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I offer lessons in:

  • Chamber Music Coaching
  • Music Appreciation
  • Basic Music Theory
  • Intermediate Music Theory
  • Advanced Music Theory
  • Classical Oboe
     
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    Nobuo KitagawaOffering private lessons in
    Coopersburg, Pennsylvania
    About MeContact MeBlog

    Tonguing Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 15, 2018 - 4:27 PM

    Decided to write tonguing exercises. Here is a version for F Horn.

    Tonguing Exercises for Horn

    Enjoy.

    Tonguing Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 9, 2018 - 5:52 AM

    Decided to write tonging exercises. First for the B-flat trumpet.

    Tonguing Exercises for Trumpet

    Enjoy.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 31, 2017 - 6:55 AM

    These are the last exercises of 2017. Why not add these playlists in your new year’s resolutions?

    Three-Note Long Tones for Trombone

    Happy practicing!

    Winter 2018 Lafayette Oboe Reed Camp
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 27, 2017 - 6:08 PM

    It's time of year again. Sigh up soon!

    Winter 2018 Lafayette Oboe Reed Camp

    See you there.

    Three-Note Long Tones for F Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 24, 2017 - 6:29 AM

    You can use this to get back in shape after the holiday.

    Three-Note Long Tones for F Horn

    Enjoy.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 7, 2017 - 12:21 PM

    Now for the trumpet players.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Trumpet

    Have fun.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 3, 2017 - 6:54 PM

    These exercises have been extremely effective with my students. I hope they help yours.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Bassoon

    Happy practicing.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Cello and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 25, 2017 - 7:11 AM

    This one is for the cellists.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Cello and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Viola and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 22, 2017 - 6:57 PM

    A little Christmas music for young viola players.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Viola and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Violin and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 20, 2017 - 5:24 PM

    A little Christmas music for young violin players. Many thanks to Becky Brown for articulation and bowing.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Violin and Piano

    Happy practicing.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Trombone and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 11, 2017 - 6:09 PM

    A little Christmas music for young trombone players.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Trombone and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Horn and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 11, 2017 - 6:20 AM

    A little Christmas music for young horn players.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Horn and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Trumpet and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 10, 2017 - 4:58 PM

    Here is a trumpet version. Should be easy enough for beginning players.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Trumpet and Piano

    Enjoy.

    "Angels We Have Heard on High" for Bassoon and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 7, 2017 - 6:08 PM

    A little Christmas music for young bassoon players.

    Angels We Have Heard on High for Bassoon and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Flute and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 27, 2017 - 6:03 PM

    It's a bit early but your young players can get an early start.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Flute and Piano

    Enjoy.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Oboe and Piano
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 23, 2017 - 4:38 PM

    It's a bit early, but I though I'd give young players enough time to prepare.

    “Angels We Have Heard on High” for Oboe and Piano

    Enjoy.

    Oboe Audition Workshop 2017
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 21, 2017 - 5:47 PM

    It's that time of the year again. Come try your repertoire in front of your peers. Come learn the audition tips and tricks.

    Audition Workshop for Oboists 2017

    See you there!

    Three-Note Long Tones for Bass Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 10, 2017 - 12:43 PM

    My first bass clarinet exercises.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Bass Clarinet

    Happy practicing!

    Three-Note Long Tones for E-Flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 28, 2017 - 4:53 PM

    Now for the e-flat clarinet.

    Three-Note Long Tones for E-Flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing.

    Three-Note Long Tones for B-flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 22, 2017 - 4:03 PM

    These exercises have been extremely effective with my students. I hope they help yours.

    Three-Note Long Tones for B-flat Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    It's good to feel the feel (or this is why mock auditions work).
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 10, 2017 - 6:48 AM

    A thought provoking article on negative emotions and how we can better handle them.

    You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad

    Happy reading.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 10, 2017 - 6:27 AM

    These exercises have been extremely effective with my students. I hope they help yours.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Flute

    Happy practicing.

    Three-Note Long Tones for English Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 8, 2017 - 11:16 AM

    This is the EH version of the warm-up exercise I use for every lesson.

    Three-Note Long Tones for English Horn

    Happy practicing.

    Fall 2017 Oboe Reed Camp has New Dates
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 7, 2017 - 4:01 PM

    Due to many conflicts, I decided move the Fall Oboe Reed Camp to 10/14 and 10/15.

    Lafayette Oboe Reed Camp - Fall 2017

    Se you there.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Oboe d’Amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 2, 2017 - 4:41 PM

    D'amore versions of the three-note long tone exercises.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Oboe d’Amore

    Enjoy.

    Fall 2017 Oboe Reed Camp
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 28, 2017 - 7:09 AM

    It's that time of the year again!

    Lafayette Oboe Reed Camp - Fall 2017

    See you there!

    My YouTube Channel Reached 100K!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 26, 2017 - 7:59 AM

    My YouTube channel reached 100,000 hits! There are over 400 free (and ad free) exercises for winds and strings.

    Nobuo's YouTube Channel

    Please come visit.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 22, 2017 - 11:59 AM

    This is a revised version. Better organized for assignments.

    Three-Note Long Tones for Oboe

    Happy practicing.

    Two-Octave Scales for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 14, 2017 - 8:46 AM

    Just added 2-octave scales for French horn in F.

    Two-Octave Scales for Horn in F

    Enjoy.

    String teachers! Comments appreciated.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 7, 2017 - 8:09 AM

    This is a part of free online string exercises on YouTube. If you could take a minute to listen and comment on it, it'll be greatly appreciated!

    Tetrachord Exercises for Violin—Part 1

    Many thanks,

    Nobuo

    Scale Exercises for Horn in F—Part 1 Rev.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 3, 2017 - 6:28 AM

    This is a revised version of the previously published exercises. B flat major is brought one octave lower.

    Scale Exercises for Horn in F—Part 1

    Happy practicing.

    High-Note Exercises for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 12, 2017 - 3:41 PM

    For my trombone player friends.

    High-Note Exercises for Trombone

    Happy practicing.

    High-Note Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 11, 2017 - 5:45 PM

    For my French horn playing friends.

    High-Note Exercises for Horn

    Happy practicing.


    High-Note Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 5, 2017 - 5:29 AM

    Now for the trumpeter players.

    High-Note Exercises for Trumpet

    Happy practicing!

    High-Note Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 3, 2017 - 6:07 AM

    The bassoon versions of my high-note exercises.

    High-Note Exercises for Bassoon

    Enjoy

    Double Stop in 6th for Cello
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 12, 2017 - 5:50 AM

    For my cellist friends.

    Double Stop in 6th for Cello

    Enjoy.

    High-Note Exercises for E-flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 24, 2017 - 6:18 PM

    Here is the e-flat clarinet version.

    High-Note Exercises for E-flat Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    Double Stop Exercises in 6th for Violin
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 23, 2017 - 6:24 AM

    The violin versions of my double stop exercises in 6th. Any comment suggestions are welcome.

    [b]Double Stop Exercises in 6th for Violin/b]

    Happy practicing.

    High-Note Exercises for B-flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 22, 2017 - 5:45 AM

    Having good control on high notes is hard for anyone. I hope this exercise helps.

    High-Note Exercises for B-flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing.

    Bach Choir of Bethlehem on video
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 17, 2017 - 5:29 AM

    Our local PBS station posted a video of one of our noon time concerts. It's well produced and you get to seem me double tonging away.

    Bach at Noon by Bach Choir of Bethlehem

    It's a Facebook video but you don't need to sign up to watch it.

    Enjoy.

    High-Note Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 15, 2017 - 7:15 AM

    After playing Mahler symphonies, I realized, something like this might help prepare players.

    High-Note Exercises for Flute

    Enjoy

    Double Stop Exercises in 6th for Viola
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 10, 2017 - 5:43 AM

    My first foray into the double stop exercises for the strings.

    Double Stop Exercises in 6th for Viola

    Your comments on the YouTube pages are most appreciated.

    High-Note Exercises for Oboe d’Amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 19, 2017 - 6:36 AM

    This one's for d'amore

    High-Note Exercises for Oboe d’Amore

    Happy practicing.

    High-Note Exercises for English Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 18, 2017 - 6:23 AM

    Here is a version for the English Horn

    High-Note Exercises for English Horn

    Enjoy.

    High-Note Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 18, 2017 - 6:20 AM

    Brand new exercises.

    High-Note Exercises for Oboe

    Any feedback is appreciated. You can leave a comment on the YouTube page.

    Interval Exercises for Viola
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 16, 2017 - 9:59 AM

    Just added more flat keys to the exercises (Part 5 and Part 6).

    Interval Exercises for Viola

    Happy practicing.

    Scale Exercises for Cello
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 15, 2017 - 8:29 AM

    Now for my cello playing friends.

    Scale Exercises for Cello

    Enjoy.

    Scale Exercises for Viola
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 21, 2017 - 6:22 AM

    Here are the viola versions of my scale exercises.

    Scale Exercises for Viola

    Happy practicing.

    Scale Exercises for Violin
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 10, 2017 - 1:22 PM

    Two and three octave scales for violin

    Scale Exercises for Violin

    Happy practicing!

    Concone for Horn—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 24, 2017 - 12:45 PM

    For the F horn.

    Concone No. 1 for Horn

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Trumpet—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 22, 2017 - 5:37 PM

    Now for the trumpet.

    Concone No. 1 for Trumpet

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Bassoon—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 20, 2017 - 4:06 PM

    Now for the bassoon players.

    Concone No. 1 for Bassoon

    Happy practicing.

    Concone for English Horn—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 18, 2017 - 5:47 PM

    Now for the English Horn.

    Concone No. 1 for English Horn

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Oboe d’Amore—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 18, 2017 - 11:07 AM

    Now for the d'amore.

    Concone No. 1 for Oboe d’Amore

    Happy practicing.

    Concone for E-Flat Clarinet—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 15, 2017 - 3:44 PM

    Now, for the E-flat clarinet.

    Concone No. 1 for E-Flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing.

    Concone for B-Flat Clarinet—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 14, 2017 - 5:25 PM

    Now for the b-flat clarinet

    Concone No. 1 for B-Flat Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Flute—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 12, 2017 - 5:14 PM

    Here is a flute version.

    Concone for Flute—No. 1

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Trombone—No. 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 11, 2017 - 6:22 PM

    You can't let vocalists have all the fun.

    Concone for Trombone—No. 1

    Enjoy.

    Scale Exercises for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 9, 2017 - 1:57 PM

    Here comes the trombone version.

    Scale Exercises for Trombone

    Enjoy.

    Scale Exercises for Horn in F
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 27, 2017 - 5:56 PM

    There are 12 exercises in all!

    Scale Exercises for Horn in F

    Enjoy.

    Scale Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 2, 2017 - 2:03 PM

    One and two-octave scales for B-flat trumpet

    Scale Exercises for Trumpet

    A happy new year and happy practicing!

    Scale Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 26, 2016 - 6:25 PM

    Now for the bassoon.

    Scale Exercises for Bassoon

    Happy practicing!

    Scale Exercises for E-flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 23, 2016 - 5:30 PM

    These are for E-flat clarinet

    Scale Exercises for E-flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing.

    Scale Exercises for B-flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 10, 2016 - 1:42 PM

    2-octave and 3-octave scales for B flat clarinet. If you master these, you shouldn't have any problem with the MEA auditions.

    Scale Exercises for B-flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing!

    3-Octave Scale for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 25, 2016 - 10:24 AM

    Just added a 3-octave scale to the flute scale exercises.

    Scale Exercises for Flute—Part 5

    Happy practicing.

    Scale Exercises for English Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 20, 2016 - 5:17 PM

    The English horn version of the scale exercises.

    Scale Exercises for English Horn

    Happy practicing.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 4th Movement
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 14, 2016 - 4:02 PM

    Now the last movement is done.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 4th Movement

    Enjoy.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 3rd Movement
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 13, 2016 - 10:36 AM

    The third movement is done.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 3rd Movement

    Enjoy.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 2nd Movement–Practice Tempo (76)
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 12, 2016 - 5:37 PM

    It's a slower version for practicing.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 2nd Movement–Practice Tempo (76)

    Enjoy.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 2nd Movement
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 10, 2016 - 11:43 AM

    The second movement accompaniment is done!

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 2nd Movement

    Enjoy.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 1st Movement.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 8, 2016 - 4:50 AM

    The accompaniment part for the first movement of Handel oboe sonata, Op. 1/6, HWV 364.

    Handel G Minor Oboe Sonata 1st Movement.

    Happy practicing.

    Oboe Audition Workshop
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 23, 2016 - 6:57 AM

    I am hosting an oboe audition workshop on Sunday, November 20 at Lafayette College. This session is designed for high school oboists who are preparing for MEA auditions or college auditions. Also, it should be helpful for students who are thinking about taking one in the near future (auditing is free). It takes place at Room 123 of the William Center for the Arts in Easton, PA. For any questions regarding this workshop, please send them to nobuo.kitagawa@gmail.com.

    See you there!

    Tackling Performance Anxiety with Cold Shower
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 9, 2016 - 7:34 PM

    I wrote an article about using cold showers to learn how handle performance anxiety.

    Cold Shower Challenge

    Happy reading.

    Interval Exercises for English Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 8, 2016 - 8:05 AM

    Now for the English horn version.

    Interval Exercises for English Horn

    Enjoy.

    Octave Exercises for Violin
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 2, 2016 - 7:22 AM

    I'm told this is really hard for violins.

    Octave Exercises for Violin

    Happy practicing!

    Tuning Unison for E-Flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 30, 2016 - 7:02 PM

    This is a set of tuning exercises for E-flat Clarinet.

    Tuning Unison for E-Flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing.

    Fall 2016 Oboe Reed Camp
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 28, 2016 - 11:52 AM

    It's that time of the year again. Learn the basics of reed making. Polish up on the skills you already you have. It's on Layafatte Campus (William Center for the Arts) on October 15 and 16. For details, check out the brochure. See you there!

    Long Tones for E-Flat Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 17, 2016 - 6:24 PM

    Next time you have to play the E-flat clarinet, this could help.

    Long Tones for E-Flat Clarinet

    Happy practicing!

    Scale Exercises for Oboe d’Amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 11, 2016 - 2:23 PM

    For all the oboe d'amore players out there.

    Scale Exercises for Oboe d’Amore

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 29, 2016 - 7:55 AM

    Now onto French horn.

    Interval Exercises for Horn

    Happy practicing!

    Scale Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 21, 2016 - 1:02 PM

    This covers most of one-octave and two-octave scales for oboe. This should be very effective for students who are preparing for district band/orchestra auditions.

    Scale Exercises for Oboe

    Happy practicing.

    Scale Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 17, 2016 - 6:32 PM

    Two-octave scale exercises for flute. These should work well with beginning students who are learning scales and intermediate players who need to review them.

    Scale Exercises for Flute

    Enjoy

    Octave Exercises for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 2, 2016 - 2:00 PM

    Here are trombone versions

    Octave Exercises for Trombone

    Enjoy.

    Octave Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 31, 2016 - 7:53 PM

    Now for the horn.

    Octave Exercises for Horn

    Happy practicing.

    Long Tones for Winds
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 29, 2016 - 6:37 AM

    I consolidated all the wind long tone exercises into one playlist.

    Long Tones for Winds

    No more excuses!

    Octave Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 28, 2016 - 3:52 PM

    Now, onto the trumpet versions.

    Octave Exercises for Trumpet

    Enjoy.

    Octave Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 27, 2016 - 11:31 AM

    Here comes the bassoon version.

    Octave Exercises for Bassoon

    Enjoy.

    Octave Exercises for Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 26, 2016 - 12:21 PM

    Now for the clarinet.

    Octave Exercises for Clarinet

    Happy practicing!

    Octave Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 25, 2016 - 6:45 AM

    This one is for flute.

    Octave Exercises for Flute

    Happy practicing.

    Octave Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 25, 2016 - 6:44 AM

    This one is a bit challenging.

    Octave Exercises for Oboe

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 13, 2016 - 6:43 PM

    Here are the bassoon versions.

    Interval Exercises for Bassoon

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 10, 2016 - 8:07 AM

    Clarinet versions of the interval exercises.

    Interval Exercises for Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Violin
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 1, 2016 - 4:40 PM

    This one is a set of violin exercises.

    Interval Exercises for Violin

    Happy practicing.

    Interval Exercises for Viola
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 26, 2016 - 4:34 PM

    My second set of exercises is for the viola.

    Interval Exercises for Viola

    Happy practicing.

    Interval Exercises for Violoncello
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 21, 2016 - 5:43 PM

    My first string exercises!

    Interval Exercises for Violoncello

    Happy practicing.

    One-Octave Scales for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 12, 2016 - 2:45 PM

    I edited the previously uploaded exercises into more manageable chunks.

    One-Octave Scales for Oboe

    Enjoy.

    Pentachord Exercises for Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 5, 2016 - 10:19 AM

    These are good for intermediate students.

    Pentachord Exercises for Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    Pentachord Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 28, 2016 - 7:00 PM

    Should be appropriate for intermediate flute players.

    Pentachord Exercises for Flute

    Happy practicing.

    Warm-Up Scales for English Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 28, 2016 - 5:48 AM

    For serious English horn players.

    Warm-Up Scales for English Horn

    Enjoy.


    Pentachord Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 17, 2016 - 4:18 PM

    Just uploaded new trumpet exercises on YouTube.

    Pentachord Exercises for Trumpet

    Enjoy.

    Bethlehem Bach Festival starts this weekend
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 9, 2016 - 2:03 PM

    If you live in the New York/Philadelphia area, please join us in the 109th Bethlehem Bach Festival. I made a tiny preview video on YouTube.

