14. March 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

I’ve said it a million times. But I’ve not written about it.

Do not note test!

One fear a lot of oboists have is, “Will my first note speak?” We all worry about it on occasion. Trust me. So when you are practicing, don’t allow yourself to note test. Just trust that it will. Sure, sometimes it won’t happen, and sometimes you’ll get what I call the “donkey sound”, but you have to get into the habit of not doing that little note check … you aren’t going to get to do that before most of your solos! So just go for it. Be brave. Be strong. Remember how your embouchure feels. If you do have a difficult time with a particular note, practice attacking that one for a good amount of time, to develop the memory of it. (I have a 5 times, perfectly, in a row, 4 days in a row. It seems to do the trick most of the time.)

One of the first things my students do during the lesson is to run their scales. I can’t tell you how many times I hear this (using B-flat major as an example): B-flat … pause …. B-flat, C, D, E-flat … and it goes on. Yeah. That’s note testing!

Just don’t do it.

And yes, I have an EH note I really want to test this week. Go figure! :-)


  1. I’ve worked with singers who do this! In choirs only; I’ve never known a soloist to do it. But I’ve heard people in choirs quietly hum a note before their entrance. My usual reaction is to want to smack ‘em – or at least turn to them and say the note is either there or it’s not, and you’re not helping the overall sound by humming (however softly) when you’re not supposed to.

  2. Wow … I understand why we oboists do the “note test” thing … it’s incredibly frightening to not know if the darn thing is vibrating. But vocalists do this too? I didn’t know! (No other instrumentalists seem to do this like we oboists. It’s just a frightening thing, playing the oboe.)

    And it’s when we are soloing … I would never worry if it was a tutti passage! It’s just those ppp sections where we have solos. Go figure.

    Silly singers. ;-)