Archive for the ‘Tone Quality’ Category

Tips to Improve Your Oboe Tone, Intonation, and Dynamics

1.  Select a good oboe reed at the correct reeds strength from SOFT to HARD.  Most beginning and intermediate students chose a soft or medium soft reed. Most intermediate and advanced students choose a medium reed.  Some advanced students will choose a hard reed.  To determine which reed is best for you  it should be comfortable to play low “D,” half-hole “D,” and high “D.”  You may have to take in more reed in your mouth to sound the high “D.”

2.  Soak your reed for 5 minutes before playing it.  You can soak it in your mouth or soak it in water.  Avoid soaking your reeds for long periods of time in water.  Some oboists prefer dipping the reed in water and sitting in down to soak up.

3.  Adjust the aperture (tip opening) so that it is crescent shape after you have soaked your reed.   If the reed is too open you can close both blades near the thread on the reed and hold down for 10 seconds. Check the reed to see if the shaped has closed to the appropriate shape.  If the tip opening is too closed you can open the tip by pressing each side of the reed one at a time.  Do not squeeze the reed from both sides at the same time.

4.  If you are flat take a little more reed into your mouth.  If you are sharp take a little more reed out of your mouth.  Play a low “G” on your oboe.  Remove the reed and buzz the same pitch with just your reed.  You should easily be able to match the pitch by sliding the reed in or out of your mouth until you match the pitch of the buzz with the sound of the low “G.”

5.  If the blades of your reed are overlapped you can slide both blades using your first finger and thumb on the sides of the blades until they are aligned.  Slide the blades gently and only after you have soaked your reed thoroughly.

6.  The oboe embouchure should feel like you are yawning while your lips are on the reed.  This gives the blades the maximum opportunity to vibrate and create the best resonance in all registers of the oboe.

7.  The direction of your air should up towards your sinus area.  Some oboist visualize that they are painting the ceiling above their heads with their oboe sound.  Others like to direct the air behind their head.  Others like to direct their air horizontally like they can push out the walls to their left and right with their air.  Use your air like you were singing in  a falsetto or high voice.  Do not direct your air downward through the oboe like you are singing bass or using your “radio voice.”

8.  Remember that the air speed controls the tone and the intonation of the oboe.  Faster air moves the pitch higher and slower air moves the pitch lower.  Thus, there is a balance with the air speed, the opening of the reed and the volume of air moving through the reed.    Keep the air moving quickly through the reed.  Play your high “D” without tonguing.  Use the syllable “Ha” to start the sound.  If the sound does not speak increase our air speed and take a little more reed into your mouth.  The air speed need necessary to sound the high “D” and the feeling of the air in your sinus area is what you need to do on all notes in all registers.  You can control the dynamics from very soft to very loud (pp to ff) by increasing or decreasing the volume of air while keep the air moving quickly through the reed.

9. Softer playing requires fast air with less volume while louder playing requires fast air with more volume.  Practicing your crescendo and diminuendo by using a numbering system from 1-5-1 and eventually 1-9-1 will help improve the dynamics of your playing in all registers.

10.  It is important to breathe from your diaphragm at all times.  This fills up the bottom of your lungs and gives your air the support it needs to properly vibrate your oboe reed.  When you lay down in a reclining position you automatically move your diaphragm; however, when we stand  or sit it is easy to breathe from the top of our lungs with more shallow breathing.  If you play your favorite scale using only the syllable “Ha” to sound each note as a staccato-sounding note  you will immediately feel your diaphragm kick out.

Share this information with your conductors, music coaches, and/or private teacher.  They will help you with each of the steps listed above.  GOOD LUCK!

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