I’ve tested a number of different cork grease formulations in the past few years. Only recently I decided to try lanolin cork grease and the results have been amazing. I thoroughly cleaned the cork tenons and sparingly applied some Pro Lanolin cork grease. It’s been three weeks and the joints feel like they’ve just been treated! This stuff lasts! When I remarked about the “miracle” of lanolin cork grease, my wife (intrepid professional hornist) casually mentioned, “oh yeah, that’s what we use on our slides”!?! So, it’s all in the family 🙂
(I asked Rebecca to write a memoir of sorts–to tell her story about the music in her life. I think her perspective is genuinely inspiring!–ed.)
Two years ago, I was asked a very profound question: “What do you most regret in your life?” As a person who believes that everything that happens is beneficial in some way, this question was not easy to answer. Yet, after reflecting upon the past 36 years of my life, I realized that the thing I most regret is giving up playing music.
My interest in music began in the 5th grade when I started playing the flute. In the 7th grade, I was introduced to the bassoon. By the time I graduated high school, I could play the flute, piccolo, bassoon, tenor and baritone saxophones, and the clarinet. I taught music lessons on flute, bassoon, and saxophone and I apprenticed at a local music store as a clarinet repair technician. I went on to college as a music education major on bassoon but dropped out after the end of my first year. Soon after, I left my job at the music store and sold all my instruments.
Over the course of the next 18 years, I held numerous jobs. I primarily worked in the restaurant and hotel industry but also spent some time washing windows professionally, working at a cash advance store, and selling water softeners door-to-door. In 2007 I obtained a certificate in massage therapy and opened a massage business in 2012.
When I started playing again in 2016, I hadn’t touched a bassoon in 18 years. Surprisingly, I remembered many of the notes, rhythms, and fingerings. In fact, I could play the better part of a 3 octave chromatic scale from memory. But I was pretty rusty. I’d purchased a few easy solo books to get me started but my mouth was shot after only 5 minutes of playing.
I continued to play a little each day, gradually re-building my embochure. The solo books were fun but my technique wasn’t improving much and I felt like I needed to practice differently. I opened the bassoonist’s “old faithful” – the Weissenborn Method for Bassoon – and started from the beginning. In many ways, the Weissenborn Method felt like a beginning band book for non-beginners, which is exactly what I needed.
I joined a community band and, as it turns out, I wasn’t the only one with a story similar to this. Like me, another bassoonist had also left a college music program after her first year. For her, it was 25 years later that she came back to the bassoon. Now, here we are, sitting side-by-side in the same community band sharing similar stories, and making music together.
It didn’t take long before I decided I wanted to go back and finish my music degree, this time in bassoon performance. I started taking bassoon lessons right away. I had 3 lessons at the Community Music School, then found out my teacher wouldn’t be returning to the area. I reached out to my former bassoon teacher from 8th-12th grade (also my bassoon professor my freshman year of college) and we started lessons the following month.
Over the next 8 months, I practiced almost daily in preparation for my college auditions. In addition to taking lessons, I also met with the bassoon professors at a few different Universities to see which programs I wanted to audition for. I purchased a different bassoon, a professional bocal, tried out different reed styles, and attended a bassoon day event.
When January came, I was ready. Not just for one audition but for three. I auditioned for two schools in January and one in February – and was accepted into the music programs at EMU, WMU, and MSU.
After much deliberation, I made the choice to downsize my massage practice, move from the Lansing area to Kalamazoo, and attend Western Michigan University. A few months later, I performed my first recital as a Farewell Recital for my friends and massage clients. Then, the next day, I moved to Kalamazoo. I’m now a live-in nanny for a family with two young girls. In just a few more weeks, I’ll be a 37 year old freshman at WMU majoring in bassoon performance.
While being an adult student will have its challenges, I also realize that I wasn’t meant to finish a music degree 20 years ago. When I was younger, I didn’t understand that there were levels of musical ability beyond technical ability and coordination. I needed 18 additional years of life experience to help me see that music isn’t about playing black notes on a white page. Like everything in life that you love, music will become alive if you put your heart into it.
“May all that has been reduced to noise in you become music again.” ~ David Teems
Several years ago I bought six dulcian reeds direct from Medir in Catalonia (Spain). The reeds were so good that since then I’ve been meaning to try some of the modern bassoon cane.
Finally took the plunge!
