Saturday, August 4, 2007

Yesterday I learned how to play the bassoon- my friend's little sister plays, so she let me use a reed and some old books and her instrument and fool around for about an hour. It was actually much easier than I was expecting, and so much fun. The reed was much less touchy than an oboe or even english horn reed, so I could get a not so bad tone out of it. I now have no sympathy for bassoonists' reed issues. Not that it's a topic I hear a lot about.

The fingerings on the other hand...insane. I have a lot more respect now for bassoonists who play anything fast. I don't, of course, play flute or clarinet, but I can easily conceive of playing quick passages on the instruments. Probably because either the fingerings or set-up, respectively, is quite similar. I can't, though, imagine being able to play quickly on a bassoon. I think a lot of this problem, for me, is the fact that I couldn't see my fingers when I was playing. They were tilted away from my body, and completely obscured by the instrument, so I was having to play by feel in a different way than on other instruments. I'm not quite sure how to describe the difference, though, because obviously when one is playing flute/oboe/clarinet one cannot actually look at one's fingers and play at the same time. I suppose it's just easier to go back and forth, or something like that.

Anyways, the bassoon has FAR too many thumb keys. And I kept getting confused by the fact that it has a lower rather than upper octave key. The fingerings are actually much more like clarinet than oboe or flute, also.

Still, I think I did rather well for playing for an hour. And it was so much less tiring than oboe, too. A much looser embouchure, especially in the lower jaw.

Today, I took all of the keys off of my English horn, so now I at least theoretically can repair either of my instruments. I also learned how to replace the cork on my bocal, and Lorrie made me a thumb rest pad out of foam and pieces from a leather glove. As she said, it was oboes as arts and crafts projects. I approve. She offered me an English horn reed, and I turned her down (first reed I've ever rejected from her). As I hear it, there are two schools of English horn playing, the cello-like school and the very reedy school. Lorrie plays very reedy reeds sometimes, and I just don't like the way they sound. I mean, obviously she sounds very musical, but sometimes I actually like my sound better. (gasp)
She's now trying to convince me to do music ed. Says I'd be a good teacher. I won't do it though, because I would be teaching as a back-up job, and I don't think that's fair to the kids.


Anonymous said...

Just curious, if you take the time to thank the people you blog about... you know, those people who take the time from their own lives and priorities to try and help you actually "achieve" your dreams (instead of just writing about them). I hope you consider and respect their perspective, while you blog. They certainly do not have to care about you or even bother with your life/career, they have enough happening in their own lives/careers, no doubt. If they are willing to "share" their own years of professional struggles and hard earned success with you (sincerely and in heartfelt confidence all on "your behalf" -asking nothing in return), this brings with it an unwritten bond of trust, an expectation of humility, and some debt on your part to return respectful appreciation. Those who "really care" about you, and your best interest, will always tell "you the truth", which is not always easy to share, or easy to hear. If they cannot share the truth, in trust, they will not share at all and you may find, later on down the road, your long and forthcoming oboe journey, becoming very, very lonely.
Be mindful of this possibility.
One last whimsical thought. In 1546 in John Heywood wrote:
"No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth."
There was probably a reason.

racheloboes said...

I am deeply thankful of all the people who help me to become a better musician and who open doors for me. I do not, however, feel that their help is something which I cannot think about, write about, or critique, even if they know better than I do. Others can only do so much: I also have to learn and think for myself, and I find this medium of the blog helpful in doing this.

C.J. said...

I agree with you. Your blog is a peek into your head, and that's why people look at it, even if you might say something that others might not agree with (although the person you comment about might come visit your blog! My rule is I don't blog what I wouldn't say to someone's face.)That said, either you go all the way, or you play it safe. I appreciate that you're honest with your readers.

I love the bassoon! My little confession is that if I had to start over, I'd play bassoon. Less reedmaking time, less back pressure, cooler looking instrument, and they get to play that gorgeous Saint Saens Sonata!

C.J. said...

What are the differences in Cello vs. Reedy schools of EH playing? Does "reedy" mean "buzzy?" or does it mean thick and undefined?

racheloboes said...

I'll preface this by saying that I have not listened to a lot of famous English hornists, and probably don't know what I'm talking about.

That said, I tend to characterize EH's as either belonging to the smooth, round, sweet school, which I call "Cello" or to the direct, intense, buzzy school, which I call "Reedy".

(The reason that I describe the first sound as "cello" is that about four years ago at a music summer camp I listened to a recording of the Beethoven trio in which the EH sounded incredibly close to the sound of a cello. It was one of the most amazing things I'd ever heard. Unfortunately, I have no idea who the performers were. Also unfortunately, I have not listened to very many EH recordings.)