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How to teach oboe embouchure...

Today I taught a beginner how to play for the first time. I’m still getting caught up from my trip, so I’m feeling a bit scattered, and when it came time to make sound, I didn’t do as good a job describing what to do as I like to, but the student was able to make sound consistently by the end of the lesson, and that’s what matters most!

So, I’m looking up my notes to see the method I think is most effective. I found my step-by-step process that I’d love to share with you:

  1. Soak the reed for at least 30 seconds. Water should cover the whole cane portion of the reed.

  2. Have the student hold the reed by the cork.

  3. Examine the reed and talk about how delicate it is. Notice the very small opening. It takes very small, fast, and cold air blowing across the reed to make sound. If you squeeze the reed with your lips, you’ll choke out the sound.

  4. Take a deep breath, roll the lips over the teeth, put just the tip of the reed in the mouth and blow straight ahead without puffing the cheeks.

The reason I teach embouchure this way is to emphasize that students should NOT squeeze with their lips. Squeezing too hard with the mouth will cause the student to have to work too hard to make sound, which can be really discouraging. As they continue to play, squeezing is the #1 cause of poor intonation and uncharacteristic tone.

Next week I’ll talk about my favorite way to diagnose that students are squeezing too hard, and some ways to open up the more experienced student’s sound.

​ Until next time,



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