I’m play testing the first three reeds from a batch of gouged/shaped/profiled cane (Rieger 1A shape) and I’m very pleased. I notice that the cane is a bit hard but the sound is even and full up and down the range. Maybe the profile is thicker than usual for me–with medium density cane–but, I could always try re-profiling.
With any new cane, shape, etc., there is a learning curve. I cut the reeds to 57 mm overall length, that’s 30 mm from the front of the first wire to the tip, and finished the tips with my Rieger tip profiler (factory taper). On one of the three reeds I’ve worked on the back of the blades and sanded a little overall to get the pitch and response where it should be. All three new reeds respond very nicely with breath attacks at the top of the staff (a, b-flat, b, c). The forked e-flat is in tune without the help of the right hand. I think I’m not in a hurry to coax rich and noisy vibration out of these reeds yet, but with more sanding I’m sure I could get there. For now, it’s probably best to let the reeds settle down before further adjustments. Expect updates on the Medir cane story in the coming weeks.
Update: I’ve noticed that the Medir G/S/P profile is a bit heavy in the back. I usually aim for .030 inches at the collar. The Medir cane I got was on average .037 inches at the collar. I previously mentioned re-profiling, but I think it will work to file/sand the back of the profiled blade to get it down closer to .030 inches. That way, if this cane works better with a slightly thicker profile (say, .032 inches), I won’t miss it!?!
News about the GLICKMAN-POPKIN BASSOON CAMP – 40th YEAR!
10 Days at Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, North Carolina
Monday, May 29 to Thursday, June 8, 2017
This year’s daily masterclasses will be given by our Camp founding father Loren Glickman, assisted by the legendary Leonard Hindell. We are also very pleased to welcome magnificent guest artists Xie Fei, principal bassoonist with the Baltimore Symphony, Michael Sweeney, principal bassoonist with the Toronto Symphony, and William Ludwig, professor of bassoon at Indiana University. Our program also features bassoon repairs for all full-session Campers by Paul Nordby, of world-renowned Paul Nordby Bassoon Repair. Our daily classes in Reed Making will continue this year, given by reed guru Jim Poe. Fox Bassoons will return to present their latest bassoon designs and innovations.
The lineup looks just terrific! Highly recommended!
Playing scale patterns in sharp keys can be challenging, especially in the upper register. In A major, the following fingering pattern emerges:
Notice the right-hand cross fingering between e, f-sharp, and g, and the left-hand cross fingering between e and f-sharp. Cross fingering patterns can produce snags if not carefully and methodically developed. So, here is the first set of exercises designed to work on these problems:
Each measure can be repeated multiple times. Begin playing slowly and gradually increase tempo to establish your “outer limit.” It is best to avoid playing too fast since we don’t want to practice these patterns with wrong notes, etc. Another sequence that can be very helpful in isolating glitches is this one:
Here, we work through the cycle and play one of the notes longer, the rest shorter. In the first measure, the first note (e) is long, in the second measure the second note (f-sharp) is long, and so on. Since for practical purposes, all of the intervals between these notes will be important, the next step is to mix them up:
If you find a particularly gnarly interval, especially when slurred, be sure to isolate and work on that fingering pattern. Investing some effort into patterns like these will yield great dividends, enabling you to play with confidence and poise as you conquer the technical challenges. (Thanks to SS!)
We’ve discovered a clever little “personal” etude this week. Here it is:
It captures the tricky b/c# interval that can always use more repetitions, crosses the break from e/f# with a touchy half hole, includes top space g for pitch accuracy and left-hand pinky precision, then descends to repeat.
With dotted rhythms, we can improve finger trajectories:
Then, for something a bit more involved, and useful for finding the latent lapses, here is the pattern in triplets (notice how it takes three cycles to come out even):
Later in the week we decided that a great way to really clean up the digits is to play short staccato:
Apply in liberal daily doses, rinse and repeat often. Add to your favorite warmup routine!
“Why do some people achieve outsize success? Given the competitive nature of the modern world, it’s a question many have spent time thinking about. The usual answer is that success results from some combination of talent, luck, and hard work. Tales of prodigies and “naturals,” born ready to conquer the world, tend to minimize the importance of hard work, but the whole formula may need a rethink. That’s the message of Peak, a new book by Florida State University psychology professor Anders Ericsson and science writer Robert Pool. Ericsson has spent decades studying the concept of “deliberate practice,” the sort of hard, unglamorous focus on improvement that gets results. This highly readable book distills Ericsson’s work for a general audience, while raising thought-provoking questions about what talent really is.” Read the full review . . .