On Instagram at last!

Instagram went live on 6th October 2010. I finally created an Emily Reeds Music account on Instagram in August 2018. That’s an awfully long time for you to wait – I’m sorry!

Anyway, so I’ve finally made it, and am using the channel to post some behind the scenes photos and videos. It’s a lot less polished than my YouTube channel, so you’ll get to see a different side of what I do if you want to take a look.

You’ll find me at @emilyreedsmusic – please do come say hello! You can find me really easily by clicking the little Instagram button in the footer of my website.

Emily Reeds Music

 

Walking in the Air from The Snowman (wind quintet)

For Christmas 2017, I decided to go all out and delve into the unknown… I decided to write my own arrangement of Walking in the Air from The Snowman, and play all five parts.  Traditionally, a wind quintet would have a French Horn rather than a Tenor Saxophone, but seeing as that’s not one of the instruments I own (or can play!), I decided to pop a saxophone in there instead.  (We all know reeds are better anyway…)

I think the arrangement works fairly well.  I do love the music from the Snowman, and it always makes me feel very Christmassy, so it was nice to be able to spend a bit of time working on the arrangement.  Every instrument gets the tune at some point, although in retrospect, the bassoon part really is very exhausting as there is nowhere to breathe!  I’ve sat in many band rehearsals over the years complaining about the bassoon part always being repetitive and having no rests, so I really ought to have known better.  Whoops!

One of the biggest issues with putting this arrangement together was actually dealing with the difficulties in maintaining decent tuning.  When you play in a band, you automatically tune and adjust to the instruments around you.  Unfortunately, when you are recording each instrument separately, you don’t have this luxury.  Although the timing is fairly accurate, thanks to the metronome in my earpiece, there are definitely one or two dodgy moments in here!

But you get the idea.  And anyway, it wouldn’t really be Christmas without one of my silly videos, would it?

Emily Answers: How to do vibrato on the oboe

 

Learning how to do vibrato on the oboe sounds scary, but I promise it’s not! This little blog came about as a result of my recent video of Banana Sandwich on YouTube.  (If you’ve not seen it yet, please do take a look and enjoy the floating banana!)

Keep calm and love my oboe

It’s been lovely hearing from people who have enjoyed it, especially those students who have been inspired to learn it.  It’s a really fun piece and I just know you’ll all really enjoy it once you’ve got your head round some of those tricky rhythms!

But I received one question that really struck me, and rather than just replying directly, I thought it might be helpful to do a post about it.  Because the question was “How do you do vibrato on the oboe?”

Good question, I thought!  The thing is, from my experience of working with young oboists (and from my memory of the many years ago when I was learning), vibrato tends to come quite naturally as a player’s tone develops.

However, for what it’s worth, here are some tips to get you started…

1. Loosen those lip muscles

One of the main things I’ve seen time and time again is that beginner oboists tend to grip the oboe reed FAR TOO TIGHT in their lips.  This means the reed can’t vibrate, which is what gives it that slightly ‘tin-ny’ sound.  So loosen up!  If the air can’t get through your reed, it’s not going to produce the best sound.  It really is that simple.

(I should admit, I learned how to do this when I had to wear braces on my teeth as a teenager.  It was absolute agony playing my oboe the way I’d previously done, and the metal bars were leaving marks on lips, so I had to loosen up in order to survive a practice session!  But the results were well worth it.  Not only can I now do vibrato on the oboe, but I also have straight teeth.  A total success!)

2. Support your air flow

Once you’ve got a looser embouchure, you need to make sure you’re using your diaphragm to support the air.  This is going to give you a more even and reliable tone quality.

3. Sing your heart out!

Pretend you are an opera singer.  Sing your favourite songs in your most operatic voice and have fun with it!  Singers and string players are constantly using vibrato to perfect their tone quality – you can learn a lot from listening to them.  As you sing, consciously notice how it feels to be using vibrato.  Next step is to apply it to your instrument!

4. Just TRY it!  Get your oboe out and give it a go.  (What’s the worst thing that can happen?)

Play a really long note.  Instead of keeping it completely steady, try breaking the sound up by pushing extra air (think ‘ha-ha-ha’ without breaking the sound).  Once you have perfected this motion, increase or decrease the speed of your ‘ha’s.  If you want, you can try playing with a metronome and adding rhythm to your vibrato (don’t forget, certain pieces will require it faster or slower, depending on the style.)

5. Use vibrato sparingly at first

My teacher used to say to me, “don’t let a long note stay static”.  Either add some vibrato, or pop in a crescendo (or diminuendo).  Just don’t let it sit there completely flat.  Every note needs a bit of style!  But don’t go crazy – when you’re just starting with your vibrato technique, don’t use it on every single note, use it to add colour to your music.  That will really impress your audience.

 

I hope this helps.  Feel free to ask any questions, and most importantly, good luck!

Banana Sandwich by Christopher Norton

I’m not aware of Banana Sandwich ever featuring on the oboe exam syllabus (please correct me if I’m wrong), but it’s a fun piece and it has quite a few tricky rhythms in it, so I thought a video might be helpful.  It’s probably around Grade 4 standard, so great for an intermediate player.

I hope you like it!

You can find the music for this delightful little number in Microjazz for Oboe.

Grade 4 Bassoon – Little Waltz by Gordon Jacob

For Grade 4 bassoon, you will need to play both Little Waltz AND L’Après-midi d’un dinosaur for your List B piece.  