    Mini Preview

    Hoep to see you there!

    Warm-Up Scales for Oboe d’Amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 30, 2016 - 5:29 AM

    Oboe d'Amore scales for intermediate to advanced players.

    Warm-Up Scales for Oboe d’Amore

    Happy practicing!

    Interval Exercises for Winds
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 12, 2016 - 9:07 AM

    I consolidated all the interval exercises I published so far with a write-up.

    Interval Exercises

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Oboe d’Amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 5, 2016 - 6:27 AM

    I use this every time I make d'amore reeds.

    Interval Exercises for Oboe d’Amore

    Enjoy.

    Cantata BWV156 Sinfonia
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 22, 2016 - 7:46 PM

    This is an orchestral accompaniment for the Sinfonia from Bach's Cantata No. 156. I use this to prepare for my performance.

    Cantata BWV156 Sinfonia

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 19, 2016 - 8:22 PM

    This one is for the trumpet

    Interval Exercises for Trumpet

    Happy practicing!

    Interval Exercises for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 6, 2016 - 5:44 PM

    Now for the trombone.

    Interval Exercises for Trombone

    Happy practicing!

    Warm-Up Scales for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 3, 2016 - 6:29 PM

    For more advanced players.

    Warm-Up Scales for Oboe

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 23, 2016 - 6:18 PM

    More exercises for flute.

    Interval Exercises for Flute

    Enjoy,

    Nobuo

    More Mouthpiece Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 17, 2016 - 5:51 AM

    Just added 4 more exercise pieces to the Mouthpiece Exercises.

    Mouthpiece Exercises for Trumpet

    Enjoy.

    Chromatic Scale Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 17, 2016 - 5:36 AM

    Just posted Chromatic Exercises on YouTube.

    Chromatic Scale Exercises for Oboe

    I also posted a short write-up on my LinkedIn page.

    Chromatic Scale Exercises

    Happy practicing!

    Reed Camp Just Around the Corner
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 14, 2016 - 12:09 PM

    It's almost the time. If you are interested, leave a message or contact me at nobuo.kitagawa@gmail.com.

    Winter Reed Camp 2016

    Leave a message on this site or e-mail directly at nobuo.kitagawa@gmail.com

    Pentachord Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 10, 2016 - 7:47 PM

    Just uploaded pentachord exercises for oboe to YouTube.

    Pentachord Exercises for Oboe

    Enjoy.

    Interval Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 2, 2016 - 5:20 PM

    I thing these turned out to be rather pretty.

    Interval Exercises for Oboe

    Let me know what you think.

    Preparatory Scale Exercises for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 1, 2016 - 7:15 PM

    Fun exercises for beginning oboist

    Preparatory Scale Exercises for Oboe

    Enjoy.

    Winter Oboe Reed Camp 2016
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 30, 2015 - 7:36 PM

    I'm hosting a reed making camp at Layette College in January. Details as the following:

    Dates: Saturday 1/23/16 and Sunday 1/24/16
    Times: Morning sessions: 10:00 a.m.—12:00 noon
 Afternoon sessions: 1:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m.
    Reservation Deadline: Wednesday 1/20/16
    Location: Lafayette College, William Center for the Arts, Rm. 128
    Instructor: Nobuo Kitagawa, instructor of oboe, Lafayette College
    Fees: Sessions 1–3 $30.00 (per session)
    Session 4 $40.00
    All 4 sessions $120.00
    Tools and Supplies: Limited supplies and tools are available on site. If you are not sure what to bring, please inquire.
    Reservation and questions: Please direct all inquiries, including reservations, equipment, directions, to nobuo.kitagawa@gmail.com.


    Session 1 — Saturday 10:00 a.m.
    Tying blanks, basic scraping
    The basics of reed making. If you have no previous experience, this is the one to attend.
    Session 2 — Saturday 1:00 p.m.
    Building reeds
    Step-by-step instructions on how to make working reeds.
    Session 3 — Sunday 10:00 a.m.
    Finishing reeds
    Fine-tuning techniques for performance-ready reeds.
    Session 4 — Sunday 1:00 p.m.
    English horn reeds
    Making an English horn reed from a blank (provided). You need to have some experience playing the English horn and making oboe reeds.

    Long Tone Exercises for Trombone
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 24, 2015 - 12:29 PM

    Now a trombone version.

    Long Tones for Trombone

    Enjoy.

    Long Tone Exercises for Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 20, 2015 - 6:41 PM

    Here are the clarinet versions.

    Long Tones for Clarinet

    Happy practicing!

    Long Tone Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 18, 2015 - 5:02 PM

    This one's for French horn in F.

    Long Tones for Horn

    Enjoy.

    Long Tone Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2015 - 11:47 AM

    Here are the trumpet (B flat) versions of the long tones.

    Long Tones for Trumpet

    Happy practicing.

    Long Tone Exercises for Oboe d'amore
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2015 - 4:58 AM

    Just uploaded a d'amore version of the long tone exercises. These are great for warming up and breaking in reeds.

    Long Tones for Oboe d'amore

    Enjoy.

    Long Tone Exercises for English horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 14, 2015 - 4:42 PM

    Just posted long tone exercises for English horn (cor angles) on YouTube.

    Long Tones for English horn

    Happy practicing.

    Mouthpiece Exercises for Trumpet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 5, 2015 - 6:16 AM

    I uploaded a series of trumpet mouthpiece exercises on YouTube.

    Mouthpiece Exercises for Trumpet

    Comments are appreciated.

    Long Tone Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 8, 2015 - 6:08 PM

    Feel free to use them for your practice and teaching.

    Long Tones for Bassoon

    Enjoy.

    Tuning for Winds Article
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 2, 2015 - 3:45 PM

    I wrote up and linked all the relevant tuning exercises in one location. I think these exercises are very effective. And any wind teacher or player should be able to take advantage of them.

    Tuning Exercises for Winds

    Happy practicing.

    Tuning Exercises for Bassoon
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 28, 2015 - 11:43 AM

    Here is a bassoon version of the tuning exercises.

    Tuning Exercises for Bassoon

    Enjoy.

    Kutztown University's Woodwind and Brass Day 2015
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 27, 2015 - 7:08 AM

    I was invited as a guest clinician for the Kutztown University's Woodwind and Brass Day on 11/12. I'll be helping high school oboe and bassoon students with audition prep, tone production, and intonation. It is a great opportunity to meet and work with your fellow musicians from different schools, check out new instruments and accessories, and perform with a massive band with college students.

    You can register online here and check out the event schedule here.

    Hope to see you there,

    Nobuo

    Tuning Exercises for Flute
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 25, 2015 - 1:50 PM

    Just posted a flute version of the tuning exercises.

    Tuning Exercises for Flute

    Happy practicing.

    Tuning Exercises for Horn
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 25, 2015 - 6:14 AM

    This is a set for Horn in F

    Tuning Exercises for Horn

    Enjoy.

    Tuning Exercises for Trombone.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 24, 2015 - 4:22 PM

    Just posted the trombone version of the tuning exercises.

    Tuning Unison, Part 1-Trombone

    Happy practicing!

    Tuning Exercises for Clarinet
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 24, 2015 - 5:30 AM

    Just posted a clarinet version of the tuning exercises. They are great for practicing as well as for testing. Most of these should work for trumpet.

    Tuning Exercises for B Flat Clarinet

    Enjoy.

    Kutztown Univ. Woodwind and Brass Day
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 21, 2015 - 6:23 PM

    I'll be giving masterclasses as a guest clinician at Kutztown University's Woodwind and Brass Day 2015. We'll work on PMEA audition preparation, warm-up technique and tuning. For details, please click here.

    Hope to see you there!

    2-Octave Scales for Oboe, Part 2
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 16, 2015 - 5:42 PM

    Just uploaded the second part of the 2-Octave Scales.

    7b. Two-Octave Scales, Part 2

    Enjoy.

    Handel C Minor Sonata 2nd Movt.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 12, 2015 - 1:50 PM

    Just posted the second movement accompaniment on YouTube.

    Handel C Minor Oboe Sonata 2nd Movt.-In Tempo

    Practice tempo (92)

    Practice tempo (80)

    Enjoy.

    2-Octave Scales for Oboe, Part 1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 11, 2015 - 5:51 AM

    Just posted 2-octave scale exercises (part 1) on YouTube. Please feel free to use it for practicing and teaching. This should work for flute, also.

    7a. Two-Octave Scales, Part 1

    Happy practicing!

    Flute Long Tones-Part 3
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 3, 2015 - 12:14 PM

    The part 3 of the flute long tone exercises is uploaded. And now the series is complete.

    Flute Long Tones-Part 3

    You can access the whole series through the playlist.

    Long Tones for Flute

    Happy practicing.

    Handel C Minor Sonata 1st Movt.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 28, 2015 - 1:59 PM

    Just uploaded a play-along accompaniment part of Handel C Minor Oboe Sonata on YouTube.

    Handel C Minor Oboe Sonata 1st Movement

    Feel free to use it for practicing or teaching.

    Concone No. 2 with Orchestral Accompaniment
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 18, 2015 - 6:26 PM

    I just posted an orchestral version of Concone Fifty Studies, No. 2 in B flat major.

    YouTube

    Original Article


    Enjoy.

    Flute Long Tones on YouTube
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 17, 2015 - 6:17 AM

    Thanks to positive reaction to my oboe long tone exercises, I posted two flute long tones on YouTube.

    First Octave

    Second Octave

    Enjoy.

    Three-Note Long Tones 4b.
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 29, 2015 - 8:12 PM

    Another 3-note exercises for oboe.

    YouTube

    Original Article

    Enjoy.

    Concone No. 1 with orchestral accompaniment
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 28, 2015 - 6:13 PM

    I decided to orchestrate the accompaniment to Concone's 50 Studies No. 1.

    YouTube

    Original Article

    Enjoy.

    Three-Note Long Tones 4a
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 22, 2015 - 9:46 PM

    One of my favorite oboe warm-up exercises.

    Original Article

    YouTube

    Enjoy.

    Concone No. 2 in C major
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 17, 2015 - 6:18 PM

    This is a C major version of Concone No. 2.

    YouTube

    Original Article

    Enjoy

    Telemann A Minor sonata 1st movt. accompaniment
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 13, 2015 - 4:24 PM

    I uploaded the accompaniment part of the first movement of the A minor oboe sonata. It's in two different tempi.

    Practice tempo

    Performance tempo

    Enjoy.

    Concone for Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 10, 2015 - 4:39 PM

    Concone's vocal studies are wonderful for wind instruments. I'm starting a series of video for oboe. Please check them out.

    1st exercise on YouTube

    Original Article

    Thanks!

    Long Tone Exercises
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 5, 2015 - 2:36 PM

    These basic long tone exercises are extremely effective. You can use them for any instrument. Singers can use them as very challenging messa di voce exercise.

    [YouTube]

    [Original Article]

    Enjoy.

    Extended Reed Exercises 1 on YouTube
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 30, 2015 - 7:02 PM

    Made a YouTube version of the fist extended reed exercise for oboe.

    YouTube

    Original Article

    Enjoy.

    2nd Warm-up Exercise on YouTube
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 30, 2015 - 8:11 AM

    This is another reed-only warm-up exercise for the oboe on YouTube.

    YouTube

    Original article

    Enjoy

    My 1st oboe warm-up exercise on YouTube!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 30, 2015 - 6:19 AM

    My first oboe warm-up exercise is on YouTube. Since it's set up as a play-along, you can look at the music on the screen and do your exercise right there. Check it out.

    Simple Reed Long Tones on YouTube!.

    Original Article.

    Enjoy

    Extended Reed Exercises 2
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 20, 2015 - 12:37 PM

    Another article on extended reed only exercise on my LinkedIn page.

    Enjoy.

    How to Practice Complex Passages
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 14, 2015 - 6:35 AM

    My first article on practice tips on LinkedIn.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140724002715-18711280-practice-tip-1

    Simple Reed Long Tones— Oboe Warm-up Exercises 1a
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 14, 2015 - 6:30 AM

    I started a series of articles on oboe warm-up exercise on LinkedIn. Enjoy.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/simple-reed-long-tones-nobuo-kitagawa

    Feedback is most welcome.

    I'm on SoundCloud!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 14, 2014 - 7:14 AM

    I started writing original pieces about a year ago. It all started as a GarageBand doodle, and now I'm tackling Logic Pro X. I'm trying to write in many genres as possible, and having so much fun! There is very oboe music at the moment, but I'm planning to include more of my performance. Check it out at here, and let me know what you think.

    Practice Technique Workshop
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 21, 2013 - 5:19 PM

    I was invited to Kutztown University Woodwind Day (2/19/13) as a guest artist. I had the chance to give a talk on practice techniques. You can check out the handout for that event here. Enjoy.

    Nice Review
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 30, 2010 - 9:48 AM

    There was a nice review on a local paper as a part of the year-end music review roundup (Top Ten of 2010). It's from the same concert review of the last summer, but it is thrilled to be mentioned along the likes of Andre Watts, Orpheus and Yo Yo Ma.

    Teaching Tip #7 – The Bouncing Ball Technique
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 12, 2010 - 2:45 PM

    I find it nearly impossible to explain the concept of steady beat to young students. I told them stories, played back their recordings, and tried movements while playing. Using metronome is rarely helpful. It is usually very frustrating for both the teacher and the student. In fact, many of my young students nearly quit after I tried to explain how to count 3/4. I’m sure you’ve seen students count, “1, 2, 3, and; 1, 2, 3, and…,” thus making 4/4 out of 3/4. The following technique works very well, and they really seem to enjoy doing it.

    1. Get a bouncy ball safe enough for your studio (you could go outside with a basket ball).
    2. Make sure the student can bounce the ball steadily.
    3. Make sure the student can sing the problem section without the music. He can sing “a, b, c,” or “do, re, mi.”
    4. Demonstrate yourself by singing the phrase while bouncing the ball.
    5. Let the student try.
    6. Let the student bounce the ball while you play the instrument.
    7. Let the student play the instrument while you bounce the ball.

    You can come up with any number of combinations to help the student. One warning. Some students may enjoy it so much that you might run out of time for other things. Enjoy.

    From The Bookshelf #4 – Charles Martin Loeffler: A Life Apart in American Music by Ellen Knight
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 18, 2010 - 12:42 PM

    Unless you are an oboist or violist, you’ve probably never heard of Charles Martin Loeffler. He was a German-born American composer of the early 20th century. I came to know his Two Rhapsodies for Oboe, Viola and Piano during graduate school. As much as I loved this beautiful, mysterious piece, there was very little written about him at the time. So, when I discovered Ellen Knight’s exhaustibly researched biography, I was elated. For a scholarly work, this book is a joy to read. Thanks to the well organized quotes from Loeffler’s own writing, it captures the sense of the time and the man beautifully. For a publicity shy musician, Loeffler was very influential on the east coast and elsewhere. He helped shape the young Boston Symphony Orchestra (both as a player and, later, as an unofficial advisor), involved in establishing Juilliard School, and helped support French musicians during the first World War. The French government gave him the Legion of Honor, and the and his American contemporaries called him the Dean of American Composers. He appreciated and admired by artists of wide discipline. Among his personal friends were John Singer Sargent, Amy Lowell (poet), Isabella Stewart Gardner (philanthropist), Gabriel Fauré and George Gershwin. It is a shame that his music is seldom heard on the concert stage today. In fact, this skillfully written biography is out of print (I bought my copy from a used-book dealer through Amazon). One possible reason for his obscurity is, as Knight suggests, due to who Loeffler was. A sensitive perfectionist who was very reluctant to give public exposure to his work even after multitudes of revisions. And his wide interest in different styles and genre makes it very hard to pin him down into a neat category. I doubt this book can turn anyone into a believer. If you are already interested, however, the book sheds light on the life of a brilliant musician as well as the music scene of the early 20th century Boston.

    Reed Talk #16 – Art of Reading Reeds
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 9, 2010 - 7:45 AM

    It is surprisingly difficult to know how your reeds play, once you leave where you normally make them. Even when you get a nice sounding reed at the reed desk, as soon as you bring it to the rehearsal hall, it often behaves quite differently. We need a way to judge reeds that we can use no matter where we are. This is where crowing comes in. The crow of a reed does not give you everything you need to know; but it tends to give you information that works regardless of the location. The crow can give you the following information: over-all intonation balance, ease of blowing, how much the heart is vibrating, how much the tip is vibrating, and how efficiently the tip and the heart are working together.

    How to Crow: When you crow a reed, put the reed all the way into the mouth so that your lips are touching the thread and cane is vibrating freely. Start blowing softly as though you are making a crescendo from pp to f. Do not trust the crow you get when you just take the reed out of the case or the soaking water. Put it on the oboe and play something easy for a minute or two, then take it out and crow. You need the reed to settle a bit before you can make fair judgement. This is particularly important for new reeds and the ones that have not been played for a while. Likewise, avoid trusting the crow after long, arduous playing. You need to know how the reed is functioning in a normal playing condition.

    Elements of Crow: There are several parts to a crow. You need to observe each to best understand what is going on with the reed.

    [Initial Sound]: When you start blowing into the reed, you will hear the hissing noise of the air. As you increase the air flow, you begin to hear a faint, sustained sound. Note the pitch of that sound (use a tuner). Also, observe how long it takes for the sound to appear out of the noise. There is no easy way to measure this, but you can develop the sense of how quickly the initial sound starts. This tells you how easily the tip is vibrating. If you hear multiple notes simultaneously, it usually means the tip needs refining. The pitch of the initial sound tells you how strong the tip is. When the tip is too weak, it cannot transfer the vibration into the heart effectively.

