Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Feeling sorry for myself

Here I go again. In a nutshell (because I don't feel like being eloquent--am I ever eloquent?)...

I hate reeds. Dave and I were practicing (him in his office at school, me in my office at home), and he came home to me napping in bed. Granted, I had already been practicing for 1.5 hours. The conversation went like this:

Dave: Hi--are you ok?
Me: I hate reeds so much, I needed a nap.

(End of conversation.)

It's getting harder and harder for me to make reeds. It's not supposed to be like this. I have my doctorate for crying out loud. (And I do cry out loud, often.) Part of it is the lack of time I spend on reeds. Just like practicing, we get rusty if we don't keep at it. I don't play full-time. I only have one oboe student (and I often feel I'm doing him a disservice by teaching him at all), and even when the symphony season is going on (it doesn't start up again until September 10), I don't play on every concert. I think I figured out a big part of it yesterday though. I just cannot sharpen my knives. I have a Japanese water stone (used to use with my Ando knife, advocated by Peter Cooper, but I ruined the knife twice by sharpening it incorrectly...a difficult thing to do with a bevelled knife), an Indian oil stone (no oil for me), ceramic sticks, some other medium-coarse water stone from Jende (I actually quite like this one, but I still can't sharpen my knives), a leather strop, and a diamond stone-combo. I pretty much have what I'd need to regrind my knives and start from scratch. I do not have the skills to do this.

It is very depressing to practice when you have crappy reeds. I've been gleefully practicing oboe recently (I only have two more tricky runs in the Paganini to work up to tempo!), and I credit that to having some decent reeds (thank you, Cooper). I told David Hempel at Eble (this is new to you, Cooper) about his reeds, and he'll try the ones Cooper sent me. I'm going to hold onto one of them (my favourite--the one with the Chud-E staple--I think), but David will try the rest and see if he wants to carry some in his store. It's hard to find decent student, and even "pro" reeds that work "out of the box". And of course the reedmaker has to be reliable. I'm getting off topic.

Crappy reeds.

English horn practicing is another matter. It is not joyful at all for me right now. I have the Saint Saens Organ Symphony coming up in September, and I need reeds (note the plural--we musicians never can rely on ONE reed to get us through a set...although I've done it before in a pinch...shh, don't tell anyone) that are very responsive, especially in the low register, have a beautiful tone, and can sing out in a hall. I'm not thrilled with my English horn either. I actually love the tone of my Bulgheroni (how many of you have heard of that brand?), especially in the upper register. It's just such a polite instrument. I tried Marigaux, Lorees, Rigoutats, Howarths and others at last year's conference, and I loved the Marigaux. It seemed like a nice middle ground between the power I needed and the sweetness I loved in my current horn. Of course, I do not have several thousand dollars lying around. I almost sold my Bulgheroni this summer, but the darn oboe teacher of this high school student told her she should get a "bigger name". Grr. Bulgheronis really are great! And way better than what this girl would have needed. Not to mention the fact that it's very hard to find a good used English horn out there. (Even new ones are hard to come by; you can't just walk into a store and say I'll take that one!) Off topic again. Sorry. Not eloquent. Hmmm...I'm no longer in a nutshell, am I?

Reeds. Hate them. English horn reeds=worse. I only have ridiculously old reeds in my case. I was starting to make progress with one of my new ones, and I tore off the tip. Grrr!!! That's when I needed the nap. It just takes me so long to make reeds, especially EH reeds with so much more cane. And having the dull knives (which I'd just prefer not use at all, being the responsible oboe student of many years that I am, having been told never to use a dull knife as it would TEAR OFF YOUR TIPS!) does not help. I laugh when people* tell me it takes about 20 minutes to make a student reed and 40 for a pro...hahahahaha. When non-oboe people ask me how long it takes me, I respond with "20 years or so." Realistically, I'll work on a reed for an hour before leaving it for the day, still unfinished.

(*you know who you are)

So I broke down and ordered two English horn reeds from Cheryl at Cascade Reeds. Those are great reeds. (When she actually has time to make them...) Of course, I'll still keep plugging away at these little beasts in my box. Scrape, scrape, scrape. Our work is never done. Maybe some day I'll feel good about my English horn playing again. Not today, that's for sure.


Patty said...

Jill, I'm sure this comes as no surprise to you, since I'm fairly honest at my site.


Period. I hate them hate them hate them.

Even worse, I hate making them more. They are simply not anything I want to spend time on. So I'm lazy about it. And I buy reeds. And I sometimes get into horrible situations. But I just plug along.

I think you and I are in similar situations as far as playing goes. It makes it difficult to work on reeds when we don't work all summer long.

But even with work, I'm sure I'd not be making reeds all the time like some insane people do.

Some folks like reed making. To me that's a mystery. Sort of like people who like certain foods I hate or something, I guess. I just don't get it, and I never will. Olives? Yuk. Eggplant? No thanks. Reeds? You have GOT to be kidding!

So you have my sympathy and understanding.

My husband, too, has dealt with my "bad reed days". Of course we've been together for eons now (31+ years) so he just knows better than to ask what's wrong sometimes. But still ... he knows how it can ruin a day, a week ... whatever ... when it's bad reed time. Sigh.

Hang in there. Don't "break down and buy reeds". Just buy reeds. We are all embarrassed by buying reeds, it seems. I think it's time to stop being embarrassed and realize that reed making is a difficult gift than oboe and English horn playing, you know?

OH ... and shall I put out the word that you want to sell your EH? You can email me with the info if you'd like. (I play a Rigotaut. Quite an old one. WONDERFUL high range!)

Hang in there ... and hugs to you.

Patty said...

Oops ... I meant "different" gift, not "difficult" ... even though it IS difficult.

But so is oboe playing! Just not as difficult for some of us as reed making is. 8-)

Jillian said...

Hi Patty,
I emailed you earlier and it was bounced back to me. I had your speakeasy.net address...which used to work! Could you email me so I have your correct email address? Thanks for your supportive comments!

C.J. said...

Good news Jill! I bought an English horn today! Now I can make more English Horn reeds for everyone! Woohoo!

nat* said...

Everyone i know seems to hate reeds! Except Cooper, that is :P
It's probably no surprise that I hate them too.

Anyway, how on earth do find time to update all your blogs regularly, play the oboe and EH, AND be pregnant at the same time?!

bbushman said...

Sorry to hear of your reed woes. I think it's the summer slump! I just moved 900 miles from Atlanta to Austin (after getting married this summer), so I've been "out of the saddle" for most of the summer, and now suffering as I get back into it. Not that I'm that great with them to begin with. ;)

If you truly think a dull knife is half your battle right now, have you tried Daryl Caswell's "Reed Knife Sharpening Book"? He's the Landwell guy, and I've turned to this book a couple times when my knives have started getting sloppy. I feel kind of foolish turning to books to SHARPEN A DARN KNIFE, but such is life. :)

Here's a link to the book if you are interested.

Either way, best of luck!