the bell off.

The main basic rules to avoid damage are:

  1. Don’t let the corks get too dry so you have to grip the oboe tightly to push the oboe together. GREASE IT!
  2. Always avoid putting pressure on any keys that stick out as these can bend quite easily if pressure is put on them in the wrong way.

Reeds

Reeds are a vital part of the oboe as without them the oboe is totally useless, but they can be annoying and test our patience. Stay stubborn and don’t let them get the better of you. You are the boss, make them do what you want them to.

Be very gentle and careful with your reeds, try not to bash them into your teeth. In the first few weeks you are more than likely to have a few reed accidents, don’t worry we all do and occasionally still do! You are more than likely to bump your reed into your teeth, get it tangled in your hair (more likely for girls with long hair), bash it into your shoulder while you look at the keys to see where to put your fingers. Try and keep the reed a safe distance from everything and when putting it in your mouth to play be gentle and move it there slowly and carefully until you feel like you have more control over it.


Preparing to play

Before you try and blow your reed you must soak it. Either suck it in your mouth while putting your oboe together or put it tip side down in about 1cm of water in a small cup or egg cup. Once you have put your oboe together the reed will be ready to play.

Do check the size of the hole in the top of the reed, the centre of the blades of the reed should be about 2mm apart.

20150915_200757_resizedIf the reed is wider open than that it will make it hard to blow it so very gently press the reed together (only do this after soaking). Squeeze the reed gently like in the picture on the left.

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If the reed is too closed and the hole is tiny put your fingers on the edges of the reed as in the picture on the right and very gently squeeze them together, do this carefully and it will open up the reed.

Finally – ENJOY, HAVE FUN and practise as much as you can and listen to as much as you can!

Music clip for this blog post is of the National Youth Orchestra Inspire Orchestra. Look how much fun they are having!

BIG Double Reed Day 2015!

For the past few years I have coached at a wonderful event called The BIG Double Reed Day! Each year it is held at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and is for oboists and bassoonists of any age and standard. There are workshops, masterclasses, performances, stalls from various double reed stores and music providers and a mass play in at the end of the day!

I often work with the junior oboes and bassoons, beginners to about grade 3. We spend the day playing in a big group learning a couple of group pieces which we then perform before playing in the mass play in where many of the players at the event play a specially arranged piece for Oboes, Cor Anglais, Bassoons and Contra Bassoons. Its an amazing sound!

We would love more oboists and bassoonists to join us this year so spread the word.

http://www.bigdoublereed.com

BIG Double Reed Day – November 29th – Guildhall School of Music

Back to School, and the word beginning with ‘P’

Dear Students,

I really hope you have all had a wonderful summer holiday. I am sure many of you have found it full of fun, excitement, travel, sunshine (maybe if you escaped the UK) and hopefully some music and of course learning.

This is the time of year when students realise various things……

  • Oops I haven’t played my oboe since July and I have a lesson on Monday.
  • Oh dear, I’ve not played the oboe as much as I should have done this holiday but I did do a bit so hopefully I won’t be too bad.
  • OH NO! I had forgotten all my reeds broke and I have none left and I have a lesson on Monday!
  • I’m looking forward to my lesson so I can show my teacher all the work I’ve done and how much the pieces I am playing have improved.

Now we all need a holiday from time to time so I’m not going to lecture you about what you should have done. Obviously it would have been better to have kept playing, but sometimes the activities or holidays you may go on during the long break don’t allow this to happen. So, what I am going to focus on is how to get back into practice as quickly as possible.

Firstly, those of you who have no working reeds…. Tell someone NOW! The sooner you can get a reed the better. When I sold reeds online it was amazing the number of panicked parents that messaged me at the start of September telling me their children had only just told them they had no reeds as they had all broken ages ago.

Students who have realised you haven’t played since July. Go and soak a reed, find some easy music that you should be able to play and go and play it. Before you tackle the music you were set it is a good idea to just reacquaint yourselves with the oboe. Play some long notes, play some scales, think about your embouchure and posture. You will get tired quickly so if you don’t think about these things you are likely to get into some bad habits. Start by playing little and often, so 10mins then a break, then another 10/15mins then another break etc and this way your lips will build up strength again much quicker. Once you start feeling more comfortable start looking at something you were asked to practice so you can go to your lesson with something you have worked on, even if it is only a little bit.

For those students that have played occasionally, well done for playing in the holidays! Now plan a routine for practice so you can get playing regularly. It’s good to get into a routine before everything gets very busy again with all the other work and activities that you do. I would also suggest little and often to start with as although you have played it isn’t regularly so your lips will also get tired and you need to build up strength again.

Students who have worked hard practising throughout the holiday. Well Done, your teachers will be very happy to hear you playing!

Note to all those who did very little practice

DO NOT TELL YOUR TEACHER YOU DID LOTS OF PRACTICE!! Your teacher will be able to tell very quickly that you didn’t and it will only lead to an awkward conversation. It will be much better if you own up at the beginning of the lesson, your teacher may be a bit disappointed but they will like your honesty.

Now, go and sort out a practice routine, get practising, listen to lots of music but most of all, enjoy playing and have fun making music!

As it’s the start of term I wanted to post something fun. So, here is the John Wilson Orchestra playing the music to Tom and Jerry! Watch out for the percussionists!