    [First Overtone]: Note the first time when you hear additional notes. It does not seem to matter what the note is or how many they are, but how soon it appear gives you an indication of how well the vibration of the tip is transferred to the heart.

    [The Bottom Note]: As you increase the air flow, the main note of the crow settles on a slightly lower note. Observe what the pitch is. This is the what usually referred to as the “pitch” of the crow. This tells you the over-all intonation balance of the reed. However, it does not tell you how high or low it plays on the oboe. You can make a reed with a high crow that plays flat once it is on the instrument. The bottom note just tells you the balance of the intonation. Also, avoid over-blowing the crow beyond f. The chaotic vibration you hear when you blow really hard usually does not give you useful information. When you are playing the reed normally, it never has a chance to vibrate that freely, thus whatever you hear while over-blowing is not very useful.

    Long Tone on the Reed: In addition to crowing, playing long tones on the reed (with normal embouchure) can give you useful information. To judge how efficiently the tip is vibrating, pay attention to how the reed handles diminuendo. If the tip is working correctly, you can make the sound disappear smoothly into the hissing sound. Also, if the tip is working really well, you can make the sound reappear just as easily. It is dangerous to refine the tip too early in the scraping process, but this can be very helpful in the refining process. Also, as the reed becomes better balanced, you hear stronger and more focussed sound as you play on the reed alone.

    How My Reeds Work: The initial sound of my reeds is a quarter tone above C or higher. My bottom note is C or higher. My good reeds give me the initial sound fairly quickly, and I usually get middle C in addition to the main note. When the reed is finished, I can make the sound disappear into the noise and reappear easily. I currently use Nagamatsu 0B shaper tip, Pisoni Pro Silver 47 mm staples, Ross gouger. And I play Laubin oboe. My elevation is about 400 ft. above sea level. Please be reminded, however, this setup happens to work for me and should not be taken as gospel. What does matters is to use this approach and come up with your own guidelines. Depending on your gouge, instrument, shaper tip, staples, elevation, and national style, your pitches will be different. Having said that, my setup is pretty typical for American style. If you make American-style reeds, it could be a good starting point.

    Practice Tip #19 – Solidifying and Softening
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 28, 2010 - 10:15 AM

    Learning a piece of music is an act of pulling things together: learn notes, get it up to speed, play it through without dying, make sure phrasing works, know what other players are doing. It’s the process of solidifying. There is never enough time to do everything right, and we push things through just to get it done. There are always something left undone: tension left in the muscles, phrasing not quite right, passages not quite mastered, not fully expressing what’s in the piece. When you pick up the same piece later, instead of just picking it up where you left off, try some softening. You could practice extra slow to get the kinks out. Reread the score to see if you missed anything. Listen to commercial recordings for fresh ideas. If you are able, play it on a different instrument, or play it in a different key. This is how you deepen your relationship with a piece of music and keep it fresh. Next time you go back to a familiar piece of music, try budgeting a “softening” time. It’ll make practicing more productive and so much more enjoyable.

    Pearls of Wisdom #13 – Spontaneity
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 11, 2010 - 8:38 AM

    Practice and prepare every aspect of the piece as thoroughly as you can. Then play it as though you’ve never seen it before.

    Pearls of Wisdom #12 – Moving Performance
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 11, 2010 - 8:38 AM

    If you want to move others with your music, you need to be moved by it.

    Pearls of Wisdom (Musician’s Fortune Cookies) #11 – Time to Practice
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 11, 2010 - 8:36 AM

    If you have time to think about practicing, use that time to practice.

    Musical Conversations reviewed
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 8, 2010 - 6:05 PM

    Morning Call (local paper) gave us a nice review on the 2/28/10 Musical Conversations concert. You can read it here.

    Repertoire ‘n Things #5 – “La Cornemuse” from Two Rhapsodies for Oboe, Viola and Piano by Charles Martin Loeffler
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 7, 2010 - 7:26 AM

    Charles Martin Loeffler is a German/American composer born in 1862. He studied violin with Joseph Joachim in Berlin and studied composition with Earnest Guiraud in Paris. He emigrated to the United States in 1881 and served as the assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty one years. Just like his contemporary Debussy (born a year later), he was fascinated by the poetry of symbolists and set many symbolist poems to his vocal work. “La Cornemuse” (The Bagpipe) was inspired by a poem by Maurice Rollinat of the same title. In fact, Two Rhapsodies was initially composed as a vocal work accompanied by clarinet, viola and piano. In this piece, we can hear the influences of Brahms’ chamber music, Listz’s piano work, and Debussy’s impressionistic harmony.

    The main device of symbolism is to juxtapose images or ideas that are not commonly associated with each other to evoke feelings that are hidden deep inside human psych. Unlike the romantic approach of conflicting ideas being ultimately resolved after considerable interactions, the symbolists seek to communicate the very strange and evocative psychological state of unresolved tension. One way Loeffler attempts to achieve this tension in La Cornemuse is through structural means. After a short introduction by piano, nine musical ideas are presented in succession. When it is done, he repeats the same series of ideas in reverse order: as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Loeffler offers a string of highly tantalizing musical ideas without offering any development or resolution. This lack of cathartic relief might be one reason why his music is not often heard any more. If you try to find a clear narrative in his music, you’d be left frustrated. Instead, as the composer seems to suggest, we can enjoy the each moment of beautiful and haunting musical idea as it comes without any notion of a story.

    Musical Conversations moved!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 26, 2010 - 10:40 AM

    Due to the snow, the Musical Conversations (chamber music) concert of the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra is moved to Sunday, February 28 at 7:30 p.m. I’ll be playing Poulenc Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, and Loeffler La Conrnmuse (second piece of the Two Rhapsodies). I’ll be giving a short talk comparing these pieces to contemporary paintings.

    Repertoire ‘n Things #4 – Elegy for Solo Oboe
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 25, 2010 - 11:33 AM

    I wrote this piece as a final project for Martin Bresnick’s Composition for Performers class at Yale. My aim was to write an etude for extended oboe techniques. Except for one technique I couldn’t manage (flutter tongue), I threw in everything I could think of: quarter tones, double trills, multiphonics, pitch bending, circular breathing, and key slapping. The piece is a modified theme and variations: Variation 1, Variation 2, Theme, Variation 3. The dramatic point is the Variation 3, where the theme is heard over the double trill with non-stop circular breathing for the entire variation.

    The musical inspiration came from my high school days in Japan. During the warm months coming back from lessons at night, I used to walk through cemeteries in pitch darkness. Even though I was plenty scared, I found it very exciting and inspiring. When you walk through a land so rich with history, you know every step you take, you walk on a place where someone was laid dead. Although I never saw a ghost, I felt strong presence of so many souls that had lived and passed. I was convinced, as an artist, it'd be up to me to sing their unsung songs. With the use of extended oboe techniques, I tried to capture the other-worldly sounds that never had a chance to be heard. You are welcome to download a recording from my last recital here.

    Recital Recording Available Online
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 4, 2010 - 6:45 PM

    You can download my January 9 recital recording from my MobileMe account. Click the “Wesley Church Recital” folder for the sound files and the program.

    Reed Talk #15 – I Can’t Make Reeds Anymore!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 18, 2010 - 8:56 PM

    Even experienced reed makers have a moment of panic once in a while. Here are some of the likely scenarios and possible solutions.

    Dull Knife: Nothing ruins reeds like a dull knife. Make sure your knife is very sharp. If not, hone it and re-establish the edge.

    Leaky Instrument: A leaky instrument can fool you to think something is wrong with you or your reeds. Even if it’s been adjusted recently, it’s worth a quick check. Also, when the season changes (see below), your instrument can go out of adjustment in a hurry.

    Change in Weather: Change of seasons could have a dramatic effect on your reeds. Here on the east coast, the moment heat comes on, all my warm-weather reeds could be rendered useless overnight. The changes from cold to warm happens more gradually. But, often in May, I find a reed case full of reeds that are way too open. Also, when the barometric pressure goes down (stormy weather), your reeds become less responsive.

    Changes in Routine: Did you make any changes to your set up recently? New cane? New staples? New gouging machine? New instrument? New sharpening stone? Have you moved? Any little change could make a big difference in how reeds play.

    Gouging Trouble: If you gouge your own cane, check to see if the batch of cane you are working on is up to specs. Some times, gouging machine could “move” unexpectedly. Make sure it is set properly.

    Practice Tip #18 – Mental Gossip
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 14, 2010 - 11:40 AM

    It’s often said that by knowing what to call a thing, you can define your relationship to it. I’ve been trying to read Barry Green’s The Inner Game of Music (more trying than reading), and I came across a really good expression. He calls the mental chatter in our head, the mental gossip. I don’t care to elaborate on the Self 1 and Self 2 here, but that non-stop, blow-by-blow broadcasting in our head during the performance is really distracting. By defining it as a gossip, you can have more reasonable relationship to it. Just like the real gossip, if you participate in it, you always make things worse. The best way to deal with, is not to deal with it. By leaving it as it is, it will eventually burn itself off. No matter how well intentioned, engagement never make things better. Instead, you can just say “oh, it’s that gossiping, again,” and bring your mental focus back to whatever you’ve been doing. As long as you’ve done your homework (well rounded practicing), you know what to do. As to what you should be focusing on, it’s a topic of another conversation.

    Gadget Talk #3 – Stay In Tune (iPhone App)
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2009 - 12:37 PM

    Gadget: Stay In Tune for iPhone and iPod Touch.

    Pros: Low cost. Easy to read. Very versatile.

    Cons: Drains battery. No pickup mic.

    Notes: Among the pages of iPhone apps I have, this is the one I use during lessons and rehearsals. Under the simple and attractive interface, it is a very capable tuner/tone generator. Along with the chromatic option, it can tune three kinds of guitar, banjo, violin, cello, viola and ukulele. It generates both synthetic and the recorded sound of the instruments listed in the tuning options. It can tune from A=400 to A=480. You can use headphone plug to amplify the tones, but there is no easy way to connect a pickup microphone. So, this app works great in a quiet room, but doesn’t work well in a noisy environment (especially for acoustic guitar and ukulele). Another thing to remember is, while this app is running, iPhone does not go to sleep automatically. If you are not careful, you can run the battery down. However, at $3.99, this is the best tuner you can buy.

    Practice Tip #17 – Getting Unstuck
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 13, 2009 - 6:35 PM

    Applicable Instruments: All

    Level: Intermediate to Advanced

    Descriptions: Once you work hard on a technically challenging passage, there comes a time when you feel like you’ve hit the wall. Either you cannot go any further, or you just can’t control what you are doing. Worse, the harder you work, the worse it gets. It’s time to loosened it up.

    Step 1: Set the metronome at a reasonable practice speed.

    Step 2: Practice the passage in three to four different rhythmic patterns. If it’s in groups of four, change it into dotted rhythm, reverse-dotted rhythm, and a several triplet patterns. Make sure to maintaing all other aspects of the passage: dynamic, fingering, articulation, etc.

    Step 3: With the metronome on, practice the phrase mentally in the right rhythm. Imagine your self playing it perfectly. Make it as vivid as possible. You can try hearing it perfectly, or imagine how it feels to play it well in your body. Or, you can imagine your favorite artist playing it flawlessly. Experiment to see what works for you. Be prepared to give more than a few tries. Also, depends on the passage, you may have to switch between different modes of imagination: auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc.

    Step 4: Practice the phrase physically. Make sure you can play it well (not perfect) for three to five times before moving on. After each successful attempt, let your body relax while counting 1/10 of the metronome marking (this will give you six seconds of rest). While resting, your attention should be focused on relaxing your body (feel the blood coming back to the muscles, etc.). The critical, verbal analysis of what went on prevents the natural learning process, and you can relapse into the old habit. Allow your mind to go blank between tries. Let your fingers, arms, embouchure find “it” on their own. Enjoy.

    Practice Tip #16 – Three Pronged Attack
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 29, 2009 - 9:50 AM

    Applicable Instruments: All

    Level: Intermediate to Advanced

    Descriptions:

    When learning a technically challenging passage, well planned execution is critical. In addition to the traditional, one-metronome-marking-at-a-time approach, splitting it into three stages can be very effective.

    Stage 1: Learning

    Find a tempo that you can safely play the passage. 1/2 tempo is a good place to start. However, don’t be surprised if you have to start much slower. Make sure you follow every markings as much as you can at a slower tempo: dynamic, articulation, expression, etc. Make sure you can play each passage three to five times correctly before you go on to the next marking. Make a written record of what you’ve practiced and where you’d like to go. I write out all the metronome markings on the music, and put a dot over the number after I’m done. At this stage, you need to play well but it need not to be perfect (no wrong notes, though). Keep advancing until either the target tempo or your fastest possible tempo. At this stage, you are mostly collecting information: which parts of the passage you will have problems with, where you get tense, what fingerings you need to use (regardless of what’s printed), what (if any) adjustments need to be made to your instrument, what other exercises might help (or create one for the purpose), etc.

    Stage 2: Tweaking

    Start over the whole process from a slow tempo. You don’t have to go all the way back, but it has to be slow enough to work out the problems you found in the Stage 1. Be particularly aware of bodily tension. Look for ways to use the least amount of force. Keep inching up the speed until you reach the target or the fastest tempo possible. You should make all necessary technical revisions (fingering, bowing, tonguing, etc.) here.

    Stage 3: Refining

    Go back, again, to a reasonably slow tempo, then repeat the whole process. The emphasis here should be on the musical expressions. This is where you might find certain technical aspects (evenness, for instance) might not be as critical in achieving the musical goals. Even if you do not reach the target tempo, don’t be discouraged. If you can play the passage at about the 80% of the target speed with all this preparation, you are in great shape. With a little help from adrenaline, you should sound quite impressive at the performance.

    From The Bookshelf #1 – "Note by Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson" by Tricia Tunstall
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 20, 2009 - 9:51 AM

    The book opens with the author’s observation of students and their process of learning from the beginning to mastery, which eventually culminates in the chapter called “Recital.” She beautifully weaves her own experience as a growing pianist as she observes her own young pianists. A real treat awaits in the last chapter where she goes deeper into her personal stories. It is a tender memoir by a warm, insightful teacher in simple, eloquent prose. This book is certainly a wonderful read for music teachers, but as Jonathan Durbin of People magazine is quoted saying, it is a “surprisingly moving meditation on learning” for any reader.

    Practice Tip #15 – Hanon for Wind Players
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 19, 2009 - 3:20 PM

    Applicable Instruments: All wind instruments (possibly guitar)

    Level: Advanced

    Descriptions: There are no shortage of warm-up exercises for wind instruments: Taffanel/Gaubert’s exercises for flute, and Herbert L. Clarke’s technical studies for cornet come to mind. However, for those who are willing go further, I recommend adapting Charles-Louis Hanon’s The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises for your instrument. As the author suggests, the first 20 exercises are simpler, and they are very adaptable. I usually pick an exercise and make it into a one-octave version (piano version covers two octaves and they are all in C). Then, I would repeat the whole pattern a half-step higher (D flat), then another half-step higher (D), etc. until I cover the whole range of my instrument. By the time I’m done, I’m well warmed up physically and mentally. Also, when I make reeds, I find myself picking an exercise pattern that hides the shortcomings of the particular reed I’m working on (to spare me from the disappointment, I suppose). By picking a pattern from a piano book, it forces me to confront what is really going on, all the while I’m getting ready for the day. You can get a free copy here (http://www.danmansmusic.com/free_hanon.htm).

    Practice Tip #14 – Trills with Nachschlag
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 12, 2009 - 7:36 AM

    [Applicable Instruments] All

    [Level] Intermediate to Advanced

    [Notes ] It’s hard enough playing trills on short notes, but when nachschlag is involved, it gets particularly tricky. A nachschlag is a kind of grace notes that happens at the end of the note. It’s all over Mozart and Haydn, and often found in Handel and Beethoven. It could get daunting in faster tempi. It’s one thing to cram trills into small spaces, it’s quite another to have additional notes (usually two or three) at the end. You might be able to ride it off as long as they land on “good notes” on your instrument, but it’s a lot easier if you plan ahead. Some people might find preplanned trills to be less spontaneous (especially for mid to slow pieces). However, once you have a firm handle on your trills, it’s very easy to do more or less based on how you feel during the performance. Besides, sloppy trills never sounds spontaneous no matter how you spin it.

    Step 1: Decide how many notes you are going to play.

    When you are playing a fast piece with quarter notes with nachschlag, seven or eight notes are usually plenty enough.

    Step 2: Find a good practice tempo and set the metronome.

    Step 3: Practice playing the first note plus the second half of the trill/nachschlag.

    We’ll use the first solo entrance of Mozart Oboe Concerto K. 314 first movement as an example. After an 1/8 note, we have a 1/4 note with a trill with a two-note nachschlag. It’s often played as,

    C, D, C, D, C, B, C

    Here, we’ll count the first three notes as triplet 1/16 notes, and the rest as 1/32 notes. So, the Step 3 becomes,

    C, rest, rest, D, C, B, C

    Make sure to practice in context. In this example, play the 1/8 note before and play a few beats afterward. Use the all the appropriate fingerings (a trill key, in this instance).

    Step 4: When you can play Step 3 reliably and comfortably, practice the whole thing as written.

    When you have a series of trill/nachschlag in a phrase, practice as a whole. When necessary, practicing individually, but as soon as you are able, practice as a phrase.

    Step 5 : When Step 4 is complete, bring the metronome up a notch and repeat the Steps 3 and 4 until you arrive the desired speed.

