Posts Tagged ‘assembling the English Horn’

Step # 1 Moving from Oboe to English Horn

The English horn is not a “big oboe.”  The English horn is a unique instrument with its own unique qualities  as a beautiful solo instrument that demands daily practice, a new embouchure, a new hand position, different breath support techniques, a beautiful vibrato, and new literature to learn.  Everything one has learned on the oboe can transfer to the English horn; however, the instrument is larger, the reed is wider, the fingers are farther apart, a neck strap is a part of holding the instrument, and the majority of the literature includes the English horn as a solo instrument that provides a beautiful lyric sound for orchestra, band, chamber music, and solo performances.

# 1

The English horn is assembled similarly to the oboe.  Young players are usually renting an English horn in the beginning and not purchasing or renting the instrument as you would the oboe.  Examine the instrument to be sure it is in working order.  If you are not sure have the instrument cleaned, oiled, and checked out by a local woodwind repair specialist.   You will want to purchase a good medium strength English horn reed.  English horn reeds are more expensive than oboe reeds but last longer.  The STRADELLA English horn reed is recommended; however, there are a variety of reeds to choose from.  Be sure to keep your English horn reed in a reed case.  Do not leave the reed in a plastic vial with cap.  These are air-tight and do not allow the reed to appropriately dry out after use.

# 2

There should be two bocals in the case-one longer than the other.  There is a choice of bocals.  The quality of sound and the consistency of intonation will determine the best bocal to use in large ensembles, small ensembles, and solo performances.

# 3

Soak the English horn reed for at least five minutes.  The English horn reeds last longer that oboe reeds but require the same care and maintenance as an oboe reed.  Buzz the reed and find the “sweet spot” that gives you the best sound and best intonation. Attaching the English horn staple to the bocal is the first major difference between playing the oboe and playing the English horn.  In the beginning a medium strength English horn reed will work best for easy articulation and a rich English horn tone.  Push your English horn reed with  staple onto the bocal and twist to be sure there is a snug connection and the English horn reed staple does not become disconnected from the bocal as you are playing

# 4

Starting the English horn is similar to starting the oboe; however, in buzzing the English horn reed will require a more open embouchure, more breath support, and faster air speed.   As the English horn is in the key of “F,” it sounds a fifth lower than the note you are fingering.  If the band director starts the rehearsal with a concert Bb scale, the English horn plays the “F” major scale starting on low “F.”  When the oboe tunes the orchestra on an “A,”  you will sound an octave key “E” natural on the fourth space of the treble clef.  You are always counting five steps above the concert key the band director or orchestra conductor selects to match the concert pitch desired.

# 5

Putting together the parts of the English horn is similar to putting together the oboe with the addition of a neck strap.  If you do not have a neck strap you can cross your ankles and rest the bell between your angles for support; however, it is important to purchase a neck strap as soon as possible.  Start with the “F” major scale, but at first, just play the first five notes of the scale (“F” to “C” to “F”).  The fingering challenge is playing from middle “C” to half-hole “D.”  It is important to place the first finger of your left hand on the break (crack) of your “B” key.  You can roll your first finger as you would on the oboe with a rolling motion.  Now play a one-octave “F” major scale slowly.  Follow with the scales of “G,” “Eb,” “D,” and “C” always starting in the lower register.

# 6

You can begin your practice using your Oboe Book I literature. Your challenge will be your new wider hand position, your new more relaxed embouchure, becoming comfortable with the half-hole notes , and playing the notes above the staff.  Playing with a vibrato starting in your Oboe Book I is advised.


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