I have a solo in Les Mis. It’s a beautiful solo. It is played while some stage action is going on, but it is after a very tense moment and is very moving.

And once that first note sounds I’m just fine. I’m an expressive player and I know I do what is necessary to make this one work well.

But that first note. AARGH! That first note is easy, really. That first note should be just fine. That first note should just “be”.

But the brain, it plays games.

Evil Brain Voice: “Here it comes. One more page and your there.”

Hopeful Brain Voice: “No biggie. Everything has worked up until now. Why would that note not respond correctly?”

EBV: “Well, you blow it sometimes, yes?”

HBV: “Yeah. I know.”

EBV: “You have to play now. Get ready. You’re gonna miss that note.”

HBV: “No. No I’m not. I will not miss that note.”

EBV: “Yes you will. You’ve missed it before. Already missed it once during this run, in fact!”

HBV: “But I’ve gotten it more than I’ve missed it. I can do it. I know that I can.”

EBV: “No you can’t.”

HBV becoming Pessimistic Brain Voice: “Oh. Maybe you’re right.”

EBV: “Of course I’m right.”

PBV: “Oh no! I can’t remember how my embouchure works. I can’t remember what to do with my tongue. I’ve lost all feeling in my mouth and in my hands.”

EBV: “See. Told you.”

HBV: “But wait. I know I can get this note. It’s only one note, for Pete’s sake!”

EBV: “Yeah. But you’ve missed it before. And it might be only one note but it’s the note that you’ll remember forever.”

… so that’s how it goes … my little warped, pathetic conversation with myself. That Evil Brain Voice. The Hopeful Brain Voice. They battle daily. And what I’m trying to figure out is 1) How to stop conversing with myself in such a negative manner 2) WHAT I’m doing when the note does have a “bobble” at the beginning because if I can figure out the cause I should be able to rid myself of the problem (right?) 3) WHAT I’m doing right when it feels so splendid and makes me happy and, finally 4) how not to dwell on it when I do miss the darn thing.

Because of course I missed it last night and I’ve been dwelling on it ever since. The rest of the solo went very well. Does the audience walk away from the show saying “Well, except for that one oboe note it was good, but boy did that ruin not only the show but life itself!”? No. Of course they don’t say that!

But this is a battle and I’m tired of this particular fight.

Many (most?) of my colleagues take inderol. This would, I suspect, take enough of the edge off to cause me to always get that note. But I don’t “do” inderol. I’m at a disadvantage, I suppose, because of that.

And I have at least 50 shows to go.

I’ve hesitated writing about this here. I realize some of you thought I was perfect (hah!) … and it certainly exposes one of my biggest weaknesses. The “bobbled note syndrome” is something I’ve really suffered from. But I’ll just go ahead and post this and you may all shake your heads and wonder what my big problem is. Most of the time I’m wondering too!

I’m so glad I’m not a brain surgeon sometimes. But, at the same time, I’d really love to hold up a sign when something is difficult so people know what it’s like. Maybe something that reads “This is a very scary entrance so right now my heart is pounding and I’m starting to think about running away!”


  1. I try not to think at all. To just shut the door so that EBV and HBV are both locked out. PVB, too. But that doesn’t always work. I’d love to know how people overcome this, too.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Heh. I WISH I could not think at all. It just doesn’t work that way. So I attempt to make the HBV very loud and obnoxious to rid myself of the EBV.

    No. That’s a lie. Yikes. I’m lying. Shame on me!

    Mostly I PRAY. And I try to make what I’m playing a prayer as well. It takes the focus off of me and seems to help a lot.