    Teaching Tip #6 – How to Teach Three Against Two
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 11, 2009 - 6:55 PM

    Step. 1 - Set metronome at 60.

    Step. 2 - Count triplets as “1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3” while clapping lightly.

    Step. 3 - While maintaining the clapping speed, switch the counting to “1, 2, 1; 2, 1, 2.”

    Step. 4 - Accentuate 1s.

    Step. 5 - Clap only on 1s.

    Oboe FAQ #6 – Do I Need the Right Pinky for the Forked F?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 7, 2009 - 12:13 PM

    [Cause ] Poorly made instrument.

    [Solution] When you have an inexpensive instrument, you often need to add the right little finger (on the E flat key) to the forked F (low and high) to bring up the pitch. However, if your instrument is well tuned or you upgraded to a better oboe, there is no need for the extra pinky.

    Oboe FAQ #5 – How Come My Middle C Is Always Sharp?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - October 2, 2009 - 2:15 PM

    [Possible Cause] Too much reed in the mouth

    [Solution] If you push the reed too far into the mouth, you’ll get consistently sharp, shallow-sounding middle C. Find a way to put a little less reed in your mouth, and try to say “oh” in the mouth as you play (if you can manage German U umulaut, it’s even better). See if you can make the C too flat by having very little reed in the mouth. Then slur middle C to D back and forth, while you insert the reed deeper into the mouth, until you find the position where C and D have the right interval. When you find that place, you find the right embouchure.

    Musical Moments #1 – Spirit of Roseman
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 18, 2009 - 5:16 AM

    Back in early 80s, while I was at the University of Colorado, Boulder, I was looking for a graduate school on the east coast. I was interested in going to Yale to study with Robert Bloom. But I discovered he had retired and the current oboe faculty was called Ronald Roseman. I was completely unfamiliar with him or his work (that was years before Google). Though I really wanted to go to Yale, since it was the alma mater of my mentor, Ryohei Nakagawa, I was not sure about this teacher I’ve never heard of. Then one day, a colleague of mine played his Handel trio sonatas (that was LP!). I was still getting used to the American oboe sound, but his playing really struck me. I could hear prayer in his playing. I’ve heard plenty of bravura and passion in recordings, but this was something totally new. Eventually, I auditioned for him, and on the second try, he accepted me into his class (I was wait-listed both times).

    A few years after Mr. Roseman’s sudden passing, I had a chance to play Bach’s Cantata 82 Ich habe genug on Yale campus. It was one of his signature pieces. With his lifetime commitment to Bach’s music, learning Bach cantatas with Mr. Roseman was the highlight of many of his students. The rehearsal went well and the singer was very easy to work with. It was shaping up to be a fine concert. However, as soon as I started playing, I knew something was different that night. It took me a while to realize, but I was definitely hearing Mr. Roseman in my playing. Not that I was merely imitating his style, but it felt as though he took over my body and playing the piece through me. It was such a powerful experience that I had a hard time containing my emotions and keeping the performance under control. I am not claiming I played as well as Mr. Roseman, rather, the presence I felt was controlling my performance.

    I don’t pretend to know what have happened. Quite possibly, in a familiar hall playing the piece loved by the old teacher, all the emotionally charged memories came flooding to me. But it was one of the memorable events I won’t soon forget. I’m always eager to welcome his spirit again, but I haven’t be as lucky since that cold night in New Haven.

    Pearls of Wisdom #10 — Discomfort
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 8, 2009 - 5:38 PM

    Do not shy away from discomfort. It is your best teacher.

    Pearls of Wisdom #9 — Not Perfection
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - September 2, 2009 - 11:54 AM

    Aim excellence, not perfection.

    Pearls of Wisdom #8 – Tools...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 26, 2009 - 5:51 AM

    If you take good care your tools, they’ll take care of you.

    Musical Tragicomedy #2 – You’ve Just Missed It
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 22, 2009 - 8:39 AM

    A few decades ago, the principal flutist of the New York City Opera needed a sub for a performance. He managed to find a great player, whose skills were only matched by her confidence. Despite his warnings, she did not bother to look through the part, since (I’m assuming) she was already familiar with the opera. He was well known for his wry sense of humor. During the performance, a note on the bottom of the right-hand page caught her attention, which read “If you are reading this note, you’ve just missed your solo.”

    Practice Tip #13 - Underwater Swimming
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 19, 2009 - 10:33 AM

    Applicable Instruments: All wind instruments and singers

    Levels: Intermediate to advanced

    Directions:
    1. Figure out how far you can swim underwater (holding breath) without too much effort.
    2. Add 5 feet (or 2 meters) to the above, and try it.
    3. When you get anxious, see if you can separate the sensations between the physical and the mental: body running out of oxygen (chest tightening, etc.) vs. what’s in your head (“I’m drowning!”).
    4. Pick a word or a phrase to calm yourself down: such as, “relax” or “easy, easy...”
    5. Use the word or phrase to steady your mind throughout the swimming.
    6. See how the words affect the mind, and see how the change in the mental status affect the physical discomfort.
    7. If you feel comfortable enough, add another 5 feet (or 2 meters) and repeat the process.

    Descriptions:
    Here is a technique you can practice at the swimming pool during the remaining summer days. This is perfect for oboists, who constantly battle with the lung full of stale air, but it should be worthwhile for anyone who uses air for sound production. The purpose of this practice is not the physical fitness (although it won’t hurt). It is to increase awareness between the physical needs and the mental reactions. I’m sure we all had this experience — in the middle of a long phrase, all of the sudden, we realize that we don’t have enough air to finish it and start panicking. Even though it never gave us a problem in the practice room. The bright light of the stage seems to suck air right out of our lungs. We know how the mind shortchanges our abilities, but it’s very hard to put that knowledge to work. By working away from your instrument and the music, it’s easier to focus on the problem. When you become more aware of the process as it happens, you can begin to develop a coping mechanism.

    The vicious cycle starts when the panicky mind begins to broadcast negative messages loud and clear — “I’m not gonna make it,” “I’m dying, I’m dying,” etc. And the body believes them. By replacing the mental airways with more calming words, your body chemistry does begin to change. Make sure not to pick encouraging words: such as “You can make it!” or “Try harder!” The idea here is to reduce the mental noise, so that you can distinguish the physical necessities from the mental reflections. Encouraging words tend to increase the overall mental activities, which clouds our awareness. When picking the words, make sure to try several different versions and choose the ones that calm you the most (check your pulse). If you find ones that work well, you can try them during the performance. It might take a while to see the results (and they can be very subtle). But when it does happen, it’s pretty amazing. If you have a ready access to a swimming pool, try doing this a few times a week before a big performance.

    Musical Tragicomedy #1 – This Bass Clarinet is Too Tall!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 19, 2009 - 10:09 AM

    I heard of a Japanese clarinetist who had to play the bass clarinet and was very nervous about it. He was particularly worried about one entrance. He was rather short, and he was using a neck strap for the day. The problem was, this instrument had two hooks — one higher than the other. He was using the top hook throughout the performance. However, right before that critical entrance, he used the bottom one by mistake. Seeing that his mouthpiece was way too high, in a panic, he stood up to reach for it, only to miss the entrance.

    Teaching Tip #5 – Babies Explore Adults Exploit
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 16, 2009 - 5:27 PM

    I just read a wonderful op-ed article on NYTimes.com titled, “Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think” (free registration required) by Alison Gopnik. It is an insightful piece about how young minds learn, written by the psychologist who just published “The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life” to glowing reviews. One of my favorite lines from the article is, “Babies explore; adults exploit.” She explains how adult learning is geared toward achieving particular goals. As such, adults will engage in very focused effort into achieving well defined goals with a set timeframe. Whereas babies are more interested in discovering new patterns and things that are unexpected. Even though their planning part of the brain is very immature, babies are far more capable in solving problems than previously believed.

    Gopnik primarily talks about children under five, however, I find this article very thought provoking. As a teaching professional, I have to admit, I tend to work on things that produce measurable (audible) results. I do enjoy exploring when I have the luxury of time (or as a reward). But I cannot say I incorporate it as an integral part of my lessons. I heard of a piano teacher in Japan, whose lessons were all about exploring. The only thing he asked of students was to bang on the keys; no naming notes, fingering, theory of any kind. He’d tell students to bang here and there, make it loud or soft, etc., but never asked them to play a particular song or anything recognizable. He’d slowly ask students to produce increasingly complicated bangs and hits, then he’d observed. This would go on for a while, then when he was satisfied, he’d send them over to more traditional teachers. I suppose he might have been sending students to appropriate teachers based on his observations, but it must have taken a bit of courage to do what he was doing in a culturally conservative society. Or, he was so revered that he could do anything. Either way, I wish I had his courage and vision.

    Growing up with a family piano, I always enjoyed playing around the instrument. But I had a hard time staying with goal-oriented teachers. None of my teachers were lacking in any traditional sense, but I could not keep doing what I was told to do week after week. I must have loved playing, since I remember keep quitting and restarting. However, I could sit at the piano for hours (sometimes three to four hours), lost in exploring timbre, chords, etc. I achieved absolutely nothing to show for at the moment. But it made me curious about how it all worked. When I was old enough to go buy a music theory book on my own, it was merely to satisfy my hunger that was kindled by hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of exploring. I’ll be thinking about how I can systematically incorporate exploring into my private lessons. I’ll let you know when I have more. Stay tuned.

    Teaching Tip #4 – Miracle in Slow Motion
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 12, 2009 - 8:44 PM

    I’m sure we’ve seen parents who have to know exactly how their kids did at each lesson and need to know precisely what they should do to push the kids to the next level. I’m often tempted to say, “I’ll get back to you, in a few months.” Hard work, parental support, good equipment, etc. are very important. However, in 3-4 months, with a steady effort, even very young students can learn quite a bit. And, if they stick around for a few years, the result can be quite amazing. I’m all for drive and goal setting, but, when it comes to learning music, I need to remind them to step back a bit.

    There is a Zen story I love to quote on the subject. Once there was a young samurai whose father owned a swordsmanship school. The young man visited another school and begged for training, so that he could be certified to teach. That was the only way he could take over the family business. The young samurai asked the head of the school how long it would take to get certified. The master said, “Three years.” The young man then said, “My father is ailing and I do not have much time. If I double my effort, how long would it take?” To that, the master replied, “Six years.” It infuriated the young samurai, and said, “If I triple my effort and throw myself completely, how long would it take?” To that, the master said, “Forever.”

    I don’t think this master had anything against working hard. However, when you are obsessed with the goal you set for yourself, it can prevent you from fully immerse yourself in the process of learning. No one comes to my studio with this much urgency, but students (parents) who insists on particular goals with a set deadline do not last long, and they tend to leave disappointed. But those who manage to put steady efforts are surprised to find what and how much they can learn. And they usually achieve more than they hoped for. What a young mind can learn in a few years is nothing short of a miracle, as long as you know it is happening in slow motion.

    Rehearsal Tip #3 – Know When to Stop
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 6, 2009 - 11:39 AM

    Levels: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All (including choir)

    Notes: When I ask students to play a section of music during lessons, I often tell them where to stop as well as where to start. Not only is it time saving, but it makes for more effective learning. The same thing is true with working with a group of musicians. When you clarify when they should stop playing (and insist on it), they cease to worry and wonder about what is to come, and they pay better attention to the task at hand. Since you are asking them to focus on discrete (and smaller) chunks of information, they tend to retain what they learned. I had a chance work with a chamber group at Kinhaven Adult Chamber Music Workshop this summer, where the group was asked to play a large movement with very few rehearsals. The piece involved many key/tempo changes and tricky entrances in the thick late-Romantic texture. Also, the skill levels of the players were very uneven. We spent most of the time rehearsing in sections, often a rehearsal letter at a time. At the run-through, however, they all pulled together and gave a successful performance. Many of the players were surprised to find how things just “came to them."

    Reed Talk #14 – Kinhaven and Nagamatsu #1 (Part 2)
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 24, 2009 - 6:50 PM

    Gadget: Nagamatsu oboe shaper tip No. 1

    Elevation: Circa 1,400 feet

    Temperature: 56ºF to 72ºF

    Humidity: 65% to 75%

    Notes: As I promised last year, here is my experience with Nagamatsu #1 shaper tip in Kinhaven this June. This year I prepared two kinds of reeds for the Kinhaven Adult Chamber Music Workshop. One is, like the last year, Nagamatsu #1 tied to Pisoni Deluxe tubes. And the others were Nagamatsu #1 tied to Nielsen wide tubes. I used cane with a larger diameter for both to compensate for the wider shape (my standard is #0B) and the larger staple. Since I had a hard time playing low register with Pisoni tubes last year, I decided to try a wider tube for bigger aperture. As turned out, the Pisoni tube was the winner. It was more typical Vermont weather (wet and cold) this year, and even the narrower tubes gave me plenty of opening. In fact, Nielsen tubes made the reeds so open that I had to bite. The only piece of music I had to worry about was the second movement of Poulenc Trio. Even though the reed was rather open, I didn’t have to worry about endurance. Actually, the reed I ended up using was the best reed I ever made for Kinhaven! The experience inspired me to try Nielsen wide tubes for winter in Lehigh Valley.

    I've Moved!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 22, 2009 - 4:42 PM

    I have moved to Coopersburg, PA (from Center Valley, PA). It's only 3 miles away. If you haven't received already, please e-mail me for directions. You will not find me in the Google Map (a brand new development).

    Teaching Tip #3 – Digital Recording for Music Teachers (Part 1)—Portable Digital Recorder
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 5, 2009 - 7:30 PM

    Pros: Low cost (under $300.00), easy to set up.

    Cons: Limited flexibility in playback, less than stellar sound quality.

    Hardware: Portable digital recorder, self-powered speakers.

    Software: Variety of choices under $80.

    Descriptions:
    It’s been a long time since Sony stopped making Walkman Pro (if you are old enough to know what it is…). And until a few years ago, there were very few choices for affordable digital recorders. But today, a quick look at Sweetwater’s website finds nearly a dozen portable digital recorders that are under $300. Many of the major brands are represented in this category, including Sony, Tascam, Olympus, Edirol, M-Audio, Yamaha, and Zoom. I use Zoom H4 (CNET raves about the current version, H4n) and I’m very pleased with the sound quality. The unit has a very small and confusing control nob, and hard to push buttons that it took me a while to get used to. But the surprisingly clean sounding built-in microphones, and it’s small size more than make up for the shortcomings. The obvious advantage of these recorders is that they are perfect for field recoding. When you rent a hall to do a student recital, you’ll get a nice archival recording. When you have your own rehearsals away from home, you have means to record them. You can even produce respectable demo recordings out of these little devices. One thing to avoid in this category is the digital “voice” recorders. While some have higher fidelity than others, they are designed to record long conversations at a lower quality. You are not looking for commercial gear here, but you should find a unit that produces high enough sound quality to be useful in music making.

    Self-powered speakers might sounds a bit intimidating. But if you have external speakers attached to your computer, you own them already. If you have a stereo set where you teach, with a few adapters, you should be able to plug in your recorder (and it sounds better). You can purchase one of those “computer speakers” at a local electronics (or office supply) store. They cannot compete against the “real” component speakers, but for most teaching purposes, those under-$100 speakers do a fine job. Load up your MP3 player (or iPod) with music played by your instrument/s and audition various speakers at the store. And make sure to stay away from 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound speakers. For our purposes, they are way overkill. What you need is either 2.0 (just two speakers) or 2.1 (two speakers and a subwoofer). Also, if you already own a hi-fi iPod speaker system, you can use it instead (any leftover Christmas gifts?).

    Although this recorder/speaker combination works fine for most teaching situations, a computer adds so much more. For transferring sound files, burning CDs, or posting files on the internet, you can use the software that came with your computer (PC or Mac). But I highly recommend getting a dedicated music editing software, and learn to use it. It can help you trim (cutting out irrelevant conversation, etc.), clean up the sound, adjust volume, and add a little reverb. There are many free and commercial software available under $80. Many recorders comes with a “lite” version of a professional software (check the user manual). For both Windows and Mac, Audacity is a well-established free, open-source software. Open-source means the user community is constantly fixing things and adding functions to the software. As a result, Audacity boasts many useful filters that some of the low-cost commercial programs don’t have. However, because it is built by democracy, the product is not very polished and often unstable. If you are a Mac user, the built-in, GarageBand is plenty capable of making simple recordings. I use Freeverse Software’s Sound Studio ($79.99), and I enjoy using it. It is a simple, yet very versatile program. I don’t know enough about Windows sound editing software. Please speak with your local Windows guru (e.g. a geeky high school student) for recommendations.

    Action Plan:
    Step 1 – Shop around and purchase a digital recorder.
    Step 2 – Record your lessons, get familiar with the equipment, then evaluate your own teaching style.
    Step 3 – Decide whether you go further or not.
    Step 4 – Shop around and purchase self-powered speakers.
    Step 5 – Evaluate how the new equipment can be incorporated into your teaching routine.
    Step 6 – Implement the new system.
    Step 7 – Evaluate whether you want to hand out recorded sound files to students or not, if so, how.
    Step 8 – Read the manual and learn to transfer audio files to your computer.
    Step 9 – Learn to burn CD or how to setup a web-based distribution system (I’ll cover this in the future).
    Step 10 – Implement the new system.

