Oboe embouchure can be a tricky subject to discuss. There are many different schools of thought, and most players are highly opinionated on the subject. However, a fundamental oboe embouchure does not have to be complicated. Here is a simple method for forming an embouchure appropriate for American oboe playing. A mirror is quite handy to make sure you are making the correct facial movements.
My preferred method of forming a beginning embouchure is to say the following syllables: “Ooh, aah, awm.” I take a few seconds on each syllable and move smoothly from one syllable to the next.
1. With “Ooh,” my lips move out into a puckered position, as in a kiss.
2. Then I move to “Aah,” which opens the jaw and the lips, but maintains a rounded mouth shape.
3. “Awm” is the final syllable; at this point the jaw stays open, the lips close back into a puckered position while moving back between the teeth.
Go through these syllables a few times without the reed. Then, place the reed on the lower lip, with the tip at the line between the outside (dry) and inside (wet) parts of the lip. The reed stays planted at this point for forming the embouchure. Then go through the syllables “Ooh, aah, awm” with the reed.
The final embouchure can be inspected against the following criteria (mirror time!):
1. The lips should be puckered but drawn between the teeth slightly.
2. Avoid folding your lips over your teeth and biting, as this embouchure will not seal as well around the reed and your pitch will be quite unstable, usually sharp.
3. Your chin should be pulled down and flat; if your chin is wrinkled, you may have too much of the lower lip in contact with the reed.
4. Your jaw should be relaxed and open (in the “Aah” position) with the lips holding the reed, not the teeth. Again, watch for biting.
Watch if you are drawing the reed into his mouth during the “awm” syllable, as I find most beginning players believe that more reed in the mouth means more control. The opposite is actually more accurate. The reed is thinnest (and therefore, easier to manipulate) at the very tip. So, this is where you want your lips to be located in order to have maximum ease and control in the embouchure. Do not set the reed on the lips at the thread. Your embouchure will have no effect on the reed at all at this point.
Other ways to mentally picture the oboe embouchure are to say “eee” with your tongue and “ooh” with the lips (as in the French “tu”). A whistle shape of the lips turned inwards is also a good example.
I definitely do not take credit for coming up with this embouchure method. One of my teachers, Anna Mattix, who plays English horn in the Buffalo Philharmonic, taught me this exercise in my undergraduate pedagogy class. I hope you all find it as helpful as I do!
Spring is finally here in MN and to celebrate we’re offering free shipping on all standard domestic accessory orders, this weekend only.
Use code SPRING at the checkout, or ask us if you prefer to phone in your order!
Refine your bassoon skills this summer at the Curtis SummerFest, June 16-20, 2013!
Workshops and masterclasses will be with bassoonists Daniel Matsukawa, principal of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Christopher Millard, principal of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada. Learn more about the faculty.
You can participate as either an active participant or as an auditor. For more information, including a schedule, please visit: Matsukawa Millard Bassoon Workshop.
I’m a strong supporter of new music. After all, as they say on Composers Datebook, “all music was once new.” For me, a thing I feel we have lost in “classical” music is the art of improvisation. Baroque masters frequently improvised, but it seemed to become unimportant for classical players. Jazz musicians frequently speak of the freedom they feel while improvising, a way of expressing themselves that can’t exist when playing what is strictly written on the page. As a senior at Lawrence University a student composer wrote a piece for me in a modern classical style that included extended improvisational sections. The desire to improvise more increased through grad school when I eventually was turned on to the music of Paul Hanson. Paul, for those of you that don’t know, is an improvising jazz bassoonist that uses a lot of interesting effects on the bassoon to transform it into something different: an electrified bassoon. Mind blown, as they say.
So I started to emulate his ideas, started practicing jazz music, and developed my own electric bassoon pickup that I now use with a wealth of effects, or “stompboxes” that are all primarily designed for guitarists. I even made the focus of my doctoral dissertation about elements of jazz in more standard bassoon literature.
