Oboe/oboe throat pain

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Question
Dear Geoffrey, I recently have been having throat pain while playing oboe. I don't think I'm closing my throat, in fact, I think I might be opening too much because it feels as if I'm trying to push air through my throat while I'm yawning. I notice when I start playing now, my throat and even my larynx drop down very low. My teacher does not know how to help me and this has been really bothering me. I do not like to practice anymore (and when I do practice, I only practice a little) because of the pain. My notes are also very flat and heavy sounding. Please help, thank you.

Answer
Dear Christina

This is a horrible thing to happen and I have come across it several times.

Mechanical things first.
Have you made sure that your oboe is really airtight and working efficiently?
Are you using reeds that are too hard for you? Are they too open, too closed? Do they vibrate easily with a minimum of effort.
Make sure that the tip is thin enough to start the reed vibrating. Try a middle stave C (third space) and blow gently though the oboe until the C comes out. No forcing, no lip pressure - just sufficient to prevent the air escaping down the sides of your mouth. The C should sound easily. If it doesn't the reed tip is probably too thick.

Breathing things...
Without the oboe make a whoop sound shape in your mouth. Yes, whooooo!!! Don't force the air but blow against the side of your hand. If you open your throat too much you will hear a rush of air past your tonsils, if you close your throat then there is too much resistance at your mouth. Just an easy stream of air gently hitting the side of your hand is what to achieve. No great speed or pressure, no feeling dizzy with over blowing. just nice and easy.
When you can control that - give it ten minutes, then daily - try with the reed.
Make your embouchure, put the reed in up to the binding and gently crow the reed. There should be no back pressure affecting your throat if the reed is vibrating as it should. Keep the feeling of blowing that you had without the reed. Gentle stream of air coming from deep inside your chest. There should be no stop mechanism in the mid chest area (feeling difficult to describe!) of pushing against a huge resistance.
Keep that easy Whooo mouth shape. No throat involved at all - not getting in the way of the air at all.
Once that is going well try some notes on the oboe. Again no force and mid range - no high notes until everything is comfortable

It sounds like you have to unlearn some "forcing" habit that is dead easy to get into. It will need patience and serious work to undo.
The reeds are crucial. They must vibrate without too much effort and feel balanced.

I think that these tips at least will be a start to a new more efficient way of playing.

Best of luck with it all and be patient and don't panic!


Geoffrey  

Oboe

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Geoffrey Bridge

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Professional oboist with many years experience. Former pupil of Leon Goossens. Solo artist for Arts Council of Great Britain. Freelance recitalist/broadcasting/orchestras. Former Head of woodwind teaching in Hampshire, England. Questions on repertoire, playing styles, reeds, cane selection and processing.

Experience

St Andrews University Royal College of Music, Aberdeen College of Education Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music General Teaching Council certificate Broadcast solo recitals/performed with major symphony orchestras/Music Club recitals/writings on double reed matters

Organizations
Chairman and Trustee of the British Double Reed Society International Double Reed Society Association Hautbois Francais Orchestral Manager of Southern Pro Musica Orchestra/Aberdeen Sinfonietta

Publications
Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine/International Double Reed Society

Education/Credentials
LRAM, Cert Ed

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