My top tips for Little Waltz:

  • Watch out for the accidentals!  The piece has two flats in the key signature (Bb and Eb), but a lot of these flats are cancelled out by accidentals throughout the piece.  Remember, this only lasts for one bar, and then you need to go back to the original key signature.
  • Try to keep your style very light in this piece.  Imagine someone is dancing as you play.
  • As always, make the most of your dynamics – the piece begins at piano (soft) and your examiner will want to know you have observed this marking!
  • Keep an eye on the tempo (speed) changes towards the end of the piece.  In bar 29, you will need to slightly slow down (poco rit) and immediately go back to the original speed from the upbeat into bar 31 (a tempo).  Your pause in bar 34 should be long and dramatic, but make sure you go back to your original speed straight afterwards – there are no further speed changes until the final 2 bars.

Both pieces feature in Four Sketches by Gordon Jacob.  Grab a copy below!

Grade 4 Bassoon – L’aprés-midi d’un dinosaur by Gordon Jacob

The only way I can describe L’aprés-midi d’un dinosaur is that is “very bassoon-y”.  I’m not really sure what else there is to say – it’s slow and low.  The 3/2 time signature and the performance marking of pesante (heavy) gives this piece a classic bassoon sound.  Try to make your notes as long as possible, and don’t leave too much of a gap between notes if you need to catch a sneaky breath.

For the Grade 4 syllabus, L’aprés-midi d’un dinosaur features in List B, and should be presented with Little Waltz.  Make sure you dedicate equal time to practising both movements!

Both pieces feature in Four Sketches by Gordon Jacob.

10 things every oboe player can relate to

Being an oboe player is pretty awesome most of the time. But it’s safe to say that we all seem to struggle with exactly the same problems. If you’re an oboist, you’ll understand.

1 – The power of tuning up the orchestra.
oboe-tuning-meme
2 – The stress of finding the perfect reed… or even one that’s half decent will do.
oboe-reed-meme
3 – That feeling immediately after deciding to “just quickly tighten that screw.”
tightening-screw-gif
4 – Sounding like a duck for the first year and wondering why you bother at all.
oboe-duck
5 – That feeling when you break your favourite reed.
broken-reed-gif
6 – This conversation… “What instrument do you play?” “The oboe.” “What?” “The oboe.”  “Never heard of it.”
expressionless
7 – Not getting any decent band parts because most arrangers assume that there are no oboe players in the world anymore.
gabriels-flute-meme
8 – On the same note… Desperately hoping for a technically interesting part, and then not having a clue what to do when faced with this.
berio-oboe
9 – Buying more cigarette paper than anyone else you know.
rizla-oboe-meme
 10 – And in spite of all the above, knowing you play the best instrument in the world.
keep-calm-and-love-my-oboe

An experiment… Deck The Halls (cornet trio)

For some crazy reason, in 2015 I decided it would be fun to learn a new instrument.  So I picked up a copy of A Tune A Day for cornet, and joined a local brass band.

After nearly 25 years of playing woodwind, I really wasn’t prepared for how different it would feel to play the cornet.  Not only was it tricky learning to cope with only having 3 valves, but also the slightest movement of my lips would drastically change the pitch of the note I was playing.

Inspired by the success of my flute duet that I had recorded a few weeks earlier, Jingle Bell Rock, I decided it would be fun to attempt a cornet trio.  This version of Deck The Halls features in A Tune A Day!  At its peak, it goes right up to a high F, which really is very high for an inexperienced player.  I was quite pleased I just about managed to squeeze it out for this video, but I’ve never managed it since!

Anyway, this funny little phase of playing the cornet lasted just under 12 months.  In the end, I was having to do so much practice just to keep up with the brass band that I never had any time to play any woodwind instruments.  But it was fun whilst it lasted!

Lost your music? How to practice without it

I have lost count of the number of times that students have turned up to lessons and told me they couldn’t practise this week because they had lost their music. Really, lost music is your best excuse?! OK then… You probably won’t be practising anything as complicated as this ⬇️ (good luck if you are!) but there’s plenty you can still be working on.

Never one to be satisfied by an excuse, here are some tips for how to improve your musicianship, whether you have sheet music in front of you or not:

  • Play some scales to improve your fingerwork and technique
  • Play some long notes to improve your tone and stamina
  • Listen to recordings of other players to become familiar with the repertoire
  • Try some improvisation or compose your own piece of music
  • Listen to whatever music you like – treat it like an aural test.  Find the pulse, describe the dynamics and tempo, sing it back, identify some of the intervals, etc.
  • Play some of your old favourite tunes that you have enjoyed – it’s better to play something rather than nothing!

See? There are LOADS of things you can still be doing even when you’ve “lost” your music 😉 Now that means you’ll have to think of another excuse for next week…

I hope that helps!  Happy practising!

Jingle Bell Rock (flute duet)

This video of Jingle Bell Rock was just a bit of Christmas fun, but to my surprise, it has become one of my most-viewed videos ever!

One of the trickiest things about playing a duet with yourself is getting the timing right, and also managing the tuning.  What you probably can’t see in this video is that I’m wearing an earpiece, which is playing a metronome to keep me strictly in time!  In terms of tuning, I think this video works quite well because I’m using the same instrument to play both parts.  It’s much more tricky to navigate tuning issues when you’re dealing with different issues, as you will see in some of my later videos!  (I’m looking at you, Walking in the Air)

Anyway, no particular technical tips on this one.  If you want to play it, just pop on a Christmas hat and enjoy the festivities!  Merry Christmas one and all x

And if you want to play along, just click on the picture of this book to get your own copy of the sheet music!