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Return to playing after a break

This is my first week of teaching lessons after the winter holiday break, and so far I’ve had only one or two students who practiced the same amount during break as they would normally. So today’s tips are all about returning to playing after break!

What to expect:

  • Students’ embouchures will be weak from disuse of the muscles. This tends to lead to pressing too much with the lips, and a more horizontal shape in the mouth.

  • Air speed tends to be slower than needed, which also encourages more use of embouchure pressure when playing. To speed up the air, we have to first remember that our air should be moving fast, then use the 3 F’s to guide airspeed (the tl/dr of the 3 F’s: blow faster/forward/funneled air).

  • Students’ reeds from the final concerts of 2022 are probably old and dead. Old reeds are OK for the first week of practice, but not after that. Students should break in at least 1 new reed during the first week of returning to practice.

How to practice:

  1. Focus more on fundamentals than repertoire. A thoughtful and purpose-driven warm up will help get embouchure strength and air support back. It’s worth taking 15-20 minutes on tone development and scales this week.

  2. Be thoughtful and take the time to construct the ideal shape of the embouchure. Be patient when you can’t hold that embouchure shape as long in your playing as you’d like to yet. The tiny mouth muscles will strengthen over time.

  3. Incorporate a fraction more air than you feel is necessary to avoid using too much lip pressure. Remember: The oboe is a wind instrument, not a lip instrument.

  4. Take breaks during the practice session to avoid fatigue/bad habits.

The theme I'm giving my students this week is ease. Let's all find ease where we can in playing and in teaching.

Until next week,



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