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Oboe/oboe sagging low g on a diminuendo

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QUESTION: Dear Geoffrey

My low G's frequently sag on a diminuendo.  Till almost a quarter tone lower.  I could probably produce a semitone lower!  Sometimes second space C's too can drop on a diminuendo, and low G#'s.

It doesn't happen on all reeds, though, and has happened on two different makes of oboes. So it can't be the oboes. Some reeds I can 'force' the in tune diminuendo out of, and other reeds just simply sag no matter what I try with breath and squeezing shape of the embouchure.

I use Either Howarth's, Chiarugi's or Loree's staples, G + S Glotin cane (thick and curved).

But possibly the problem comes in here: I play on a self-modified American scrape such that my reeds are scraped till only half way down, have a longish (not as long as the standard American scrapes though) smoothly graded V-ish tip, ( and not much windowing in the back.  The heart ends up not as pronounced as found in most American scrapes.

I am sure this is to do with my reed style which has evolved over the years, and something to do with the middle of the heart.  Or perhaps the sides of the heart.  Anyway, somewhere the balance has gone.  

And I probably still play with a basic American embouchure which means less of a "cat whiskers smile" type than the British embouchure, and more of an "oo" whistle type American embouchure.

Some suggestions would be much appreciated.

Regards
Andrea

ANSWER: Andrea:  I notice that this question is addressed to Geoffrey.  I don't minding giving it a shot, but if you wanted Geoffrey to answer it, I would suggest that you send the question to him.  Joel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Joel


Please give it a shot!

I think I might be scraping too much out of the heart, not so? But if so, then which part - the tip still needs to be blended into the heart somehow.

Again, re my modified American style reeds: they are smoothly graded between the areas: as i said before, the hump of the heart is not so prominent, and neither the windows towards the binding.

I have been leaning toward a German style scrape recently, and I think the problem has come during the attempt to change.  I do have good results with respect to the tone and intonation of the modified reed style, attack is much the same, and can play all the problem notes in tune, as long as they're not softly played.

Regards
Andrea

Answer
Hi, Andrea; Given the symptom, I think your instincts are right on target.  Sagging notes (and my experience is that it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer) is usually caused by scraping too much cane from the heart. Your statement that the heart is not prominent strengthens that argument.  I would try keeping more cane on the heart and work the windows, tip, and lays. I think that should do it.  If the problem persists, I would shorten the tip maybe 2mm to 3mm. In terms of notes going lower on diminuendos, I'm wondering whether that has more to do with support. Certainly taking too much out of the heart will make it that much easier, but you should still be able to hold to pitch.  Are you using your diaphragm for breath support when you get softer?  Since you're using an American type embouchure (as I do), increase pressure at the same time that you cushion the reed with your mouth (again from the diaphragm not lungs)and don't get in the habit of biting down - instead drop your jaw to maintain pitch.  A good way to practice this is using a tuner and trying to keep the needle steady as you slowly crescendo and then diminuendo.  Hope this makes sense and helps.  Joel

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Joel Simon

Expertise

Reed making, oboe technique, oboe adjustments. PLEASE NOTE, NO QUESTIONS ABOUT OBOE VINTAGE OR VALUE. THAT INCLUDES SERIAL NUMBERS, AGE OF INSTRUMENTS, AND HOW MUCH THEY MIGHT BE WORTH; AND THAT INCLUDES WHERE YOU MIGHT FIND SUCH INFORMATION. THESE QUESTIONS WILL BE REJECTED.

Experience

I've played oboe for over 40 years. During that time I've played and performed in many ensembles including full orchestras, chamber orchestras, and wind quintets. I've played as both an amateur and professionally. Out of necessity, I've learned how to care for the oboe, make adjustments and repair when necessary.

Education/Credentials
I studied with Robert Sprenkle at Eastman School of Music preparatory department and 3 years privately with Lois Wann. I've also studied with Robert Eliscu.

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