Need help for flat oboe player
October 1, 2014 at 11:14 am #41700
I have an oboe player who consistently plays flat. She does a fairly good job of lipping up, but I want to see if there is a trick to help not play so flat all the time. Perhaps a softer/harder reed? Some shaving perhaps? Thanks.October 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm #41757
Consistent pitch problems are usually a reed thing. Have her play on another reed and see if it changes at all. If she’s consistently flat and the reed is pretty easy, it sounds like it needs a tiny clip. I’m an oboist, but I’d be nervous about doing this if I wasn’t, but here goes-
You’ll need a reed knife or single edged razor blade and a small cutting block if you have one. You’re only going to clip of the tiniest amount possible- almost invisible. Put the reed on the cutting block, line up the knife to where you want it, and push down straight until it cuts through both blades. Remember- keep the clip as tiny as possible! You can always take more off, but you can’t put it back on. Have her try it again. If the reed is still comfortable and it’s a little bit better pitch-wise, do it again. The reed will get higher in pitch but harder as you clip it, so if she’s flat and struggling with the reed being too hard, don’t clip it.
It’s possible that it could be an embouchure thing if she’s flat on every reed. Her embouchure should be like a drawstring with the lips inside- the pressure should be round, not up and down, and not like a smile- more like a whistle with her lips rolled in. If her embouchure is OK, she should be reasonably in tune on a decent reed. The problem is finding decent reeds, especially for young players. There are a lot of REALLY BAD oboe reeds out there. If there’s an oboist in the area, you might be able to get suggestions for them, or even have them make reeds for your students if you’re lucky.
Good luck!October 22, 2014 at 11:01 pm #42294
My first question is how old is this oboe player, and how long has she been playing? How is her air support? I assume you have made sure she has a good airstream. I am really only double-checking, because a young oboist I am working with tends to play quite flat most of the time as well, but if I remind her to keep a solid, steady airstream, her pitch comes right back up to being in tune. I am not sure if this is also psychologically causing her to firm up the embouchure, or if simply using more air requires her to firm up her corners, so air doesn’t escape, but it really helps. Again, I assume you have kept on her about her air, but I just want to share my experience in case you may find it helpful. Also, if you did shave the read, how did it go? Did it help?May 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm #54311
Don’t underestimate the power of listening. As an oboist myself and now a band director, I didn’t understand the concept of actively tuning until I was halfway through high school. In my experience, even though the concept had been explained to me I’m sure at least a thousand times or more in different settings by different directors while I was playing different instruments, it took a concert “aha!” experience for my lightbulb to go off. Does your oboist play in isolation? Sometimes directors will have students go study by themselves when they are faced with the challenge of a new instrument, especially one the director doesn’t play or feel confident teaching (my experience). This can actually be detrimental to players. There is so much to be said for the benefits of listening to really good performances and players! I think we sometimes underestimate what a really complex, confusing, intricate system music performance is, and how much we’re asking of our young players. You may find that taking a few steps back to really lay the groundwork of musical understanding saves a great deal of time in the long run.May 14, 2015 at 8:20 am #54772
Another oboe player/band director here (there are DOZENS of us!). I was that flat oboe player when I first started. Lipping it up will fix the problem, but maybe not the underlying issue. Your student may end up putting way too much pressure on the reed and getting that thin pinched off sound.
I started playing in better tune when my high school orchestra director had me hold out a note in the middle of rehearsal and lift my head up as I played it. My pitch went up by a quarter step at least. Be sure your player’s chin isn’t tucked into her neck and she’s holding the instrument out like an oboe, not a clarinet. That did the trick for me, along with a good reed (not too hard) and steady breath support. And another several years of practice!
So, check these things:
1. Posture/playing position
2. Reed strength, quality, and age
3. Breath support
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