Monday, February 6, 2012

Lighter reeds

I wasn't entirely happy with how the slow pp chorale in Egmont went. I don't think it was nervousness, although that didn't help. And I know it's physically possible, even for me. In fact, I think I nailed it fairly well at the sound check a couple hours before the show. I think the right attitude is that this kind of playing, slow, pianissimo, smooth and in tune, is just not sufficiently inside of my comfort zone to allow it to be reliable. Part of the problem could be reed. The reeds I've been making tend to be on the stiffer side, at least compared to my teacher's. There are nice things about that: I think I can make them sound good, all I have to do is support them sufficiently. And maybe the reedmaking process is a little less sensitive when making a stiffer reed. My algorithm has basically been to stop once I have a reed that plays okay, with adequate symmetry etc., then to spend my time practicing, and work on making it play. Another approach is to try and get a reed to be as light as possible, to remove as much material as you can while still doing what it needs to do. My old teacher said that basically everyone ends up going light, in the end. He related a story of an LA player whose backpressure was so high, his neck used to expand dramatically when he played. Very notable for people sitting behind him. This guy eventually developed an aneurysm in his neck, and had to give up playing entirely. I don't think my problem is so severe, but I do have fatigue issues. I can't play all the way through a Milde study without feeling blown out at the end. And my Egmont problem, I think is related to fatigue. At the sound check, we started basically right on the hard part. Totally fresh, I could pull it off. At the show, after having just spent a couple of minutes blowing hard through the first part of the piece, I was unable to control myself and the reed. I'm hoping that trying to learn to make and play on lighter reeds will help things like that.

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