I've played flute for several decades. While I've owned a student oboe for several years, about six months ago I got the notion to get more serious (and wonder about my sanity). So, I bought a Real Oboe (wooden, lots and lots and lots and lots of keys) and started lessons. Since then, with an occasion digression to remember what it is like to be able to play an instrument, I've maintained oboe immersion. Immersion really is the best way to learn a foreign language and it is at my teacher's suggestion and I believe he knows what he is doing.
Now I've gotten to the point where I still don't sound great but don't sound so much like a duck being strangled. It's progress. I have also adjusted to having no keyless parts to hold onto when assembling and disassembling (that is a more difficult concept than it appears; I don't know about you but I was taught to never, ever hold onto a flute by any part with keys). I am wondering if there is something about playing flute that causes a tendency to be wildly sharp when not being extremely care and slightly sharp after dealing with embouchure, breath, etc. Any thoughts on level of correlation? Further, what suggestions might anyone have on how to correct for it.
Since you are using a different muscle group on Oboe, it can change how you play the flute. The oboe reed is smaller and holds more pressure behind it which causes you to tighten up your embouchure more and I know when I first started switching, It is hard to switch from tight and lots of pressure to more relaxed with no air support. On the oboe, to sound less 'ducky' open the back of your throat like you have a tennis ball in your mouth and blow as much air into the instrument as you can. Instead on blowing more or less for volume, dampen the reed with your lips. Less pressure for loud and ample pressure for soft. This will make the oboe sound richer while releasing a lot of Carbon Dioxide that double reed players can collect due to the small opening of the reed. Also, NEVER EVER pull your reed out, keep it pushed in as far as you can at all times. And remember on flute, relax your embouchure more and tune with your lips and rolling in/out. If you try to carry the tight embouchure of the oboe over to the flute, you will be very sharp and have a difficult time playing in the middle/lower octave.
Thank you very much, HandelNo1. You've added to "why" and "how" to my "what". Going from a free-blowing horn to a restrictive one is quite an adjustment.
I suspect I am trying to create resistance with my embouchure, as one does for the middle and high flute notes, when playing oboe. This is not useful since the reed already creates resistance aplenty. Oboe nearly in tune calls for reed barely in my mouth, manipulation of upper lip for a round opening, dropping my jaw, and (the really, really hard part) remembering to use the side muscles rather than central lip muscles to control pitch. The throat opening idea is new, and makes perfect sense.
I appreciate your suggestions!
Rossie // my teacher was probably not joking when he said if I start to pass out he will dive for my oboe and I'm on my own.
I most definitely agree; long tones in front of a tuner will most definitely help your intonation. If your pitch is consistently sharp, try scraping away a tiny bit of cane near the heart of the reed, or just trying a different one.
As for your tone problems, I've always been told that maintaining good oboe tone is all about stability despite pressure. Forcing fast air through a tiny opening creates lots of internal pressure, and most beginners tend to release all their air immediately to reduce that pressure, creating the loud "dying duck" sound that we are all familiar with. However, the best oboists release the air consistently despite this pressure. Of course, embouchure, lung capacity, and of course the reed are also important factors in tone quality. Also, (at least for me), it seems that dynamic exercises also increase tone quality.
Years ago, I also made the flute to oboe switch. When I picked up a wooden oboe for the first time, I had the same issue as you--I was super sharp. But it got much better. I recall you saying that the pitch became slightly better if you applied extreme control to your embouchure. As you continue to practice and become a more experienced oboist, this embouchure should start to feel more natural and less "extreme." There are other things you can do as well.
First of all, always practice with a tuner. You probably already do this considering your pitch-consciousness, but I just had to state that anyways.
Second, you can lip notes up or down depending on their pitch. You probably know how to drop your jaw to sound flatter, and it probably doesn't always work for you. Another thing you can do is drop your tongue. The height of you tongue in your mouth can raise or lower your pitch. However, it is difficult to keep your tongue low in your mouth when you are playing an articulative passage. You can also take less breeding your mouth if you are playing too sharp.
Another thing that works for me is raising or lowering my oboe while playing. Although it is ideal to play with the oboe at a 45 degree angle, sometimes I find it necessary to slightly raise the oboe to flatten the pitch, or pull it inward to flatten it. Raising it takes the pressure of your bottom lip off of the bottom blade of the reed and minimizing the angle pushes the bottom lip into the bottom blade. However, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR HEAD UP. Sometimes we can get into the habit of raising or lowering our heads instead of raising or lowering the instrument. It is better to maintain good posture and keep our heads up. Don't make your head go to the oboe; make the oboe come to you.
Lastly, I am going to say something that many might disagree with, but you will have to decide for yourself. If you are playing in a band or orchestra and you are so sharp your ears hurt when you play, and despite all your failed attempts to lip down the pitch you are still super sharp, I PERSONALLY find it alright to SLIGHTLY pull out on the reed. Just a little bit should do the trick and for the betterment of the ensemble you are playing with, it will be okay to pull out the smallest millimeter increment. You have to be your own judge on that one, because I know that many oboists reading this will probably disagree, though others might not. Every teacher I have ever had who was a professional has recognized that sometimes there is a necessity for this.
Well, I hope you find my advice of some use to you. I cannot guarantee that you will, all I can do is assure you that it worked for me. Just keep practicing with a tuner and you will find that different reeds might be sharper or flatter with you on your oboe. In time you will "learn your oboe" and know which notes might be typically sharper or flatter on your instrument. The environment can have an impact as well.
Thanks, Oboeluv. Your tips are quite useful indeed. A funny thing happened. All of the sudden, I am playing much, much closer to pitch, my oboe breathing (as opposed to flute breathing) is closer to effective, and it just seems to be coming together finally. I guess the most important thing is hard work combined with patience.