Thursday, August 30, 2007

Noodle salad

Excellent lesson. No more comments from him about needing to "step up my practicing" because so-and-so sounds fabulous. Just giving me little points of improvement and telling me I sound great. I don't think I've ever had a lesson go so well. :)

Having said that, I must add that I hate Bolero. Lots of finger-aches due to that little piece but it's sounding better and better. The high Dbs weren't speaking well so I started a new fingering last week that is taking a lot of work to retrain. Found a new G-A trill for the Mozart concerto that is much more in tune. My professor plays on a heckel or a fox and those fingerings don't always translate to the slightly altered fingerings of a moosmann. For the most part, the moosmann fingereings wind up being easier. It's just a matter of finding those fingerings.

Shock and awe

Cut the tips on my brand new contra reeds that I made over the weekend and they worked!! They're a little wonky in the pitch, but so much better than what I expected that I still feel like strutting. Go, me. :)

Former declaration of loyalty to the 8 year old reed is hereby rescinded. Albion reed for muchos smackeroos turned out to be much nicer than the old one once I cut the tip. Old reed on recording sounds like one big raspberry. New Albion actually has tone.

Bought Susan Nigro's Bass Nightingale off of iTunes. She is incredible. Contra playing like I've never heard. Average person could go to her concert and not spend the whole time snickering about a big flappy farty instrument blurting around on the stage. Disappointed to see that there are no liner notes attached.

Neckstrap reply

I've been trying the seat strap, neck strap and balance hangar thing when I play lately, as well. I'm not real crazy about the feeling that I'm "wearing" my bassoon, but it does seem to help the left hand. Even better, I can let go of the bassoon completely to throw up both my hands in disgust when practicing, and the bassoon continues to float safely in front of me. Nice.

What sort of neck/shoulder strap do you use? I saw one that puts the hook at your side instead of the center, but I wasn't sure if that was good for standing only, or for sitting, as well. I'd be interested to know if there's a "right" way of doing that.


I wear my bassoon. I've been doing it since I had a nasty bout with tendonitis about ten years ago. It is the only way I can get through even half an hour of playing without pain, and I never could have done it before I had a balance hanger. I use a BG shoulder strap with two hooks that I sling sideways across my chest - over head with one arm through.

Just recently though, I picked up an IDRS journal and saw an article with a different twist. The author still uses a seat strap and a neck strap, but the neck strap is looped through the back of a chair on the right side and hooked onto a regular, basic neck strap hook on the bassoon. Weight of the instrument is taken by the dual straps and your right thigh. It works beautifully and keeps the weight almost completely off of the left hand, more so than my usual balance hanger and neck strap method. The only two downsides are 1) you must have a chair with a slotted back, and 2) range of emotive movement is severely limited.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Technical difficulties

I was trying to keep the whole audition thing a secret. About a week ago, I realized that in order to keep some secrets one has to be willing to lie. I wasn't willing to lie about this so it all started unraveling. I think for the best. Last week's lesson shattered me a bit. More than a bit. I can't put my finger on what exactly it is that he says or does, but I almost always leave his office "less than".

Tonight, I had a little snack with my biggest competition. She is a beautiful bassoonist who I think sounds quite a lot like me, but with better technique. I can't say this to my family. They hear "I suck, so-and-so has way better murmurmurmur than me.. I should just give up!". I'm not being negative or defeatist. She just does. She has worked damn hard to hone that technique and deserves the praise. I have never been a strong technical player. I have hated working on technique because I never noticed how much easier it could make everything else. Almost twenty years after picking the darn instrument up, I am finally beginning to realize this simple truth. Technique is good. It's not all there is, but it makes the rest of it sooo much easier.

