Who doesn’t love Gabriel’s Oboe? It really is beautiful.
Luckily for you (and me), this piece is currently on the ABRSM Grade 6 syllabus. That’s brilliant news, and please please PLEASE do add this piece to your repertoire if you’ve never played it before… We don’t want to encourage Arrangers to keep putting the best oboe parts on flute… ⬇️
Grr… Anyway, assuming you are looking at this post because you’re learning the oboe part, here are my top tips.
Gabriel’s Oboe – Top Tips
- Watch your tuning – especially on those As! And also as you go into the higher register.
- Don’t move too quickly on the turns
- Don’t play this piece too loud. The piano part is simple, so your sound will project over the top no matter how lyrically you play.
- Listen to lots of recordings and try to imitate the style you like the most.
- Don’t worry too much about getting the rhythm exactly perfect – you can afford to use rubato in this piece, and pull the tempo around a bit.
I hope you enjoy my video! 🙂 Feel free to share it if you do!
Pendulum by Vera Gray is another really lovely choice for Grade 1 oboe. When you’re choosing your List B piece, you’ll have to pick between this one and Jackboots. So why not watch both videos to help you choose your favourite?
Here are my top tips to play Pendulum well:
- Try to keep your phrases really smooth. Remember to keep a close eye on the slurs in the music, and only use your tongue to articulate the first note in each group.
- Make a big effort on your dynamics. There are lots of crescendo and diminuendo markings in this piece – push more air through your oboe to play louder. One trick my teacher taught me to help me remember whether I should be playing louder or softer is to look at the hairpin lines of the dynamic markings. Imagine the lines are your mouth – when they are further apart (wider), the sound is louder!
- Be careful in bar 8! That low D may squeak if your lips are too tight around the reed.
If you want to play along with Pendulum, you’ll need a copy of Oboe Music to Enjoy. You can grab a copy by following this link.
I love playing Jackboots by Vera Gray! It’s such a fun piece for Grade 1 and covers a good range of notes for the beginner oboe player. If you’re thinking about learning to play Jackboots, watch my video below and use my top tips to help you to play it really well!
Here are my top tips:
- Don’t forget to check the key signature – Jackboots has two flats in the key signature at the beginning, so make sure you don’t miss any of those Bbs. The key signature changes in Bar 16 to one sharp, so make sure your Bs become natural!
- Try to really show off your dynamics. The two bar phrase at the beginning is forte (loud) and then it is repeated at mezzo piano (fairly quiet) – make sure your audience can hear the difference in volume.
- Make sure your staccato notes are really short – use your tongue for a really clear sound.
If you want to play Jackboots by Vera Gray, you can find the music in Oboe Music to Enjoy (Boosey and Hawkes). Click the link below to get your hands on a copy!
Telemann’s Sonata in A minor really is a very beautiful piece of oboe music. I created one video for each movement of the Sonata, so that it’s a bit easier for you to navigate – you’ll find these at the bottom of this post.
(This was also the very first Emilyreedsmusic video series that I made, so it has lots of sentimental value for me! I don’t think I realised that I was opening a can of worms when I decided to try accompanying myself on the piano for the first time, and that years later I would have a website and YouTube channel dedicated to doing just this!)
Anyway, getting back onto the topic, for Grade 7 oboe you won’t need to prepare the full Sonata – the syllabus requires either movements 1 and 2 OR movements 3 and 4. Recently, I performed the first two movements as part of a short recital, and I wrote the following performance notes, which you might find useful:
Written in 1728, Telemann’s ‘Sonata in A minor’ is written in a typical late-Baroque style. During his lifetime, Telemann wrote over 3000 pieces of music and was well-respected by his contemporaries, including JS Bach and Handel. As one of the leading composers of his time, Telemann’s music neatly bridges the gap between the Baroque and Classical periods, offering both lyrical melodic lines and opportunities for virtuosic performance styles through ornamentation and artistic embellishments.
Telemann was not only an extremely talented composer, but also took it upon himself to organise the publishing of his own works. This Sonata was first published in 1729 in Telemann’s own Der getreue Music-Meister, which featured over 70 of his other compositions, mostly solo instrumental pieces with continuo accompaniment.
The first movement, Siciliana, is a slow lilting and tuneful movement in compound time, contrasting with the fast second movement with its quick 5-note scale motifs heard throughout the piece. The third movement is another slow movement, and the only one in the whole work to be played in the relative major (C major). It offers a stark contrast to the fast and impressive final movement, Vivace, giving the performer an opportunity to show off their technical skill to end the Sonata.
The ‘Sonata in A minor for Oboe and Piano’ has been one of the most popular pieces in the oboe repertoire for hundreds of years, as it sits comfortably within the range of the instrument and enables performers the opportunity to demonstrate their articulation skills and dynamic range, as well as technical mobility across the instrument.
Here’s the videos of each movement:
If you feel inspired and want to buy a copy of the sheet music, here’s the link.
One of the biggest frustrations for any music teacher is DEFINITELY listening to the same excuses every single week!
- “I didn’t have time to practise” (No time at all? Did you have time to watch TV? Did you have time to play video games? Could you have woken up 10 minutes earlier?)
- “I had too much homework” (why don’t you think of music practice as part of your homework?)
- “I lost my music” (hmmm… you seem to have found it in time for your lesson though… anyway there is plenty of other ways to practise if you have genuinely lost your music – blog to follow!)
- “It was my birthday/ My friend came over/ My auntie came round for tea” (did that last the whole week?)
- “I couldn’t remember how the piece goes”
Ah. There we go. That is definitely the one I have heard the most. That one there right at the bottom.
I couldn’t remember how the piece goes.
Now, no matter how hard we music teachers work at teaching children which note is which, and what the different rhythms look and sound like, the simple fact is that it IS actually pretty complicated learning an instrument. And even if you know that you are looking at a crotchet G or a semibreve C in THEORY, when you are trying to put everything together and remember which finger goes where and trying to keep a steady pulse, sometimes it is all just a bit fiddly.
(I think we forget that when we are teaching. Try learning to speak a new foreign language if you need a reminder of what it’s like to take in so much new information at once!)
Anyway, so what usually happens is…
- My pupil will tell me they can’t remember the tune
- I remind them how to work out note is which, how to work out the rhythm, etc
- We hum it or sing it
- And after a little bit of practice, we have made progress!
But with only one lesson a week, that progress can feel pretty slow. Especially when your student is constantly reminding you that the reason they started playing the saxophone is because they want to play the theme song from The Simpsons, which is definitely a long way off at the moment.
So I started looking online to see what help I could find. I figured there was really no excuse for forgetting how a piece goes if you can hear it whenever you want to. (As it happens, I have never heard this excuse used when we are learning how to play Jingle Bells or the theme tune from Eastenders)
And finally I hit the jackpot – people have been uploading videos of themselves practising for some of their grade exams on YouTube! But there were lots of flute and clarinet videos, and little to no double reed videos. And that’s a pretty big disadvantage for young oboists and bassoonists, especially when you consider that they are often the only one playing that instrument in their school orchestra or band as well, so they may not know anyone else who can help.
So that’s why I set up the Emilyreedsmusic channel on YouTube.