    Teaching Tip #2 – Hit the Keyboard!
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 8, 2009 - 6:15 AM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All wind and string instruments

    Descriptions: During private sessions, it makes a huge difference, if you accompany students on the keyboard. You may not be an accomplished pianist, but you can always try playing simple chords for long tones or slow scale exercises. As long as the keyboard is in tune, it improves students’ intonation significantly. Most students, after a while, learn to adjust their pitch on their own, and they work much harder to produce well controlled crescendo and diminuendo during the long tones. If you come up with more interesting chord progressions, students pay more attention to pitch, tone quality and phrasing. If you already play the guitar, it should work just as well. Even better, if you are versed in music software (such as Garage Band), you can generate your own accompaniment audio files. I’d be happy to send you some of the exercises (printed music and sound files) I made for my oboe students. Please let me know.

    YPP Auditions for 09-10 Season
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 16, 2009 - 11:13 AM

    Young People's Philharmonic of the Lehigh Valley (YPP) is holding auditions for the 2009-2010 season. They accept players of junior and high school students. You can find more information at their web site.

    Teaching Tip #1 – Fist on the Stomach
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - April 15, 2009 - 4:00 PM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All wind instruments

    Descriptions: I learned this exercise from Ronald Roseman at Yale. When he saw a students who did not have the proper air support, he would do this to remind him how it’s done. I’m not sure if this was his invention (I’ve seen variations of this exercises given by brass teachers), but it is a very effective way to give student a real feel for good air support.

    Steps:
    1. Make sure the student is standing with knees unlocked, feet apart about the shoulder’s width, and one foot in front of the other. The upper body needs to remain upright without strain.
    2. While the student plays a long tone, with your closed fist, gently push on the lower abdomen where the belt buckle would lay. Gradually increased the pressure as the student plays louder.
    3. Make sure the student’s body is properly balanced, so that he won’t fall over as you push harder.
    4. Let the student do the same to you while you play a long tone with crescendo and diminuendo. It’s particularly important to demonstrate how the support is maintained throughout diminuendo.

    Notes: A few words about air support. Wind players use the term loosely, but it is rarely defined. Basically, it is a way of giving the proper and consistent air pressure without strain, so that there is an ample amount of steady air to produce and manipulate the sound. However, the location of focus on this exercise is on the lower abdomen (that’s where we call hara in Japanese) which is nowhere near the respiratory organs. Many teachers mention the diaphragm, but it’s not exactly there either. What actually seems to happen is, when you focus mental and physical focus in this area, the complex process of exhaling the air becomes much better orchestrated. When you see a highly trained tennis player or boxer, they do exactly what we do here. They keep their knees unlocked, keep the balance low, and the body weight is focused around this area. The human body just seems to work better this way. Also, when we focus our attention on the parts of the body we use, we tend to get in the way. Any baseball coach will tell you to keep your eye on the ball. When you pay attention to the muscles involved in hitting the ball, it only slows the reaction and make it much harder to control. Only when your attention is away from the parts of the body, you get the most effective use of them. You still have to train parts of the body that’s involved, but when you perform the task, your attention should be elsewhere. Maybe this part of the belly is a safe place to pay attention to, precisely because there is very little to do with exhalation. We hear about athletes get in the “flow,” where everything falls into place without effort. In the same way, when the good air support is achieved, the musician’s body becomes more relaxed, the tone quality and the volume increases, and even the embouchure works more naturally. It may not be physically measurable, but you can really hear the difference when there is a good air support.

    Reed Talk #13 – Nagamatsu Shaper Tips
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - March 18, 2009 - 8:19 PM

    Gadget: Nagamatsu Branded Oboe Shaper Tips

    Notes: Ever since I mentioned Nagamatsu shaper tips on these pages, I started getting inquiries from oboists who could not find much information elsewhere. I googled both in English and Japanese and found very little information. Currently, you can buy them from two sources. One is A. Laubin, Inc., who makes great oboes and is known to be a very reputable supply dealer (I’m a Laubin player). The other is Dr. Sei-ichi Matsui (more about him later).

    I went to the homepage of Nagamatsu Wind Instrument Laboratory Products (NKK Winds) and found no information about oboe shapers or shaper tips whatsoever, even though they list oboe gouging machine and, what they call, oboe “reed quality regulation tools.” NKK Winds is very well know for its clarinet mouthpieces and ligatures. What I gathered is that NKK Winds only manufactures the shaper tips, but they did not design the product. My understanding is that Dr. Matsui is responsible for the design and development of the shaper tips, and NKK Winds merely machine them for him. As such, I think they should be called Matsui shaper tips. The Nagamatsu shaper tips are beautiful and beautifully designed. My favorite feature is how the “ears” are constructed. They are sloped for the maximum efficiency in how the razor blade slide off the tip. Shaping is still more of an art than science, but these shaper tips make my life much easier. Another favorite feature of mine is how the top of the tip is tapered down, so that there is minimum pressure at the top of shaper tip to open up the cane.

    Dr. Matsui is a chemist and a very serious oboe geek. I bought all three of my Nagamatsu tips from him (0A, 0B, and 1) and had nothing but pleasant experience. What’s nice about buying from him is that he’ll make sure whatever you purchase is what you like. He has a three-week trial period, where you have three weeks to make up your mind. If you don’t like what you’ve received, he’ll give you a refund as long as it’s within the trial period. Also, at least in the past, if you sent in gouged cane, he’d shape them on the designated shaper tip and mailed them back to you. He has vast knowledge about other shaper tips and many national playing styles. If you explain to him what kind of training you had and what kind of shaper tips you liked in the past, he’ll make intelligent recommendations from eight or so of his shaper tips. You can reach him at Seiichi.Matsui@RoswellPark.org.

    Gadget Talk #2 – Humidifier
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 16, 2009 - 8:39 AM

    Gadget: Humidifier

    Notes: When you choose a humidifier, there are so many parameters to consider: price, capacity, noise, control, sanitation, use and convenience of filters and vapor temperature. After a long search and many trips to local and online stores, I settled on the following two machines. The more I learn about humidifiers, the more I realize how little I know about them. I welcome any feedback.

    Large Capacity Humidifier: Honeywell HCM-6012i QuietCare 11-Gallon Console Humidifier with Air Washing Technology

    I use this monster for my basement studio. It’s not exactly whisper quiet or cheep but it gets the job done. It has a very accurate digital control and the buit-in hygrometer is always within 1 (!) degree of my digital hygrometer (Caliber III Thermometer Hygrometer by Western Humidor) a few feet away. It has two separate water tanks totaling whopping 11 gallons. They can be removed individually for refilling so that you never miss a beat. The unit is so large that once you place it on the floor, you can’t even move it without removing both tanks. The cold mist it produce is so fine that it’s totally invisible to the naked eye. It leaves no trail of water or white powdery residue (minerals in water), and it is very reliable. I don’t recommend this for a bedroom but I trust it to keep my instruments in good shape and it reduced guess work out of reed making. I paid $119.99 on Amazon.com.



    Small Capacity Humidifier: SPT SU-4010 Ultrasonic Dual-Mist Warm/Cool Humidifier with Ion Exchange Filter

    I use this unit in our bedroom overnight. Unlike the the Honeywell machine (made by Katz) above, the control is a simple dial from low to high. It also has the options of cool mist and warm mist but even at the warm mist position, the mist gets barely warm. So we don’t have to worry about our 4 year old getting hurt. The tank hold just enough water for 10 hours or so at the medium high position. It has no motor, so all you ever hear is an occasional gurgling when water is released into the main part of the unit. Because it has no a motor, the vapor does not travel far, and at the highest setting, it leaves the surrounding floor slightly wet. I find it to be a good fit for use in the bedroom. The single tank has a built in water filter, so there is no foreign residue and, as far as I can tell, it seems perfectly hypo-allergic as advertised. I paid $78.85 on Amazon.com.

    Pearls of Wisdom #7 - Just because you played it before...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:41 AM

    Every time you go back to the same piece of music, start over from the scratch.

    Pearls of Wisdom #6 - Seeing is believing...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:38 AM

    You learn a lot from watching a good player in performance.

    Pearls of Wisdom #5 - In praise of solfège...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:36 AM

    If you can't sing it, you can’t play it.

    Pearls of Wisdom #4 - Do no harm...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:35 AM

    Hurried, confused practicing do more harm than no practicing at all.

    Pearls of Wisdom #3 - Pay attention...?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:34 AM

    If you pay attention to the muscles you are using, you are bound to stumble.

    Pearls of Wisdom #2 – On ensemble playing...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:33 AM

    Often, it’s better to be together than right.

    Pearls of Wisdom #1 – Practicing is...
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2008 - 8:33 AM

    Practicing is like cleaning the toilet. As long as you do it regularly, it’s not bad. But if you wait until you have to, it could get really ugly.

    Repertoire ’n Things #3 – Flue, Oboe Concerto by Salieri
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - November 22, 2008 - 5:19 PM

    Composer: Antonio Salieri (1750–1825)

    Title: Concerto for Flue, Oboe and Orchestra in C Major (1774)

    Instrumentation: Flute, Oboe and Orchestra

    Notes: Until he was casted as a villain in Milos Forman’s 1984 film, Amadeus, Antonio Salieri was hardly a household name. Though he was admired throughout Europe in his time, this Italian-born composer/conductor was all but forgotten. As they say in the movie business, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Since the release of the film, there is slow but steady rediscovery of Salieri’s music. In 2003, Cecilia Bartoli’s brilliant The Salieri Album introduced his operatic arias to a wide audience. When La Scala reopened after a renovation in 2004, they performed Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta, which happened to be their inaugural work back in 1778. Despite the nasty rumors and even a few theatrical work on the subject, the modern scholarship found no evidence of Salieri ever harming Mozart. In fact, their relationship was mostly cordial with a healthy dose of rivalry. Salieri helped revive one of Mozart’s operas, and after his death, Mozart’s widow entrusted their younger son’s musical education to Salieri.

    The outstanding qualities of this concerto are the naturalness and the conversational quality of writing. In the first movement, we hear lively dialogs between two solo instruments and the orchestra in the style of Italian comic opera. The second movement shows Salieri’s flair for melodic invention. His phrasing varies fluidly and the melodic material is passed along throughout the orchestra and solo instruments with ease. The rondo theme of the third movement is a farcical exchange between the soloists (question) and the orchestra (answer). After virtuosic display of the middle section, violas take over the theme. Then, flute and oboe answer the violas as if to try wrestling it away from them, but soloists eventually give up the effort and join the violas. Finally, the whole orchestra rejoins the fray and end the piece. Salieri’s orchestration is straightforward but the balance between solo instruments and the orchestra is perfectly maintained. It is a delightful concerto and it deserves to be heard more often.

    Reed Talk #12 – Knives for Shaping
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 4, 2008 - 1:02 PM

    Gadget: Cutter Knives by OLFA or NT Cutter

    Notes: When I moved to U.S., I was surprised to see my colleagues shaping cane with razor blades which looked very precarious. I grew up using hand-held knives what we call “sharp knife” or “cutter knife” in Japan. They are handheld knives with disposable blades with breakable sections (13). I found similar products here but blades weren’t as nearly as sharp. So, I used to have them sent from Japan or seek them out at Japanese bookstores in New York City. Thanks to internet, now I can order them with my heart’s content. One advantage of this kind of knife is that it’s far easier and safer to hold in the hand. Also, because the blades are narrower than safety razors, you can make a smaller radius that helps trace the “ears” (the top part) of the shaper tip far more accurately. I use the old blade for rough shaping, break off two sections, then finish it off with fresh sections of the blade. Shaping cane still requires a skill and concentration, but this type of knife should make your life easier.

    There are two brands that are very similar: NT Cutter and OLFA. I believe NT Cutter is older but OLFA is more readily available here. Curiously, both companies are based in Osaka but I couldn’t determine their relationship. You can find OLFA knives and blades at OLFA site (olfablades.com) or from a variety of office supply stores. NT cutter products are also sold by many venders. Make sure to order the standard size knives not the heavy-duty ones.

    Reed Talk #11 – Razor Blade for Clipping Tip
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - August 1, 2008 - 7:02 AM

    Gadget: GEM Personna safety razor by American Safety Razor Company

    Notes: I didn’t know what a difference really sharp razors can make until Pedro Diaz introduced me to American Safety Razor Company’s GEM Personna safety razor blades. I can’t imaging clipping the tip with anything else. When I use this razor, the smallest of clipping seems to change the way the whole reed vibrates, not just getting a slightly shorter tip. They are so sharp that you can literally cut less than a hair’s width of cane with ease. They cut so precisely that, if you cut the tip at an angle, you can see the result clearly.

    This particular razor is not always easy to find in brick-and-motor stores. I’ve only seen them at Duane Reade. Other chains sells ASR’s other GEM branded blades (such as Blue STAR or Industrial Blades) but they are far inferior. Don’t buy them. The package has to have the Personna moniker and the plastic casing is dark grey. If you cannot find them locally, you can try online retailers (Shenandoah Supply, planetrx.com, Amazon to name a few).

    Musicians’ Reference #2 – 150-Year Cycles
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 30, 2008 - 3:43 PM

    Notes: Music history has a habit of going through (roughly) 150-year cycles. It’ll be quite a while before we know what to call our current period (assuming the same pattern works again). Stay tuned and get back to me in 90 years or so.

    1450–1600: Renaissance

    1600–1750: Baroque

    1750–1900: Classical/Romantic

    1900–2050?: ??

    Oboe FAQs #4 – Wood or Plastic?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 28, 2008 - 11:19 AM

    Plastic Oboe
    • Pro: Does not crack. Consistent quality. Last longer. Easy to maintain. No break-in period.
    • Con: Doesn’t sound as good to the player. Some people may think you are not serious.

    Wooden Oboe
    • Pro: Better made and better sound on high-end models. Sounds better to the player.
    • Con: Cracks. Inconsistent even among the same model. Constant care is needed. Instruments need to be broken in.

    Notes
    I generally recommend plastic oboes for beginners and wooden ones for more advanced players. One of the biggest drawbacks of wooden oboes is that they can crack. With proper repair, a cracked oboe can make a full recovery and sometimes it plays better. But it’s very traumatic and it often affects the resale value, not to mention the interruption in practice and performance schedule.

    For the listener, usually there is very little difference between plastic and wooden instruments. But for the player, the difference is usually clear. When we hear a pleasant sound, we feel better, as a result, we tend to play better. For inexpensive instruments, plastic oboes are far more consistent in sound and over all reliability. However, there is nothing like a good instrument made of exceptional wood. Also wooden instruments are tended by more experienced hands. There are highly regarded professional plastic models (such as Yamaha), but the norm for high-end models is still wood.

    To keep wooden oboes in good condition, they need to be played consistently. Unlike plastic instruments, neglected wooden oboes lose their value fast. I like to find used professional instruments for intermediate players, but, depends on how well they are kept, it can be very tricky to find good instruments. Also, brand-new oboes take 3 to 6 months to break in. When you try new instruments, you have to know that the sound you hear is not exactly the same sound a few months down the road. The sound generally opens up (for the better), but there is no guarantee.

    As I understand, the top joint of the oboe itself vibrates very little. Rather, it mostly work as a resonating chamber. On the other hand, the rest of the instrument (particularly the bell) produces a great deal of vibration that affect the overall sound. As such, the combination of plastic top joint (which most likely to crack) and the rest in wood (many high-end makers offer that choice). If you are nervous about cracking but desire wooden instrument’s warm sound, it could be a choice to consider.

    For further reading, Covey Oboe has a very good article on selecting instrument.

    Practice Tip #12 – Exercise as a Buffer
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 27, 2008 - 9:51 PM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable instruments: All instruments and voices

    Descriptions: Benefits of incorporating stretching into practice is obvious, but it’s easier said than done in real life. What works for me is to have a set of exercises at the beginning of a practice session. When I have an hour or more to work, I make sure I’m all set (instrument/s out, reeds soaked, music, pencil, tuner, metronome, recorder all ready to go), then do a set of 5-6 minutes of various stretch exercises. Beyond the physical benefits, I find, with a good deal of attention paid to breathing, it works as a buffer between the chaotic everyday life and a quiet, sacred time of concentration. Lately, I added a few push-ups and sit-ups at the beginning of the routine, and it works wonders. A little exertion gives me the focus and I can enjoy the calming effect of stretching even more. Even after a stressful day, I find myself refreshed and ready to go. When I’m not sure whether I should practice or not (too stressed, etc.), I would at least do the routine. If I’m too tired or risk over-practicing, I’d know it right away.

    Essential Oboe Repertoire #2 – Bartók
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 13, 2008 - 4:23 PM

    Level: Advanced

    Applicable Instruments: Oboe

    Notes: This is one of those pieces you play more often at auditions than in concert, but it’s well worth learning.

    Concerto for Orchestra

    • 1st movement – mm 155–175, 424–448

    • 2nd movement – mm 25–44, 181–197

    • 3rd movement – mm 10–22

    • 4th movement – mm 5–12, 33–40, 62–69

    • 5th movement – mm 188–195, 344–556

    Essential Oboe Repertoire #1 – J. S. Bach
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 6, 2008 - 7:42 AM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable Instruments: Oboe, English horn, oboe d’amore

    Notes: I decided to make repertoire lists for serious oboe players. Our first entry is works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Not only are they great pieces of art, but also they show up on audition lists.

    [Oboe]

    Cantata No. 12 “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” – Sinfonia

    Cantata No. 21 “Ich hatte viel Bekümmerniss” – Sinfonia and Soprano aria “Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not”

    Cantata No. 56 “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen” – Bass aria “Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch”

    Cantata No. 82 “Ich habe genug” – Aria “Ich habe genug”

    Cantata No. 102 “Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben” – Aria “Weh Der Seele”

    Cantata No. 140 “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” – Soprano/bass aria “Mein Freud ist mein, und ich bin sein!”

