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How to practice dynamics successfully at home

Practicing dynamic changes in their warm-up is the most effective way that your students can practice the concepts I laid out in the previous two posts. Today I’ll share with you my favorite dynamic and tone routine. It will take maybe 3 minutes to do the whole exercise with 2 repetitions of each dynamic.

The basic exercise uses long tones, but I call them Notes of the Day because my students are asked to choose a different note from their scale of the week each day they practice. I’ve laid out the exercise simply below.

Using NOTD (Note of the Day) to work on tone, dynamics, and intonation:

We want our oboe students to use this exercise to establish their air speed and embouchure position/pressure for the practice session/rehearsal/concert. Notice the air support and embouchure steadiness first - any wobbling in pitch or change in dynamic over time can be attributed to the air/embouchure balance they’re using - likely too much mouth pressure and too slow air. Speed up the air by blowing forward/across the reed and using the cheeks to funnel air to the reed.

Throughout, the student should choose to pay attention to any 2 of the following elements: maintain steady pitch and dynamic, using consistent air support, embouchure elements, intonation.

If the student chooses to focus on intonation, I suggest starting with the dial to establish intonation, then moving to a drone to work on the students’ relative pitch.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Play mf for 8-12 counts x minimum 2 repetitions

  2. Play mp (or softer) for the same number of counts x minimum 2 repetitions

  3. Play > for 8 counts

  4. Opt: match the decrescendo with an evenly paced crescendo.

So now you know how dynamics work on the oboe, how we can adjust intonation while playing with a range of dynamics, and how students can work on dynamics! I hope this series has been helpful to you, so please let me know if you’ve used any of the techniques I mentioned with your students!

Until next week,



Are you loving my tips on how to play and teach oboe? My weekly Teaching Oboe Newsletter might be for you! Written and released weekly, the Newsletter contains all the content from the blog and more!


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