This week I have the wonderful opportunity to play as one of the original members of a new improvising, new-music, ensemble in Minneapolis called The Cherry Spoon Collective. The “orchestra” consists of mostly traditional band and orchestra instruments: violin, cello, clarinet, bass, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, but also guitar, drum set, spoken word artist (“rapper” isn’t quite the right term in this context), and I play not just bassoon, but electrified bassoon. The members of the group are modular, with no set instrumentation for every performance, and everyone is an improviser at some level. We perform all new music, most of it commissioned for this ensemble. Many of the works are incredibly loose in structure, requiring the musicians to play in contemporary styles of rock, R&B, and hip hop, follow unusual road maps, unusual harmonic structures, solo over chord changes (or over no chord changes). It’s a far cry from Tchaikovsky, but just as listenable!
You can’t see it in this photo, but I’m using a series of effects pedals to create some extra sounds, as well as provide some basic sound support for my instrument in order to be heard while a drum set is playing. In order to access the effects easier I stand to play.
The Cherry Spoon Collective is performing this Friday, April 26, at Studio Z in St. Paul, MN. We’re performing the same set of music twice, at 7pm and at 9pm. It’s free, and all-ages.
For more information on my electric bassoon, and on my other improvised and jazz related projects, visit my website.
If you have any information related to the whereabouts of these instruments, or find any of them for sale, please contact us. This post will be updated as instruments are found or new ones reported lost or stolen.
Oboes & English Horns:
Fox Model 300 #23413
Fox Model 300 #23673
Fox Model 400 #23520
Fox Model 800 #23302
Fox Model 800 #23378
Fox Model 800 #23458
Fox Model 555 English Horn #638
Fox Model 500 English Horn #1271–owned by MMI, stolen in the Chicago area, October 2012
Fossati Tiery English Horn #8119
Fossati Tiery English Horn #8185
Fossati Tiery English Horn #8199
Loree Model c+3 AK #QD69
Loree Model c+3 AK #QC89
Loree Model cR+3 Royale #QA83
Loree Model cR+3 Royale #QC06
Loree Model cR+3 Royale AK #QC53
Loree Model cR+3 Royale AK #QE20
Loree English Horn #OL73- Stolen March 10, 2014 from St. Paul, MN
Loree Oboe d’amore #RV05 – Stolen March 10, 2014 from St. Paul, MN
Fox Renard Model 220 #41133
Fox Renard Model 240 #41298
Fox Renard Model 240 #41516
Fox Renard Model 222D #41098
Fox Renard Model 41 #41212
I’ll be performing in a quartet with with NYC drummer (by way of Cuba) Francisco Mela (member of Joe Lovano’s US Five, McCoy Tyner, Esperanza Spalding) at the MacPhail Center for Music this Saturday, April 20, 2013, at 8:00 pm. Francisco tours much of the year with some of the biggest names in jazz and also leads his own group called Francisco Mela’s Cuban Safari. Local favorites Tanner Taylor (piano) and Graydon Peterson (bass) will round out the rhythm section. We hope to see you there.
Francisco Mela is currently a favorite among elite jazz instrumentalists such as Joe Lovano (Us Five), John Scofield (John Scofield Trio), and Joanne Brackeen. He is a regular member of Kenny Barron’s working trio, all of whom cite his charisma, sophistication, and life-affirming spirit.
His first opportunity to perform outside of Cuba came when Hernández was booked for an appearance at the Cancún Jazz Festival. In 1997, Francisco returned to Mexico to perform in Cancún with his own group, the MelaSon Latin Jazz Band. Then, a chance encounter with Panamanian jazz pianist Danilo Pérez led him to a life-changing decision. “Danilo encouraged me to move to Boston,” Francisco reminisces. “He said, ‘Don’t worry. if you come to Boston, you’re going to end up playing with better people than me.’”
He initially planned to study at either Berklee College or The New England Conservatory of Music, but professional opportunities headed him in another direction. It wasn’t long before Francisco was the house drummer of Wally’s Café, one of Boston’s hottest jazz clubs. While honing his own sound as a jazz drummer and broadening his leadership role as leader of a quintet, he also had an opportunity to back such world class talent as Pérez, fellow Cuban Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and his longtime idol, drummer Roy Haynes.