    Cantata No. 156 “Ich steh’ mit einem Fuss im Brabe” – Sinfonia

    Cantata No. 159 “Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem” – Bass aria “Es ist Vollbracht”

    Cantata No. 187 “Es wartet Alles auf dich” – Soprano aria “Gott Versorget Alles Leben”

    Cantata No. 202 “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” (Wedding Cantata) – Aria “ Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” and aria “Sich Üben Im Lieben”

    Easter Oratorio – Adagio

    Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 – Second movement

    Brandenburg Concerto No.2 – Whole piece

    Concerto for oboe and violin, BWV 1060 – Whole piece

    St. Matthew Passion – Tenor/choir aria “Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen”

    Sonata in G minor, BWV 1030 – Whole piece

    [English horn]

    Cantata No. 1 “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” – Soprano aria “Erfüllet, Ihr Himmlischen Göttlichen Flammen”

    [Oboe d’amore]

    Magnificat – Soprano aria “Quia Respexit”

    Mass in B minor – Aria “Qui sedes ad dextram Patris”

    Reed Talk #10 – Scranton and Nagamatsu #1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - July 5, 2008 - 9:23 AM

    Gadget: Nagamatsu oboe shaper tip No. 1

    Elevation: 800 to 1,400 feet

    Temperature: 74ºF to 89ºF

    Humidity: 46% to 77%

    Notes: I had a chance to try my Nagamatsu no. 1 shape in Scranton, PA. As I suspected, it did better than in Weston, VT (ca. 1400 ft). The rehearsal was in a very hot (high 80ºF) and dry (high 40%) downtown Scranton (ca. 800 feet), and the performance was at a cooler (mid 70ºF), wetter (high 70%) outdoor venue at a higher elevation (ca. 1400 ft). The reeds maintained good pitch in the hot hall, and the higher altitude of the outdoor venue was mitigated by the higher humidity. The only problem at the rehearsal venue was that every one else was going up in pitch (particularly brass) and I had to push it up to keep up.

    My reeds maintained good intonation and good sound, but they seemed unnecessarily stuffy and hard to tongue on the low register. Next time, I think I’ll try to gouge the cane slightly thinner (about .01 mm thinner) to see if it helps.

    Musicians’ Reference #1 – Numerical Prefixes
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 27, 2008 - 7:02 AM

    Notes: The following is a list of number prefixes derived from Latin (L) or Greek (G), followed by commonly used examples.


    ½. semi- (L): Semitone (half step), semi-quaver (sixteenth note, British)

    1. uni- (L), mono-(G): unison, monochord (used to demonstrate mathematical principals of musical sounds), monophonic

    2. du- (L), di-(G): duet, diatonic

    3. tri- (L/G): tritone, triad, triplet

    4. quart- (L), tetra- (G): quarter note, quartet, tetrachord

    5. quint- (L), penta-(G): quintuplet, quintet, pentachord, pentatonic

    6. sex- (L), hexa-(G): sextuplet, sextet, hexachord

    7. sept- (L): septuplet, septet

    8. oct- (L), octa- (G): octave, octet

    9 .nona- (L): nonet

    10. deca- (G): decatet

    Repertoire ’n Things #2 – Reinecke’s Trio and The Lost Century
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 22, 2008 - 6:20 PM

    Composer: Carl Reinecke (1824–1910)

    Title: Trio in A minor, Op. 188 (1886)

    Instrumentation: Piano, oboe, horn

    Notes: Carl Reinecke’s trio is one of the rare late Romantic chamber work that uses oboe. While oboe was widely used in orchestra and opera throughout the 19th century, it nearly disappeared from chamber music of great composers of the time. Though Mozart and early Beethoven left great chamber music for oboe (octets, piano quintets to name a few), the vast majority of important composers in the 1800s left very few chamber work for the instrument. Schubert used oboes in his early chamber work but they are more of student compositions modeled after the Classical style. Schumann wrote one small work for oboe and piano (Romances) and Beethoven’s last chamber work with oboe was written in 1796. Wagner wrote a chamber work with oboe but it was more of a small orchestral work (due to space constraints) and Brahms wrote zero chamber music for oboe. While Reinecke was overshadowed by his younger contemporary, Brahms, he held professorship at Conservatorium in Leipzig and as the director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, he premiered Brahms’ German Requiem. Also, he left a number of chamber music with wind instruments.

    So, why was the 19th century the Lost Century for the oboe chamber music? There were plenty of pieces written by minor composers (Danzi, Reicha, et al) and performer/composer (Pasculli), along with a myriad of salon pieces. But none of the heavy hitters in the German tradition left much of oboe chamber music. One possible reason is that it’s in the very nature of Romantic music. Throughout the second half of the 18th century, the composers’ focus shifted from the counterpoint-oriented compositions, to harmony-centered ones. Whereas the Baroque counterpoint required instruments that can produce distinct lines, the harmony-centered Romantic writing demanded more blended sounds. Which meant instrumental groups that are more homogeneous (e.g. string quartet) or instruments that can blend with others well (e.g. clarinet and horn) became the predominant force. Oboe, with it’s strong odd-numbered overtones, excels at projection but not the best instrument to blend with others. Oboe was still well represented in orchestral work where it cut through the ever expanding string section, and in opera where it often represented vocal lines in overtures and played duets with vocalists on stage. When the late 19th century brought the strong reaction against anything Romantic, oboe came back with the vengeance.

    Repertoire ’n Things #1 – Françaix’s decatet "Seven Dances"
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 21, 2008 - 1:25 PM

    Composer: Jean Françaix (1912–1997)

    Title: Seven Dances from Les Malheurs de Sophie

    Duration: 10–12 minues

    Instrumentation: 2 flute, 2 oboe, 2 clarinet, 2 horn, 2 bassoon

    Notes: The original ballet, “ Les Malheurs de Sophie” (“The Misfortunes of Sophie”), was written in 1935 and premiered in 1948 at Paris Opera. The ballet is based on the French children’s story about a mischievous 3 year old, Sophie, and her cousin Paul, and their misadventures. The arrangement for this chamber version was done by the composer himself and premiered in 1970 by Blaser Ensemble Mainz. It is a charming collection of seven of the dances, which is to be played one after the other. Unlike Françaix’s other daunting chamber work, this one is very approachable (a la Gordon Jacob). It’s much easier to work with a conductor, but it’s plenty doable without one given enough rehearsal time. Though not technically adventurous, every part gets fair share of solos; everyone has be on their toes. The piece is well within the reach of good high school wind ensembles, but it takes more advanced players to bring out all the subtleties of Françaix’s witty writing.

    Reed Talk #9 – Kinhaven and Nagamatsu #1
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 18, 2008 - 5:54 PM

    Tool: Nagamatsu Oboe shaper tip No. 1

    Elevation: Circa 1,400 feet

    Temperature: 62ºF to 76ºF

    Humidity: 33% to 65%

    Notes: I love using my Nagamatsu oboe shaper tips 0A and 0B. I use the narrowest 0A (zero A) for warm months on sea level. And I use the slightly wider 0B for the cold months on the sea level and most of the year in Lehigh Valley (ca. 400 ft. high). Every year when I go teach at Kinhaven Adult Chamber Music Workshop (at about 1,400 ft.), I have a very hard time making anything to work. This year, I decided to try a slightly wider shape with a slightly less open cane. I ordered Nagamatsu No. 1 shaper tip and I prepared a few reeds with cane with 11 mm diameter (I usually use 10–10.5 mm).

    The result was...very close. The reeds had nice enough sound with good intonation, but the low register was still a bit treacherous. Weston had an unusually warm and dry week this year; during one afternoon, my thermometer/hygrometer read 76ºF and 33% humidity! It is possible that during a typical wet, cold Vermont summer weather, it might have worked. However, I might try a slightly bigger staple (I used Pissoni Deluxe) or try a slightly wider shaper next year. Stay tuned.

    Reed Talk #8 – New York Times Article “The Shaping of Oboe Reeds: Maybe It Is Rocket Science”
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 6, 2008 - 12:50 PM

    Title: The Shaping of Oboe Reeds: Maybe It Is Rocket Science

    Author: Malcolm W. Browne

    Publisher: nytimes.com

    Notes: A very well written article about reed making, oboe players and a mathematician spouse. The article is over 10 years old but it is completely relevant today. A wonderful introduction for general audience about the insanity of oboe reed making. A must read for parents, boy/girl friends and spouses of oboe players. Enjoy.

    Reed Talk #7 – Chudnow Oboe E. Staple
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - June 6, 2008 - 12:10 PM

    Make/Model: Oboe E. Staple by Mark Chudnow Woodwinds

    Rating: C

    Pros: Beautifully constructed.

    Cons: Unreliable opening. Difficult to hold the reed during scraping.

    Notes: If you’ve seen a Chudnow Oboe E. Staple once, it’s hard to forget. But it’s very hard to describe it to someone who’ve never seen one. I’ve heard some people comparing it to Seattle’s Bank of America Tower. It has no cork or cork-substitute, but in its place, two o-rings (with supporting structure) seal the space between the staple and the oboe. A very fine oboe player I know from New York City used to carried a reed case entirely populated by this staple. He wasn’t completely enthusiastic about the staple but he had beautiful tone and I was fascinated by the staple and I decided try it when I could. And I finally did a few months ago.

    But it didn’t work for me at all.

    I had nothing but wonderful experience with Mark Chudnow in person and through his web site. Mark is a very conscientious and meticulous person and I had a high hope for this product. This expensive staple is a beauty to behold. The surfaces are nicely polished inside out and the measurement from staple to staple is extremely consistent. The seal is wonderful and it’s easy to take it in and out of the instrument. However, when I inserted a plaque into the reed after opening the top of the reed, there was very little pressure “grabbing” the plaque. I tried tying cane at different length in .5 mm increments, but no success. Since there was very little pressure at the top, the opening of the reed was very unpredictable. Although it did not leak from the sides, as long as I was very careful, the reed opened too wide at the top and it was very hard on the embouchure. With unreliable opening, it was impossible to produce reasonably easy reeds with a C (or higher) crow. It was simply too hard to play and when I scraped it down to where I’d feel comfortable, the balance of completely off.

    Another quibble I had was, with the lack of cork on the staple, it was very hard to keep a good grip during scraping. I know some people use a mandrel for scraping and I had considered trying it. But without compelling reasons, I was not ready to change a well-established habit. After a few weeks of futile attempts, I had to abandon the experiment.

    I could imagine much softer (and/or thinner) cane with narrower shape with ample humidity, it might be workable. During the cold, dry (humidity as low as 15%) months of northeast where a thicker gouge is needed to keep the reed from collapsing, a reed who does not close tightly at the top is very hard to control and susceptible to leak. I guess, in the temperate, humid California Wine Country, this might be just the right staple. I’m willing to give it another try. If you have a better experience and willing to offer me advise, it’ll be greatly appreciated.

    Reed Talk #6 – Rigotti Reed Knife
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 29, 2008 - 12:17 PM

    Make/Model: Bevelled reed knife by Rigotti

    Rating: A-

    Pros: Produces good edge easily.

    Cons: Took a while to get the blade set correctly. The blade is too thick to place the thumb over it for better control.

    Notes: I bought a Rigotti bevelled knife from Midwest Musical Imports a few weeks ago and I’m very happy using it for general reed work (everything except delicate tip & blending work). The knife blade was not set correctly out of the box and it took me a while to set it up. Not only did the flat side of the blade need finishing, but also near the tip of the flat side was slightly raised that I had to either spend hours grinding down the whole blade or grinding down the bevelled side at a steep angle to make the blade narrower. I chose the latter. Now the blade is set, the medium hard steal produces nice consistent edge. I wish they ship the knife in better shape, but I suppose that’s a price to pay for a good knife at a reasonable price (I paid $29.00). Rigotti offers smaller version of the same knife for better control but MMI did not have a left-handed knife in that size. You might try other venders if you are left handed. I am a righty but I scrape reed with my left hand (a long story).

    Practice Tip #11 – Warm Up to Pentachord
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 27, 2008 - 8:52 AM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All wind instruments

    Descriptions:
    I am a big fan of using pentachord for warm-up exercises. Pentachord is a five-note segment of a scale, but for our purpose, I’ll define it as the first five notes of the scale. I find long scales too taxing for warm-up and for an instrument with limited range like mine (oboe), it’s not very practical to play all 24 keys with multiple octaves. Playing short segments with ample break is more effective in warming up muscles. Also, by playing fewer notes, it’s easier to focus on issues such as intonation, tone quality, air support, and legato playing.

    I strongly recommend that you memorize all 24 pentachords (12 major + 12 minor). Knowing all your scales helps tremendously when you sight-read. And you can pay full attention to the sound and your body as you practice.

    Directions:
    1. Pick the most comfortable register of your instrument and play the following (C major) all slurred. Make sure that the sound is easy and full. Do not use metronome. Play as slow as you can maintain beautiful legato.

    4/4 ||: CD, EF, GF, ED :|| C, rest, rest, ret ||

    2. Move to G major (1 sharp) and repeat the same.

    3.Move to D major (2 sharp) and go through the entire circle of fifth.

    4.Once you get comfortable playing this simple pattern. Experiment with more complicated ones such as,

    4/4 ||: CD, CD, EF, EF | GF, ED, C, rest :||

    4/4 ||: CD, EF, GF, GF | GF, ED, C, rest :||

    4/4 ||: CD, EF, GF, ED | CE, GE, C, rest :||

    4/4 ||: CD, EC, DE, FE | GF, ED, C, rest :||

    5. You can expand the pentachord by a note or two.

    12/8 ||: CDE, DEF, EFG, FGA | GFE, FED, EDC, DCB :|| C, rest, rest, ret ||

    12/8 ||: CED, FEG, FDE, CDB :|| C, rest, rest, ret ||

    4/4 ||: CE, DF, EG, FA | GE, FD, EC, DB :|| C, rest rest, rest ||

    4/4 ||: CB, DE, ED, FE | GA, FG, EF, DE :|| C, rest, rest, rest ||

    6. For more variety, borrow from other instruments. Try Herbert L. Clarke’s Technical Studies for the Cornet, Seventeen Daily Exercises for the Flute by Taffanel and Gaubert, or steal any number of vocal warm-up patterns from choral directors.

    Gadget Talk #1 – Thermometer/Hygrometer
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - May 16, 2008 - 12:46 PM

    Gadget: Thermometer/Hygrometer

    Model/Make: Caliber III Thermometer Hygrometer by Western Humidor

    Notes: I’ve been using the hygrometer of Intelli Thermo-Hydro Metronome/Tuner Combo but found it very unreliable (it is still a very handy machine). After a little research, I found a thermometer/hygrometer cigar enthusiasts recommend highly (they are even more obsessed about humidity than I am!). I’m so far very happy about the purchase. I have not done any scientific tests, but it seems very accurate and responsive. Just by picking it up in the hand, I can see a pretty quick rise in temperature and humidity. When I use a space heater in my basement studio, as the temperature rises the humidity goes down accordingly (relative humidity). Since the unit is made small enough to fit into a cigar box, it fits nicely into my oboe case. The back of the unit has a quarter-size metal piece and with the enclosed magnet with adhesive, you can mount it on most household surfaces. I attached the magnet on the utility tray on my music stand. So, while I’m practicing, I’m looking at the thermometer/hygrometer, and when I go out, it goes into whatever the instrument case I’m carrying. I paid $22.95 on Amazon.com.

    Practice Tip #10 – Double Tonguing
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 9, 2008 - 10:10 PM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable instruments: All wind instruments

    Descriptions:
    Double tonguing is a technique that uses the back of the tongue as well as the front of the tongue for tonguing. For single tonguing, you’d use the consonant “T”, but for double tonguing you’d add the consonant “K.” Usually, “T” and “K” are used alternately to make something like “T, K, T, K, T, K…” which gives you far greater speed once you master it. For those who have no problem single tonguing sixteenth notes at quarter=152, you don’t need to read the rest. However, for the rest of us, double tonguing is the only way to go after a certain speed short of adding cheating slurs here and there. Also, in real life of concert musicians, combination of reasonably fast single tongue plus occasional added slurs will do the job, but in orchestral auditions, there is no escaping without double tonguing.

    One thing to remember is double tonguing sounds a lot more impressive to others than to you. For that reason, recording double tonguing practice is highly recommended. You might be surprised to learn how much better it sounds when it’s recorded. Double tonguing produces a lot of commotion inside the mouth, but what comes out of the instrument tends to be much cleaner than you think.

    When you prepare actual pieces of music, it is very important to map out tonguing very carefully as string players fuss over bowing. Even while you are practicing the piece at a very slow tempo, stick with the tonguing that you are planning to use for the concert tempo. Double tonguing often introduces additional problems you need work out ahead of time—such as articulation, dynamic, and register related problems—careful planning is crucial.

    Directions:
    1. Set the metronome at 80 and pick a comfortable note, then practice the following with plenty of rests in between. Make sure to achieve uniform sound for both attack and release (comma separates each beat, use the simple vowels of Italian or Spanish unless it’s marked with umlaut).

    4/4 ||: Ta, rest, rest, rest | Ka, rest, rest, rest :||

    2. Repeat the same pattern on the next note on the scale. Note that the consonant or vowel may not be exactly “Ta” or “Ka” dependent on the register or the instrument you play; they could be “Ta, Da, Ti, To, Tü, Dü, Ga, Ngu,” etc. Explore and find the one that work with particular note you are working on.