ANYWAY! I'd been a tad disheartened since the lesson. Tonight cheered me right up and got me excited again. I'm not the only one who gets the wind knocked out of her sails at lessons and that knowledge is amazingly comforting. I came home and practiced.. and had fun! After all the $$ we shelled out for lessons and the commitment I've started towards maybe-kinda-sorta-probably starting my Masters next year, I had begun to fear that this step was a terrible mistake. Maybe sticking close to Jessie and talking this stuff out is all the remedy I need. Even talking about the audition was therapeutic. I'd been holding so much in and now, everybody knows and I'm still ok. Made a mountain out of a mole hole and got my stress shoved up my..... ;)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reed geekery

2007-08-28 02:14 am UTC (from (link) DeleteFreezeScreenTrack This

Still liking my Moosmann, although I'm still not sure my reeds are quite right for it.

I'm told my reeds are quite narrow, but they seem to fit in pretty well with Lou Skinner's reed design. If you haven't already checked out The Bassoon Reed Manual: Lou Skinner's Theories and Techniques by James McKay, do so. It's been invaluable, especially for contra. It turns out I've been using his Five Tests for years now and never knew it because they'd been shown to me by another bassoonist. My instrument before this was a Schreiber and I remember thinking that my Moosmann 200 felt very similar in key structure and sound. I think Fox Bassoons tend to respond better to a wider reed design, which may be part of why I didn't appreciate the sound of those I tried. Anyway, here's his diagram straight from the book:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Take a lickin', keep on tickin'

Here's a troubling revelation: my eight year old contra bassoon reed from college still works. The troubling aspect of this is that it works BETTER than the Albion Silver Professional reed that I just bought from Forrests for 30 smackeroos. Wish I knew what brand it was and even more, I wish I had found it before shelling out all that cash for a reed I don't like. At least now I know what measurements to follow for the reed blanks waiting at my desk. Hard to know what's going to work best when you're borrowing an unfamiliar instrument that you can't take home with you.


Now You Know that when I park my bassoon in our front living room where the swamp cooler is, it swells so much that I have to grease the corks to get it put back together.

Now You Also Know that when I park my bassoon in the back room, where there is a window AC unit, I have to keep a humidifier in the case to keep the corks on the bocals from drying out and separating.

Now You Further Know that I am prepping for a 3rd bassoon/contra audition in two weeks. This is part of why I have been practicing so hard and have been flighty and a bit off the radar. Talking about it makes me nervous so please, don't bring it up. Those of you in town may be coerced into listening to my audition so I can have some practice with an audience.

Now Everyone Knows that I posted this little bomb on livejournal and got no response. Not that I write this stuff solely for a response, but I'm thinking most of my friendslist is probably skipping over any post with the bassoon guy on it and didn't even notice. Or, it hasn't been read yet because I posted it over the weekend. Meh. Pay attention to meeeeeeee! ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First lesson

He flat out asked me if I was taking the audition and I couldn't lie. We spent the whole time working on the Mozart and Bolero. I am nervous now where before I was not, but I hope it will be a good thing. I had become used to hearing my Fs and my Es flat. I'm not in tune with myself. *scream* I've been practicing in a vacuum and it seems that all it does is gear me up to be out of tune and still nervous for the audition. An hour or two a day is not enough practice. I have to do more. It's going well, but for the Mozart to still be shaky after having it around for so many years is not good. For me to be freaking out right now is not good either. I am a great musician. I just need to let it out and remember to have fun with it.

New fingering for Bolero should help, but it will take a good chunk of time to get used to it. I feel a little guilty that I am considering leaving the kids at Kidco again today so that I can practice, but that is why we signed them up for it. They're bored but safe, and I should accept it and do what I need to do. Really don't have any desire to go to playgroup today. Want to stay home and practice and practice and practice until it's all rock solid and indestructible.

Don't get distracted by the contra. It is secondary. They will write you off before you even get to it if you screw up on the Mozart.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How much do I love iTunes?

Found on iTunes in the last week:

  • Trio for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano by Chick Corea
  • The Bass Nightingale by Susan Nigro
  • Mozart Concerto for Bassoon with Klaus Thuneman
  • Duet Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon by Richard Strauss
  • "Sleeping Bassoon", episode of Disney show, Little Einsteins
Bought all of them but The Bass Nightingale, which is an album entirely of contrabassoon music. Still pondering that one, but I'll probably cave within the week.