Category Archives: Blog

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

 

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!

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

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!

The joy of being a multi-instrumentalist

I’ve had a pretty busy few weeks pottering about as multi-instrumentalist… Most notably spent sitting in the pit for a production of The Addams Family.  Ideal for Halloween, I think you’ll agree!

multi-instrumentalist

My part (Reed 1) was for piccolo, flute, clarinet and alto saxophone.  I also had the pleasure of sitting with a friend of mine (also called Emily, who also plays woodwind instruments… it’s all very confusing) who was playing Reed 2. Her part was flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet.  So 9 instruments between 2 Emilys.

There’s really nothing like the joy of being surrounded by so many instruments. You have to be switched on when you only have a few bars rest to change from one to the next.  It really challenges the brain, lips and fingers… And you get a huge sense of satisfaction from being able to play so many different styles of music in such a short space of time.

My advice?

I highly recommend picking up a second instrument if you are already fairly confident on another.   Especially because most musical theatre pits aren’t big enough for one player per instrument.  Every musical director is delighted when they meet a multi-instrumentalist, so if you want the gigs, prepare to be flexible!

However, do be careful to watch your embouchure if you’re planning to pick up multiple woodwind instruments. You don’t want to pick up a saxophone for the first time, only to find you can no longer play your oboe a few weeks later! The trick to it is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

And most importantly, enjoy 🙂

Why I set up Emilyreedsmusic (Or a teacher’s response to every excuse in the book)

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.