Archive for the ‘English Horn Reed’ Category

Step # 9 Dynamics for the English Horn Beginner

Many professional musicians will say that the most beautiful sound is the crescendo and decrescendo.  Being able to play loud and soft is a challenge on the oboe and English horn as they are conical instruments unlike the flute, clarinet, and bassoon that are cylindrical instruments.  With conical instruments playing softly and playing in the lower register is the most difficult aspect of performing.   Thus, practicing one’s dynamic range on each note is a challenge which improves with practice.  As we are interested in creating as many different sound colors as possible on the English horn, the dynamics and the vibrato are two of the most important aspects of the English horn sound.

# 1

Starting in the middle register start with the “G’ major scale and on each note of the scale play from pp to ff to pp using the numbering system 1 to 5 to 1.  Being able to start and end each note softly is the biggest challenge for the English horn player.  Be sure to start the sound with your tongue on the reed and air pressure against the reed so that the start of the sound is the release of your tongue from the reed.  Do not inhale and strike against the reed with your tongue to start the sound.  This will create an explosive start to the sound which is the opposite of what you are trying to do.

# 2

As you decrescendo from 5-1  there is less volume of air going through the reed but the air speed needs to continue to move quickly.  Slowing down the air speed will result in the pitch immediately going flat.  There is a balance between the air speed, the breath support, the reed opening, and the volume of air that creates a beautiful decrescendo.

# 3

Once you have mastered the 1-5-1 exercise expand your dynamic range to 1- 9-1.  This requires a much softer start to the sound and an exaggerated louder sound followed by a much softer decrescendo.  If you stay with the notes of the “G” scale you will have better results in the beginning.

# 4

Repeat the above 1-5-1 pattern followed by a 1-9-1 pattern playing the notes of the upper register starting on “Ab” and playing upward to high “Eb.”  Finally, move to the lower register starting on low “F” to low “B” natural.  This is the most challenging register for dynamics; however, many feel playing dynamics on the English horn are much more enjoyable than on the oboe.

# 5

Finally, being able to immediately switch from soft to loud playing as is requested repeatedly by Baroque composers is an important skill.  Keeping you lips at the tip of the reed (sweet spot) and being sure the tip of your reed is vibrating well for both very soft and very loud playing is most important.  Breath support from the bottom of your lungs and directing your air upward towards your sinus area like you were singing falsetto is one of the secrets of play good dynamics on the English horn.

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