Eventually, he started playing with music professors at Berklee. Then, one day, he received a call to teach at the prestigious institution. He currently balances a hectic schedule of appearances with the aforementioned pianist Kenny Barron, saxophonists Joe Lovano and George Garzone, bassist John Patitucci, and guitarist John Scofield. Francisco’s professional and artistic horizons continue to broaden as he collaborates with more and more musicians.
The Ancia Saxophone Quartet will be performing twice in the Twin Cities in early May. Details below.
Saturday, May 4, 7:30 pm (Talk with Jeff Herriott at 7:00 pm)
Works by Herriott, Sturm, Dove, Glass
Northwestern Building, 2nd Floor
275 East Fourth Street Suite 200
St. Paul, MN 55101
Prices: $5 here or $10 at the door ($5 for students/seniors)
Weisman Art Museum
Sunday, May 5, 2013, 4:00 pm
Works by Desenclos, Glass, Dove, Dodgion, Carisi
University of Minnesota
333 East River Road
Minneapolis, MN 55455
The Ancia Saxophone Quartet was founded in 1990 as an ensemble dedicated to the creation and performance of new works for saxophone quartet as well as the performance of traditional saxophone quartet repertoire.
For a limited time, we’re offering a discount on our regular price on the Wolf S2000 and S2000+ bassoons.* Call us to set up a trial and see what the buzz is about on these fantastic German-made instruments.
The manufacture of bassoons is rooted in “old-world” tradition. With the Wolf bassoon, tradition meets modern innovation. The wood is carefully selected for its resonant qualities, the acoustics designed with the most state-of-the-art computer modeling and real-world testing, and the keywork carefully designed to be ergonomic, quiet, and smooth.
The result is a fantastic professional or semi-professional instrument at a very competitive price.
At Midwest Musical Imports we have two models to select from. The S2000 and the S2000+ in mountain maple. The standard model S2000 has the features you expect on a semi-professional bassoon: 7 rollers, silver plated mechanism up to high E, left hand whisper lock, ebonite water tubes that extend into the bore, and a durable and attractive matte lacquer. It also comes in a custom backpack case called the “Lupobag.”
The Plus model has the above features with the addition of nylon washers in the long rods to eliminate noisy mechanism developing over time or sluggish mechanism due to the need for key oil. The wood is specially selected flamed mountain maple and given a special resonance treatment and a unique finish that brings out the natural pattern and color of the wood. You can select from our collection of Wolf bocals, including the special Grundmann bend bocals.
*limited to instruments in-stock, regular trial procedures apply
Bassoonists! Mark your calendars…the Minnesota Bassoon Association is hosting a Maxwell bassoon profiler demonstration on April 20, 2013 at 4:30pm at the U of MN (Room 280 Ferguson, University of Minnesota School of Music.) Dr. Susan Gustavson Maxwell will be presenting. For more information, visit: http://www.mnbassoon.org/
Not a member of the MBA? Click here to join!
The Minnesota Bassoon Assocation (MBA) was founded in 1983 by bassoonists John W. Miller, Jr., Bill Jones, Dr. Reuben Berman, James Preus, and Chuck Ullery. The organization is based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, and brings professional bassoonists to the area for recitals, workshops, and master classes.
We are extremely pleased to welcome the Fox 335 Artist Model Oboe!
Modeled after the already popular 330, the Fox 335 is a hand-crafted all grenadilla intermediate level oboe. This modified conservatory oboe includes left hand F and low B-flat as well as the 3rd octave key and low B-flat resonance key. The third octave, trill key, and B tone-holes have inserts for added stability and will reduce the risk of cracking. This high-quality, wooden oboe will allow your aspiring oboist to grow into an instrument that will serve them well for many years!
MMI Oboe Reed Making Kit
The new MMI oboe reed-making kit comes complete and ready for all levels of oboe reed-making. Comes with - Wilson Single Nylon tool pouch, Rigotti oboe mandrel, Pisoni short blade double-hollow ground knife, medium cutting block, ruler, pointed rigotti plaque, cake of beeswax, 10 pieces o..