14. March 2009 · 2 comments · Categories: Oboe

Read the twitter quote below to know what triggered this.

I’ve taught a lot of oboe students. Really. I ran into an acquaintance a while back and she was talking about her daughter and how she doesn’t play oboe any longer; I had forgotten that I drove to her house to teach the girl! There are some others I can no longer remember too, which I find sad. How can I forget these students? Weird.

But … to the volume issue. This has been an interesting thing to deal with. I have had some students that never get past a mezzo forté on the oboe. It doesn’t matter what I do, they simply can’t or won’t produce more sound. The students who are like that are also students who talk very quietly. One said she never yells. Another, when I said regarding a cadenza, “Now’s your chance to shine! Show off! Give us your expressive self!” (or some such thing), shyly look at me. His quiet response? “What if I’m not expressive?”

Other students are so loud I lean the oboe against my ear to block a bit of the volume, for fear of ear damage. I have had to say, “You really must play softer or your hearing is going to be hurt by the loud oboe.” There are fewer of this sort, but they do exist.

I’ve played on the reeds of both of these groups and I can play softly and I can play loudly on their reeds. It’s not always the reeds! It may be the reeds in some instances (possibly so with that Twitter comment, since the mother obviously heard softer playing before), but not always. It can be the oboe, of course, but since I do play students’ reeds on occasion (rarely these days), I know when it’s not. It can be an embouchure issue, to be sure. Even more it can be an air issue. (We have to work, folks … we don’t just lightly blow air through an oboe.)

But sometimes? Sometimes we just play like who we are. I really do believe that.


  1. Hmm that’s interesting, I was having a similar issue with two of my students. My tiny, 9-year-old girl will play sooo much louder on a weaker read than my football-and-lacrosse-playing, 16-year-old boy. I find this very funny.

  2. Yep, my loudest was a young, petite, sweet little girl. Softest was a guy, although I can’t say he was Mr. Macho or anything.