Practice Lab: To Build Technique Faster, Try a Ladder

We all know what it’s like to work hard to improve an aspect of our technique, whether it’s a fundamental skill like tonguing or something specific like a fingering pattern in a piece of music.  We approach it in all the ways we know we’re supposed to: start slowly, speed up gradually, alternate between faster and slower tempi, break the pattern into pieces, vary the rhythm, etc. And then do it over and over again.  Applied deliberately, these time tested techniques do produce results, but they require many hours of repetition, and can leave us feeling impatient and wondering which practice technique to try next.

I can’t eliminate the hours of practice required to master a technical skill.  What I can offer is an addition to your toolkit that will improve your efficiency in both developing new skills and improving existing ones.  

Scraping in the Bassoon Reed: An Approach for (almost) any Reed Style

Scraping in the Bassoon Reed: An Approach for (almost) any Reed Style

Even though I’ve been using a tip profiler for years—first a Rieger, now the Andante e Rondo—I still like to scrape a tip in by hand every now and then. It keeps me in touch with the core scraping skills and allows me evaluate the cane in a way that’s not possible when machines do 90% of the finishing in one step.

The method below is the one I teach my students when they learn to finish reeds. It is a process-oriented approach, rather than one that is tied to specific measurements on a dial indicator. This makes it exceptionally flexible. I first learned many elements of this method when I was studying with Frank Morelli, and I have also used it to scrape in Van Hoesen reeds, Herzberg reeds, as well as my current Italian-style reeds. It is the quickest and most consistent way I have found to get a blank into a playing state.

To lefreQue or not to lefreQue?

To lefreQue or not to lefreQue?

Last winter, my friend Matthew Harvell sent me a link to a series of Youtube videos demonstrating the lefreQue, a device that claims to improve the resonance of wind instruments.  The idea behind it is that wherever two joints of a wind instrument come together, there will be a disruption in the vibration of that instrument.  If you can remove—or at least reduce—these disruptions, then you will improve the instrument.  The lefreQue claims to do just this using two pieces of metal that act as a “sound bridge” that carries vibrations across the joints.  This was an entirely new concept to me, but I was impressed enough with the before-and-after recordings on Youtube to order a set from Maarten Vonk and find out for myself what they could do.