… you can fix it!”

This is something I tell my students frequently. I usually just have to say “if you can hear it …” and they complete my sentence.

I can’t tell you how often students — and yes, I do this too! — forget to actually listen. We get so busy working on reading the music, focusing on fingerings, concentrating on rhythms … and we forget to actually use our ears. Really. And if you aren’t listening it’s very difficult to fix things like glitches. So don’t forget to listen!

And let’s see … what else do I say nearly daily?

“No flyaway fingers!” As I told a student, “It looks as if your fingers hate the oboe and are trying to get as far away as possible!” The interesting thing is that I see this with some very fine players. I really don’t know how they manage to play so cleanly. But my students have to follow my rules and no matter how “artistic” it might look to have those fingers spread out so far, it just makes me laugh. (So do those elbows some players have waving; it looks to me as if they are attempting flight while playing.)

“No finger re-placement!” If a finger that is pressing a key is needed for the following note a student sometimes picks it up the finger and places it back down. If the finger doesn’t need to be moved, don’t move it! (Yes, I break this rule at times … if I’m trying to “pop” a note out, but that’s a very rare event. I use that mostly when my reeds are rotten and low note response is poor.)

I’ve been rather lazy about this blog, so I thought I’d at least put something up that required me to think for a brief time. Now back to my regularly scheduled easy posts…!


  1. How about flat-finger warnings? You know. Those crazy ring fingers.
    My old teacher Dick Dorsey put it best: http://www.oboe-comics.com/2009/10/17/flat-finger/

  2. I feel like getting students to listen to themselves is not only my most important job as a teacher (because ultimately I am training them to replace me with themselves, so that they can practice and improve without me when they grow up), but my hardest job as a teacher.

  3. Most of time time the first words out of my mouth after a student plays something is, “What did you hear?” I love it when they can point out the glitches and other errors themselves … shows me they really WERE listening! 🙂