    3. When you can do the steps 1 and 2 comfortably, try the following exercises. Make sure the both patterns sound identical. Also, pay particular attention to how the shape of the mouth changes and how that affects the sound while you are using either part of the tongue. Experiment and find a way to make both sounds identical.

    4/4 ||: Ta, rest, Ka, rest | Ta, rest, Ka, rest :||

    then

    4/4 ||: Ka, rest, Ta, rest | Ka, rest, Ta, rest :||

    4. When you are ready, proceed to the next pattern. Use the rests to consciously relax the tongue and the surrounding muscles.

    4/4 ||: Ta, Ka, Ta, Ka | Ta, rest, rest, rest |

    Ka, Ta, Ka, Ta | Ka, rest, rest, rest :||

    5. When you are ready, use eighth notes.

    4/4 ||: TaKa, TaKa, TaKa, TaKa | Ta, rest, rest, rest |

    KaTa, KaTa, KaTa, KaTa | Ka, rest, rest, rest :||

    6. Proceed to triplet eighth notes. Make sure the release on the second and the fourth bar notes are natural and identical.

    4/4 ||: TaKaTa, KaTaKa, TaKaTa, KaTaKa | Ta, rest, rest, rest |

    KaTaKa, TaKaTa, KaTaKa, TaKaTa | Ka, rest, rest, rest :||

    7. Finally, work with sixteenth notes. Pay attention to the consonants and vowels you use. You may have to change them as you play faster patterns.

    4/4 ||: TaKaTaKa, TaKaTaKa, TaKaTaKa, TaKaTaKa | Ta, rest, rest, rest |

    KaTaKaTa, KaTaKaTa, KaTaKaTa, KaTaKaTa | Ka, rest, rest, rest :||

    8. Once you can play step 7 comfortably, bring up the metronome speed gradually.

    9. After that, practice pentatonic scales (first five notes of the scale). For instance (in C major),

    4/4 ||: C (TaKaTaKa), D (TaKaTaKa), E (TaKaTaKa), F (TaKaTaKa) | G (Ta), rest, rest, rest |

    G (TaKaTaKa), F (TaKaTaKa), E (TaKaTaKa), D (TaKaTaKa) | C (Ta -a), rest, rest, rest :||

    4/4 ||: C (KaTaKaTa), D (KaTaKaTa), E (KaTaKaTa), F (KaTaKaTa) | G (Ka), rest, rest, rest |

    G (KaTaKaTa), F (KaTaKaTa), E (KaTaKaTa), D (KaTaKaTa) | C (Ka), rest, rest, rest :||

    Additional Hints:
    Practicing on the mouth piece or the reed alone is very effective. It makes it harder to achieve evenness but it’s well worth the effort. When I’m stuck in traffic on the way to a rehearsal, I love working on the tonguing exercise in the car. It’s nice to know that I’m not completely wasting my time, and I’m all warmed up by the time I get to the hall. I cannot emphasize the importance of rests in practicing double tonguing enough. Double tonguing uses a lot of muscles in unfamiliar ways. In order to acquire a natural, reliable technique, having enough rests throughout the practice session is essential. Finally, the experimentation with consonants and vowels is very, very important. When you have a long passage spanning several registers, you may have to modulate them to achieve optimum results. And different articulations require different consonant/vowel combinations.

    Practice Tip – An Update
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 3, 2008 - 11:00 PM

    Taking My Own Medicine

    It’s been seven months since I moved to Lehigh Valley. I’ve been thinking a lot about practice techniques since my move and blogging on this site has helped me tremendously in formulating them. I have finished the second solo recital in the area last week, and I now have two recitals, one concerto and one orchestral audition (no, I didn’t get the job) under my belt. And I’ve been explicitly using the techniques I advocate on this page. Good news is, ladies and gentlemen, they work! It’s hard taking my own medicine but they do work as advertised. I’ll be writing more about these tips but please know that I test them my self. As always, I welcome requests on subject matters to be covered or any kind of comments.

    Oboe FAQ #3 – Why Does the Oboe Give the Tuning A?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - February 1, 2008 - 8:56 AM

    I believe it’s closely tied to the history of the orchestra itself. By the late 18th century, the wind section of many court orchestras consisted of two oboes and two horns (with oboists doubling on flutes on occasion). Also, by the late 17th century, thanks to the instrument makers like the Hotteterres, oboe became the must-have instrument throughout Europe. While opera orchestras employed many kinds of wind instruments, none had oboe’s projection; recorders and traverse flutes were used often but they lacked the strong sound of modern instruments, clarinet was a novelty, and the brass instruments were not terribly reliable. Also, the rule of tuning is that flexible instruments tune to less flexible instruments. So, it must have been natural for strings to tune to an instrument which was always around, had a more penetrating sound, and rather inflexible in tuning. The reason the tuning note became A is probably because all orchestral string instruments have an open string that’s tuned to A. Ironically, A is not a very stable note on the oboe. You can bend it any which way you want. As a result, we oboists have to work very hard to produce that familiar tuning A.

    Practice Tip #9 – Mirror, mirror…
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 23, 2008 - 10:55 PM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable instruments: All (including voice)

    Descriptions:
    Make sure to have a mirror where you practice (and teach). A full-height mirror is nice but any size will do.

    [Correct posture]
    This one is obvious. I won’t enumerate the benefits of good posture; however, what’s important is that you look natural and relaxed in your own body. Don’t try to imitate a particular posture because you think that’s how you should look .

    [Dramatic presentation]
    I am not a singer and I have no experience in dramatic music making (opera, musical, etc.), but I can only imagine how important the mirror must be. I’m sure the look alone doesn’t make the music, but it’s good to make sure your look does not get in the way. As Michael Connolly suggests in his article, video taping should be great, but it’s nice to have immediate visual feedback any time you want.

    [Detect tension]
    When there is bodily tension, often you see it in the mirror before you can feel it. While you are busy learning new notes, you could be busy creating new bad habits. A mirror can stop that in a hurry. Also, when you see excessive movement while you play (or sing), it often tells you that you are trying to compensate for something you cannot achieve with your instrument or voice. I’m all for natural movement during performance but when you see more movement than usual, it’s worth investigating.

    [Be your own visual coach]
    When I have a trouble finding a way to phrase a passage or having a technical problem that I can’t fix any other way, I try choreographing what I’d like hear. I’m no dancer, so all I use are simple gestures (mostly conducting-related gestures) using my upper body. Over the years, I’ve used a number of gestures to explain musical ideas and techniques to students. For example, to help them understand the concept of relaxed crescendo, I make a big yawn gesture while they play a long tone (It is very effective. I recommend it to anyone who teaches winds or voice.). Lately, I started doing the same thing to myself; I would sing the phrase the way I want to hear and reinforce it with relevant gestures. Much to my delight, it works. The other day, I had a hard time putting accents in the middle of a very fast passage. But when I used a gesture indicating a kind of “popping” accents while singing, it just happened with no mechanical machinations. In the meantime, pay attention to see if you use any gestures while you teach. You might be surprised to discover that you have a repertoire of gestures you use routinely. And it’s worth importing them back to your own practicing using the mirror.

    Reed Talk #5 – Humidity and Reed
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 16, 2008 - 6:15 AM

    Reed Opening:
    Higher humidity –> More open
    Lower humidity –> Less open

    Overall Pitch:
    Higher humidity –> Lower
    Lower humidity –> Higher

    Intonation:
    Higher humidity –> High register can be dramatically flat
    Lower humidity –> Sharper overall

    Attack:
    Higher humidity –> Easy on the low register and hard on the high register
    Lower humidity –> Easy on the high register and hard on the low register

    Descriptions:
    As soon as you start playing the reed, the exterior of the reed begins to dry. As the outer part of the cane shrinks and the inner part remains the same, the imbalance of the forces causes to reduces the curvature of the blade (translation: flattens the blade). The key thing to remember is how big the difference is. The bigger the difference, the more closed the reed becomes. When you play in the middle of winter in Minneapolis, the indoor humidity can be 15% or lower and the reed refuses to open; during summer months in New England, the outdoor humidity can be above 90%, and the reed remains very open.

    The difficulty is, in real life, humidity is only one of three main environmental variables; the others are temperature and atmospheric pressure (influenced by barometric pressure and elevation). Also, when one changes, the other often changes dynamically; when the temperature goes down, for example, the relative humidity goes up automatically (I’ll explain this later). Please keep in mind that the above formula is only the basic tendency. When it’s so humid and the reed opens like crazy, I often end up over-working and the fatigued, tight muscles produce higher pitch even though it starts out low. While trying very hard to get low notes in a dry climate, you could loosen the embouchure so far that you may end up playing flat. In fact, when it gets really, really dry, even though you might soak the reed every chance you get, the reed could leak so badly that it becomes unplayable.

    On top of all this, the environment can change during the performance so much that you are forced to react. A good example is summer out-door concerts. The rehearsal is often held during relatively dry, hot afternoon, and as the evening performance wears on, it gets colder and more humid simultaneously. It’s not unusual for me to change reeds during a performance like this. Moreover, as it gets colder, your brass colleagues will gradually go lower (especially less busy brass such as low horns) while strings creep up. It’s not rare to start a solo at one pitch (playing with violins, for instance) then lower it quite a bit at the end (say, the last note becomes a part of a French horn chord).

    Practice Tip #8 – Record, record, record
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 13, 2008 - 1:27 PM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All (including voice)

    Descriptions:
    I’m a big believer in using a recording device. As far as I’m concerned, everyone should use a recorder in their every day practice. In my studio, every time I play the oboe, I make the point of hitting the record button. I usually listen to very little of what I record; however, when I have any sort of questions about what I’ve just played, I can always go back and listen. I have a 2GB SD card installed in my digital recorder. And I erase the whole card once in a while and record over. Only when I have something memorable, I copy the sound files to my computer. Thanks to the digital technology, no matter how many time I rewrite it, there is no loss in sound quality. Every lesson I give at home is also recorded. Only when I find it worthwhile, I email the file to the student in MP3 format.

    Recording rehearsals
    When I was in a very active chamber group (lots of concerts and competitions), we set up our recording gear (Sony DAT recorder and Acoustic Research self-powered speakers) every time we sat down to play. Before we had started taping, only “good-enough” ideas were put to test and it limited our exploration. After taping was instituted, the rule was, no matter how stupid the idea seemed, we’d give it a try for the tape once. Sure enough, many of those silly ideas turned out to be real gems. Rehearsing this way not only saved a ton of time but also raised the standard of our playing considerably (we were practicing in a recording studio after all). It kept our artistic conflicts at bay and it was such a joy to have instant feedback. We had the real sense of accomplishment after every rehearsal.

    Essential creative tool
    When I have a crazy idea about practice or performance, I make sure the recorder is on; then, I go to town. There are so many ideas I dreamed up that would not have seen the light of day were it not for the recorder. It allows me to experiment on far-fetched ideas, many of which eventually turn into practical tips. I can’t think of a more helpful tool.

    Make reeds with it
    For an oboe player, a recorder is a real boon for reed making. You do need time to learn subtle differences between how it sounds to you while you’re playing at home, how it sounds recorded at home, and how it sounds where you perform. But once you know what to expect, it can be a life saver. I’m in the habit of ordering new batches of cane every year to test the vintage. I found some surprising differences among batches through recorded sound. The way a reed sounds to you while you are playing is very different from how the same reed sounds “out there.” Your mic might be only a few feet away, but when your skull is vibrating and the brain is busy processing all kinds of sensation in you mouth and beyond, it’s hard to get an objective reading.


    Equipment
    For a long time, the gold standard was Sony’s Walkman Pro. It was affordable, portable, and it came with respectable internal stereo microphones (albeit some internal noise). But, alas, thanks to the digital revolution, cassette tapes (have you seen one lately?) were no more, and there was a big hole in the high-quality, consumer-level portable recorder category. I used a Sony DAT player for a while. Though it had very high quality sound but the tape was very finicky and the equipment was rather expensive. Friends suggested Mini-Disc players but I wasn’t crazy about the media format, and micro cassette players were never good enough for music. After years of looking through e-bay postings in vain, I found Zoom H-4. It gives you, in my opinion, the best bang for the buck (about $260 street price). The tiny button makes the navigation frustrating at times, but it’s cheaper and more feature-rich than the competition. The internal microphones sound surprisingly good, and thanks to all-digital setup, there is no internal noise to worry about. And the best of all, you don’t have to carry anything else at all when you go out. Taking along a simple stand, headphone, and the external power cable will make your life easier, but two AA batteries can carry on for good many hours (I haven’t actually measured). The included SD card is too small, but you can get a 2GB SD card now for under $20 and some merchant will suggest that you add it to the purchase. If you invest in descent external microphones (it supports phantom power), you can produce high-quality demo CDs. I am planning to use the unit for student audition recordings. I cannot imagine my musical life without it.

    Reed Talk #4 – Physics Lesson for Dummies
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 11, 2008 - 11:24 AM

    Before I talk more about different aspects of reed making, a quick physics lesson is in order. Items covered here do help understand actual issues associated with reed making. However, if you want to know whys, go find someone who actually knows physics.

    First, you have to know the following before we begin.

    1. Law of equilibrium: For some mysterious reasons, the nature hates unevenness. When there is a difference in air pressure in adjacent spaces, for instance, nature tries to correct it by doing things to make them even again.
    2. When air moves, the internal pressure of that mass of air decreases.

    The following is how the air causes reed to vibrate (as far as I understand).

    1. Before you start blowing, the air pressure of outside and inside the staple are equal (no differential), and there is no movement.
    2. As you blow air into the reed, the pressure inside the staple decreases.
    3. Now that the exterior air pressure becomes greater than the interior pressure, the exterior air pushes blades of the reed inward (equilibrium at work).
    4. Which causes the opening of the reed to narrow and inhibits the air flow; thus slowing down the air. That, in turn increases the pressure inside the staple (less differential).
    5. In the mean time, as the blades are pushed farther, the resilience of the cane “tries” harder and harder to push back.
    6. At a certain point, the blades win over and spring back, and the whole process starts all over.

    More physics-related stuff to remember.

    • The longer the staple, the lower the pitch.
    • The fatter (larger diameter) the staple, the lower the pitch.
    • The faster the air flows, the higher the pitch.
    • The smaller the cane diameter, the more open the reed.
    • The wider the shape, the more open the reed.
    • The thicker the reed (more mass), the harder to play (requires more energy).

    *If you are versed in physics, I welcome any corrections and suggestions. Please leave me a message.

    Practice Tip #7 – Practice Letting Go
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 10, 2008 - 5:41 AM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All (including voice)

    Descriptions: This technique is based on Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. The ideal is to reduce stress through learning to let go of bodily and mental sensations through non-judgmental observation. What happens in stressful situations is that we tend to over-react to our own otherwise natural mental/physical reactions. And this creates cascading chain reactions (or a feedback loop) that eventually leads to panic. When this technique is practiced regularly, you can reduce (not eliminate) stage fright and bodily harm while increasing concentration and enjoyment.

    Directions:

    Step 1- Basics

    1. Sit comfortably on a chair and put a raisin in your mouth.
    2. As you slowly chew and swallow, observe every aspects of your sensation. Try not to judge each sensation but to observe as accurately as possible. Pay particular attention to how they change over time.
    3. Repeat 1–2 twice more.
    4. Practice this once a day for a week.

    Step 2 - Expand on Basics

    Use your everyday situation to further what you have learned in Step 1. Some examples are

    • When you have to drink a bad tasting beverage (as in pit-stop coffee during long drive), diligently observe sensations.

    • Walk by someone who makes you very uncomfortable (bully, boss, your crush), then sit in a quite corner and observe mental/bodily sensations and see how they change over time.

    Step 3 – Practice Break

    Take a five minute break during a practice session and lay down (if not possible, sit comfortably) and observe sensations. Observe your mental sensations as objectively as your bodily sensations. If possible, see how a particular emotion affects which part of the body and how. Try your best not to judge or interfere.

    Stage 4 – Every-Day Practicing

    Create many short breaks during practice sessions (as in “Rule of Three”), and learn to apply this technique quickly and efficiently. Once you become proficient, all you need is a few seconds to let go of your sensations.

    Stage 5 – Grace under Pressure

    Incorporate this technique into more stressful situations. See if you can incorporate this process, in your own way, into performance, auditions, recording sessions, etc.

    What’s on My iPod? #2 – Grammar Girl
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 9, 2008 - 9:01 AM

    Kind: Podcast

    Title: Grammar Girl

    Descriptions: One of the joys of listening to podcasting is you end up learning something you’d never learn otherwise. I can’t imagine diligently following a grammar related website or reading a grammar book even if someone pays me. But the podcasting by Mignon Fogarty is so delightful that I’m always looking forward to her latest podcast. Her corky humor and well-written short podcasts (around 8 minutes) are as much fun as they are informative. She is so good at what she does that she’s now the owner of an expanding company of 7 podcasts (including Might Mommy, Legal Lad, Traveling Avatar, and Get-It-Done Guy). Even for my short blog entries, I find writing extremely difficult. I’m amazed how many mistakes I manage to cram into short spaces and I’m constantly finding errors after I post them. I can’t say Grammar Girl made me a better writer. But when I find a mistake, now I can say why it’s wrong.

    Oboe FAQ #2 – Why Should I Choose Oboe?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 7, 2008 - 7:35 PM

    Short Answer: No one needs to choose oboe.

    Long Answer:
    First, you have to like the sound of oboe. You can go hear a local symphony orchestra or a traveling Broadway show that have an oboe. If you can identify the sound of oboe already, TV music and movie tracks are full of beautiful oboe solos. You can buy single tracks of oboe pieces on iTunes Music Store. I received 150 hits for “oboe concerto” the last time I tried. Of course, you can always ask me to send you, ahem, my demo CDs with no obligation. However, if the sound does nothing to you, read no further.

