Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whole-tone scales

Did I mention that Dave and I are doing weekly sectionals at Valley West High School? With that and my methods class at Simpson, I get to teach oboe three times a week now. I've really missed it. I love my piano students, but I'm an oboist! Give me oboe students!

Well this week I've had a terrible cold. It started on Thanksgiving and turned into a cough by Sunday. I sounded pretty terrible on Monday, so my class did a lot of playing and directing each other while I tried to save my voice. No coughing fits though. I thought my cold had reached its peak yesterday. I was wrong.

I was up for most of the night coughing; I even moved into the guest room so I wouldn't keep Dave up. 6:30am came too soon. I could hardly speak at the clinic this morning, and playing the oboe wasn't much better. I think they knew I was joking when I said "I blame everything on my cold this morning."

There are two girls in this oboe section (pretty typical--the 2 part, not the girl part...although that's common too); one just switched over from saxophone and isn't sure if she'll stick with the oboe. It's hard for her, as she's being thrown into some pretty tough music and is expected to play at the same level as everyone else. I always stress the importance of never practicing anything faster than you can play it perfectly. Of course, there's an art to "faking it" too. I wonder: do any of my musician friends teach "faking"? It's something most of us don't like to talk about, because of course you should be teaching your students good work ethics, practicing techniques, etc. I briefly mentioned it last time, but I said they should never fake it at home or in my sectional. Wow, I feel dirty just talking about it here. Please don't stone me!

While I'm confessing, I must share an embarrassing story with you. We got to one part in their band piece that included a descending whole-tone scale. I got them to analyse the music and tell me what kind of a scale it was (they weren't familiar with the term but they are now), and then we played it together. I said, "what happens if we transpose that up a half-step?" [mumble, mumble] We get another whole-tone scale...etc. etc., there are only two we need to learn, obviously, etc... I then proceed to play the second whole-tone scale...and I completely botched it. I said, "OK, even your teacher needs to go home and practice her scales." (Friendly laughter from the kids--they see my human side, etc.) I tell that story to Dave in the car, and he says to me, "How can you possibly mess up a whole-tone scale?!"

Hmph. I blame it on my cold.

1 comment:

Pattyoboe said...

I go nuts with these poor students who get put in a band that is far beyond their oboe capabilities. It's so frustrating, and then I end up having to spend too much time on band music rather than on what I deem more important. Sigh. Grumble. Etc.

I haven't ever taught faking it, but it's not a bad idea! I do have my students improvise, though. I'll say, "Give me at least 10 measures in the key of D major," and they have to make something up. If they are nervous about it, I go first, so they can see how easy it is. (If a dummie like me can do it, anyone can!)

I explain that this has atually come in handy for me; I had water in the top octave key once and had to invent a little solo to take the place of what was written. This was in a musical, and one can sort of get away with this if the conductor is as nice as the one I worked with. (The arranger of the musical even came up after with a huge smile on his face and said, "You improved what I wrote!" They were all aware of the water issues I kept having in the freezing pit, and were just fine with what I did. Whew. (Can't do this in opera!)

I hope you recover quickly. I'm SURE that's why you messed up on the whole tone scale. DUH! A cold can throw even the FINEST of oboists! :-)