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?
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.
The Cimarosa Oboe Concerto has been one of my favourite pieces on the oboe syllabus for a long time. Whenever ABRSM change the syllabus, I think at least one movement always appears somewhere on the list. At the moment, the first two movements are sitting on the A list for Grade 7.
Mvt 1 – Introduzione
The first movement, Introduzione (that’s ‘Introduction’ to you and me!), is a really beautiful slow movement. Watch out for the cadenza (the ad lib) in bar 9 – it’s quite tricky to hit that low note! Also, look out for your tuning when the theme returns an octave higher! It’s easy to go sharp when you’re playing high notes! (I’m not saying I’m perfect… I’m really not… But it’s good to be able to identify your own weaknesses!)
Mvt 2 – Allegro
Then there’s the wonderful Allegro. The trick to this movement is to keep those fast moving passages as steady as possible – don’t try to go too fast! My teacher made me practise this movement many years ago until I could play it by memory – this is actually a really useful tip as you don’t have to worry about reading all those dots. Instead, try to learn the sequences and finger patterns, and it makes it much easier to play. When you’re practising, it sometimes help to mix up the rhythms or articulation a bit (ie. play them as dotted rhythms, or change the articulation to slur two, tongue two), in order to make this process a bit more fun! The other thing to look out for is making sure your tonguing matches the speed of your fingers – easier said than done!
I hope you enjoy my video of the Cimarosa Oboe Concerto. And keep an eye out for my lovely ginger cat, Plato!
If you like this one and you want to learn the Cimarosa Oboe Concerto too, please click on the image of the music to get hold of the sheet music:
Easy Tiger features in List B of the Grade 2 oboe syllabus. You’ll need to pick between this one and Dragonfly.
I’ve heard it played faster, but I prefer to keep the tempo down on this piece. Try to make your performance sound jazzy by making a real effort to ‘swing’ your quavers – that means making the first one of the pair a bit longer than the second one. (Normally they would be the same length). As I always say, work hard at the dynamics and don’t be afraid to put lots of air through your oboe at the end of the piece to give a great lasting impression!
One of the things I really love about the internet is that I posted my video of Easy Tiger on my Twitter profile, and Pam Wedgwood actually saw it and enjoyed it! How about this for a personal career highlight?!
(For those of you who don’t know, when I’m not busy making music videos, I am a charity fundraiser)
Anyway, here’s the video. Pam Wedgwood likes it, and I hope you do too!
Easy Tiger is one of many fantastic pieces in Really Easy Jazzin’ About for Oboe. Quite a few of the pieces have featured in the ABRSM syllabus over the years, so it’s a good investment if you don’t already have a copy.
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.