Skip to main content

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 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.  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week.  Quit NOW.  I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage. Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs. And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it

Knife Sharpening

I've gotten a lot of questions on this topic, and the most recent querent prompted me to make a video to demonstrate.  You can find that  HERE . Knife sharpening seems to strike terror into many hearts.  And it's little wonder.  Many famous oboists have gone on record as saying that a sharp knife is the most important aspect of reed making. People have entire systems of stones and strops and rods set up to sharpen their knives. And it is important, of course it is - but I don't believe that you need your knife to be razor-like, or objectively the sharpest blade of any in your home.  The reed knife has one job - scraping cane off in precision ways - and it has to be sharp enough for that, and sharpened optimally for that purpose.  More than that is overly fussy for my taste. This is not to say that I allow my knife to be dull.  A dull knife forces you to put too much pressure on the reed and can cause cracking. Obviously it can lead to terribly inconsistent scraping, an