    Second, once you become a reasonably good player, you’ll always be in demand. Orchestras, symphonic bands, church music directors, and local theater productions are always looking for a good oboist. Also, it looks great on your college application; there are enough football players and cheer leaders in the world but not enough oboists.

    Finally, if you maintain your chops over the years, oboe will give you a life-long enjoyment. Once you are know as a good oboe player, people will seek you out wherever you go. There are so many chamber music camps for adults nowadays, and I have met many accomplished non-vocational oboe players. They are doctors, teachers, business people by day and oboists by night. In fact, many of them seem to have more fun than I do.

    Oboe FAQ #1 – Is Oboe Hard to Play?
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 7, 2008 - 6:53 PM

    Short Answer: It is a hard instrument to get started.

    Long Answer: I’ve heard some people call oboe one of the most difficult instruments to play. Maybe it is. In fact, it is very hard to play any instrument well. Once you have a good instrument, learn the basic technique, and secure a steady supply of reasonable reeds, oboe is no more difficult than other wind instruments. Oboe fingering is a bit complicated on the high register but you don’t have to learn as many notes as others; you learn 26 notes (2 octaves and 2 notes), and you are in business. It is a hard instrument to start without a teacher. But, once you get to the point where you can play simple slow solos with nice tone, you are a star; tell that to the flute players.

    Reed Talk #3 - The Mind Trick
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 3, 2008 - 2:01 PM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Symptom: Difficulty in evaluating reeds objectively

    Descriptions: My mind plays a sneaky trick when I am evaluating reeds (instruments also). Especially when I have a lot invested in a particular batch of cane (high price, reputation, or how hard I worked to obtain it), my expectations color my judgment. I find myself trying a reed in such ways to emphasize its merits and hide shortcomings. I unconsciously test it just to prove its worth; I’d play only low solos when the reed has bad high register or play only legato passages when it has response problems. And the whole process happens so naturally, so quickly that only on hindsight can I identify it. So, lately when I test reeds, not only do I pay attention to what I hear, but I also examine how I’m testing them. I constantly ask myself “what am I trying to hide from me?” With all the years of experience and knowledge, the mind does a remarkable job of producing the results I so desire. And doing so, I end up making reeds that play great at home but fall short at rehearsals.

    Practice Tip #6 – Give It to the Keyboard
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - January 1, 2008 - 7:16 AM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All non-keyboard instruments

    Directions: When you are practicing tonally tricky pieces, practice them on the keyboard before you pick up your main instrument. If you have any sort of keyboard skills, the process teaches your ear how it should sound. And the ear, in turn, guides the learning process on the main ax. The reduction of time, stress and mistakes can be significant. I find this tip works great when I’m learning atonal work or Broadway shows. Atonal work often involves tricky rhythm and quick dynamic changes. Sorting them out before I pick up my instrument is a big time saver. The use of metronome is critical here. Broadway shows often involve very simple material but they look intimidating on the page with million accidentals and meter changes. Once you firmly lodge the key phrases in your brain, it takes very little time to learn shows (except for that pesky few phrases that take years to learn). It might take a leap of faith to try this, especially when you are faced with a tight deadline, but it’s well worth a try. It could make a real difference on your next gig.

    Performer’s Tip #1 – Playing Well is Not Enough
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 26, 2007 - 2:45 PM

    Level: Advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All (including vocal)

    Descriptions: I was watching an interview of Jun Shibata (a Jpop singer/song writer) and something caught my attention. While she was unsuccessfully trying to break into music business, a judge in an audition told her, “I see that you are trying hard to sing well. But singing well is not how you move people.” Shibata says it was when she realized that she had to sing her own material and it forced her to write. After that, she says, everything seemed to click into place. I was struck what a great advise it was. She was obviously a talented, hard working performer who was keep trying despite rejections. But something was missing. And this judge was able to articulate it so well. How a performer goes beyond merely play well is, I believe, a deeply personal process. Hard work is essential, but when you can drop the notion of doing it well (or right), something takes over and the player can have a real chance of reaching the audience. This something is the subject of the intense discussion in All the Mornings of the World (see the blog entry below). Once on stage, after years of hard work, the process of letting go the notion of doing it well, I believe, is a key ingredient in making a mere good performance into a truly memorable one.

    Reed Talk #2 - Stuffy vs. Dark
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 26, 2007 - 7:33 AM

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Symptom: Confusing stuffy reeds with dark reeds

    Descriptions: This is one of my pet peeves and I constantly find myself caught in it. When a reed needs a bit more work to vibrate fully, I’d stop working because it is sufficiently dark. In my own studio, I’d convince myself that a reed has a real potential and stop working only to find out it’s a stuffy, unusable, reed at work. Unless the reed is really, really new, I find it better to get it going at home and find out what it’s made of (to a point) than to get myself embarrassed on stage. When the setup (gouging, shaping, dimensions, etc.) is working, it’s my job to discover how best it wants to vibrate. If a piece wants to sound dark, it will. If it doesn't, there’s little I can do. There are, however, ways to make it sound a bit darker or mellower but I cannot fundamentally change the quality of its unique sound. Also, when a piece of cane has a really beautiful sound, I’d know it within 10 minutes of scraping. When I find myself fussing over a potentially great reed for a long time, chances are, it isn’t. Things are a lot more forgiving when it comes to bigger reeds; the smaller the reed, the fussier it is. I like to compare oboe reeds to sushi (the raw material has to be great) and English horn reeds to stew (there are a lot more you can do to improve later on).

    What’s on My iPod? #1 – Tripod Baby by m-flo
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2007 - 5:12 PM

    Genre: Jpop

    Group: m-flo

    Title: Tripod Baby

    Album: Beat Space Nine

    Notes: A 2005 hit by the heavy weight Jpop group m-flo. They are very a talented duo of DJ/MC/producer/composer/collaborators. They could be described as a combination of Timbaland, Eminem, Quincy Jones and Beck. They are know for their collaborative work and some of their re-mixes easily overshadow the originals. This is their typical hyper-kinetic pop-dance-rap number and it’s my favorite auditory caffeine. The lead vocal is Lisa who was once a member of the group but here she works as a collaborative artist. It’s been almost a year since I started listening to it, but I’m yet to get tired of it. The lyric is also their usual bilingual acrobatics that I had to read it more than a few times to really get it. But the tune is so catchy and fun that you don’t need to understand a word of Japanese to enjoy it. You can buy it on iTunes Store; make sure to get the shorter (5:01) version.

    Reed Talk #1 – My Specs (Oboe)
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 21, 2007 - 9:24 AM

    Before I delve deep into the geeky reed stuff, I decided to disclose my own specs. I hope this will give you some ideas about where I’m coming from and you can adjust your expectations accordingly. Please keep in mind that, thanks to my unstoppable urge to experiment, this list will be changing constantly (I’ll try to be good about updating). Also, just because one setup works for me or my students, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. I will discuss certain reed making principles, but they are more like metaphors than scientific descriptions. Please take everything with a big grain of salt.

    Oboe Shaper Tips: Nagamatsu 0A and 0B, Harold Gomberg
    Nagamatsu 0A is great for sea level with sufficient humidity (late spring to early fall). During the dry winter season in Lehigh Valley (300–400 ft.) , 0B works well. Gomberg tip is very wide, but it sounds great in Denver (over 5,000 ft.) and higher. I’m thinking about trying Nagamatsu 1 for Kinhaven (about 1,300 ft.) with very large diameter cane; stay tuned.

    Staples: Nielsen (large and medium) and Laubin French
    For Nagamatsu 0A (narrowest tip I own), the Nielsen large tubes keep the pitch from going too high. I need to use the smaller Laubin French tubes when I use the wider 0B to keep the high register from sagging. For evening outdoor concerts in the humid summer weather, I often use Nielsen medium staples with Nagamatsu 0A to control the opening.

    Craw: Between C and C#
    Most of my good reeds craw somewhere between C and C# (never below C).

    Instrument: Laubin
    I replaced some of the original skin pads with harder ones and replaced a few with cork. As a result, the instrument sounds a bit brighter but it has a better response and flexibility.

    Gouging Machines: Ross and RDG
    I sharpen the blade and set up the Ross machine myself. The center of the cane measures about 0.60–0.62 mm and sides at about 0.47–0.48 mm. I use an old RDG machine to gouge the pregoued cane, so by the time I use the Ross machine, all it requires is a few strokes. This minimizes the wear and the tear on the finishing blade.

    Knives: Nielsen double beveled (left-handed)
    I use a new Nielsen double beveled knife for rough scraping and two old ones (at least 15 years old each) for finishing.

    Sharpening Stones: EZ-Lap diamond stones (medium and fine), India stone (fine), ceramic stone
    Both diamond stones and India stone are for honing. When honing is needed, I first try the India stone, then the fine diamond, finally the medium diamond stone. I never use oil on the India stone. Once in a while, I use the fine diamond stone to grind the ceramic stone to remove unevenness.

    Razor Blade for Clipping Tip: GEM by Personna (American Safety Razor Co.)
    It is very important to use very sharp blades for clipping the tip of the reed.

    Razor Blade for Shaping: Olfa™ Slim Jim Snap-Blade Knife
    It's a lot easier to use Olfa knife than holding a safety razor when shaping.


    *Links on this page are for your information only. I receive no benefit of any kind from the linked merchants. Consult with your own teachers before you make any purchases.

    Checklist for the First Oboe Lesson
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 19, 2007 - 6:31 AM

    1. Your instrument and all the accessories.

    2. Whatever the music you own and working on, including band/orchestra music.

    3. All the reeds you own. Make sure to soak a few prior to the lesson.

    4. A spiral-bound note book. If you have one from the previous teacher, bring it instead.

    5. Any reed making equipment you own.

    6. Prepare to play two short segments (one slow, one fast).

    Beginning Oboists' Check List
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 18, 2007 - 11:12 AM

    1. Soak Your Reeds: Soak your reeds 10–15 minutes before you have to play.

    2. One is not Enough: Always soak more than one reed.

    3. Crack Prevention: If you have a wooden instrument, always warm it up from outside. Never blow warm air into a cold instrument. It’s a sure way to crack it.

    4. Keep it Warm: When you know your instrument will be exposed cold weather, put a plastic bag over the case. An extra layer, however thin, can make a difference.

    5. Remove Your Reed!: Every time you set down the instrument, always remove the reed. If a reed falls to the floor, there is a good chance it will survive. If someone brushes a reed ever so slightly while it’s attached to oboe, chances are, it’s gone.

    6. Use Your Eyes: Every time you have a trouble playing a note, make sure to check your fingers. Many oboe keys have a whole in the middle. A slightest leak from there can ruin a note. It’s nice to have a mirror where you practice (a window pane works in a pinch).

    Ensemble Tip #2 – Crescendo and Diminuendo
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2007 - 7:39 PM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All (including choir)

    Directions: When a large group of musicians makes crescendo simultaneously, it’s better to let the higher voices start crescendo sooner than the lower voices. And on diminuendo, let the lower voices diminish sooner than the upper ones. Since the lower sounds already have their own higher overtones, if you let the low section leads crescendo, it tends to overpower the upper parts as they get louder. Likewise, by letting bass go sooner, you can make a smoother transition during diminuendo. Another benefit of this is, since higher pitched instruments (which often play the lead part) tend to have a narrower dynamic range (there are exceptions) than the lower ones, layering the lower section in and out makes the upper voices sound like they have a greater dynamic range than they actually do.

    Ensemble Tip #1 – Together First, In-Tune Later
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2007 - 8:50 AM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All (including choir)

    Directions: When multiple players play a chord together, make sure they come in together first, then worry about the pitch. It would be ideal if they all come in together perfectly in tune. But in real life, togetherness comes first. Human ear is incredible attuned to time delays (that’s how it determines the location) but it takes quite a bit longer to determine whether what's being heard is in tune or not. Also, players can adjust the pitch after they start playing the notes. With training, they can learn to find the pitch more quickly (I’ll cover more on this in Practice Tips).

    Practice Tip #5 – Don’t Take a Big Breath
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2007 - 8:26 AM

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All (including voice)

    Directions: Just about anyone will tell you to take a big breath when you are tense. Don’t do it. When you force inhalation when you are nervous, it could make your body even tighter. A better way is to exhale and let the air come in naturally. So, a big sigh is a lot more effective than a big breath in. Also, if you want to relax and expand the chest cavity, try a big yawn and let go.

    Practice Tip #4 – Sing/play, sing/play
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 17, 2007 - 7:54 AM

    Tools: Metronome, recording device (optional)

    Level: Intermediate to advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All

    Directions:
    1. With the metronome on, sing the phrase you are working on until you can sing it just right. Explore different possibilities until you find one that feels right to your ear. Don’t worry about voice quality or pitch too much. No one needs to hear you sing.
    2. Play your instrument immediately after a successful singing.
    3. Repeat the process at least three times before moving on. You can use the “Rule of Three” (see Practice Tip #1).
    4. If you are using a recording device, check the progress once in a while.

    Notes:
    I understand that this is a common brass technique. The important thing is to play right after a good singing. Try not to analyze your playing too much. If done right, your playing will automatically imitates whatever you sing; and it feels like you are being a mere observer to the process.

    This technique is very effective on slow, expressive, solo parts where you want to spin them in your own way. It’s great for solo parts in ensemble pieces, solo sontatas and slow movements in concertos.

    This also works on baroque ornaments. Obviously, some ornaments are un-singable. Use metronome and make sure you can really sing it before you play it on the instrument.

    Practice Tip #3 – Give It to Someone Else
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 11, 2007 - 7:28 PM

    Tools: None

    Level: Advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All

    Directions:
    1. Pick a slow passage you are having a hard time phrasing.
    2. Pick a favorite artist of any instrument (voice included), preferably not your instrument.
    3. Imagine how he or she would phrase that passage.
    4. Try to see if you can incorporate what you’ve learned from the imaginary session.

    Notes:
    You cannot expect to incorporate everything you hear in your imaginary recital, but it often gives you a new insight into the phrase.

    Practice Tip #2 – Coffee Shop Practice
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 11, 2007 - 5:43 AM

    Tools: Metronome, earphone or headphone for the metronome, pencil

    Level: Advanced

    Applicable Instruments: All

    Directions:
    1. Go to your favorite coffee shop or bookstore where you feel very familiar and comfortable. If you are working on very complicated music, pick a well-lit seat.
    2. Order your favorite beverage (and snack, if you’d like).
    3. Set the metronome at the speed you are working on.
    4. Practice everything as you’d practice on your instrument except do everything mentally.
    5. Incorporate any additional aspects of the venue: acoustical characteristics, smell of the hall, audience/judges, etc.
    6. When you observe any physical or mental tension, relax and let go. Strive to achieve the optimal sound and bodily sensation in your imagination.
    7. Take notes on whatever you noticed for later (on-the-instrument) practicing.
    8. Repeat the same session twice more before the performance.

    Notes:
    It’s very important to imagine everything as precisely as possible: sound, bodily sensations, smell, view, etc. This technique is particularly effective when you are very close to performance and you are in danger of over-taxing your body.

    Music and Movies #1 – “Tous les Matins du Monde”
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 7, 2007 - 5:32 AM

    Title: Tous les Matins du Monde (All the Mornings of the World)—1991

    Director: Alain Corneau

    Cast: Jean-Pierre Marielle (Colombe), Gérard Depardieu (Marais), Anne Brochet (Colombe's daughter), Guillaume Depardieu (young Marais)

    Music: Jordi Savall

    Comment: Based on the biographical novel about the life of the reclusive 17th century French viol player/composer, Monsieur de Saint Colombe, and his one-time student Marin Marais. The movie was a phenomenal success with 2 million tickets sold in the first year and nearly a half million soundtrack album sold. Not only is it an exquisitely made film, but also it is one the best movies about master/apprentice relationship in music. One of my favorite scenes is when the student (Depardieu) takes his last lesson from the dying master. After they play their duets, the teacher asks the ultimate musical koan (Zen question): what is music? After all of Marais’ flowery conjectures are rejected, the master corners the student until he confronts his own life and comes up with his own answer from the depths of soul. You have to see the movie to know what the answer is. Though some complained about actors’ fake playing, being a non-string player, it was not an issue for me. The music of Savall with authentic period instruments is simply sublime. There is a scene where a large band of court musicians playing Lully’s Turkish march in full regalia. The glorious music is so strikingly different from the stern, soulful music of Colombe.

    Practice Tip #1 – Rule of Three
    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - December 6, 2007 - 11:58 AM

    Tools: Metronome, pencil

    Level: All levels

    Applicable Instruments: All instruments

    Directions:
    1. Pick a technically challenging passage.
    2. Break it down to manageable segments (usually 2 bars or smaller).
    3. Find a tempo in which you can play each segment (not the whole passage) comfortably.
    4. Try to play each segment 3 times correctly.
    5. After each successful try, take a few seconds to let go of any physical or mental tension.
    6. If there are more than 2 mistakes between good tries, restart counting.
    7. If still unsuccessful, slow down the tempo.
    8. Repeat the process until you cover the entire passage.
    9. When it’s done, write down the metronome mark on the music.
    10. Speed up the metronome a notch and repeat steps 1–9.

    Notes:
    The little break after each good try is extremely important. During the break, try not to review or analyze what have just happened. You give the brain time to process the information and by being completely relaxed, you program relaxation into the passage.

    Posted by Nobuo Kitagawa - Unknown

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