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 How does it feel like when you support?
Author: drizzledtoes 
Date:   2021-07-03 15:58

Hello everyone! I have a few questions that I would like to ask, if you would be so kind to share with me.

Long ago, I played the oboe without "supporting" , where I never pushed with my abdominal muscles while playing notes. This felt really comfortable to me, but I was told by my teacher a few months back that I had to support while playing the oboe, so I learnt how to support (pushing with my abdominal muscles out, so it is always hard when i blow air). However up till now, me trying to support my notes always felt very uncomfortable.

Whenever I try to push harder on my abdominal muscles for my higher notes, I feel worse and more tense, and sometimes I am also not able to raise my pitch either. I push so hard to the point where if I had a full bladder or a upset stomacheach, I might accidentally push the contents of the bladder or stomach out. Despite me trying to really push really hard, my teacher still says that I need to push harder and I am not supporting. This led me to think, if I am truly supporting correctly? Or if i am just not strong enough (i am petite in size and very thin)

I would like to ask everyone, how does it feel when they support whilst playing the oboe. Especially when i have to play long passages, i get more tense at the shoulder trying to push further to maintain intonation and sound and my throat probably closes up a little too and i get constricted

For about 3 to 4 months now, i am unable to play the oboe as comfortably as i could previously by supporting, and i am also unable to revisit the sensation i had previously when i played the oboe without supporting, as i cant seem to recall how to do it, so i do not know how to play the oboe comfortably even at the middle octaves.

If it helps, i consistently have to push in the middle octaves, and when i go to higher octaves, i have to push the hardest i can where i can no longer push further if not i would be flat (eg high Bb, high B), but over a prolonged period, i am unable to consistently do that as it is very tiring and i tend to get flatter and flatter even at the middle octaves over time. As such, i am thinking that perhaps, i am just bad at the oboe and untalented and i cannot play it naturally.

Also, do you oboists support well and push also on easy to play notes? ( eg low F, low F#, middle Bb etc)

Post Edited (2021-07-03 16:03)

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 Re: How does it feel like when you support?
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2021-07-04 02:50

I do not think that I push out when playing with my abdominal muscles, but I tighten those muscles to make a "floor" or foundation and envisage directing the air column up. I broaden or narrow the column by tightening the side muscles. Do not take in too much air, and do not raise or lower your shoulders when you breathe, but try and "breathe" through your abdomen. There are more theories than you can pole a stick at, with breathing but in my mind, if you treat those lower abdominal muscles as a floor or foundation, you can't go wrong. The closest "feeling" for me, is to imagine you are swimming under water. and as you are swimming, purse your lips and allow a little air to escape. With the oboe, it is surprising how little air you use, and it is important to remember to breathe out, as well as in. If you take in a lot of air, this means that there is a lot of air to expel. I do hope that this helps....but remember, this is the way I do it and think about it, and you will hear many other ideas on your oboe journey. I try to maintain this degree of support on all notes. Do you practise long notes and scales regularly? The long notes need to be done in different durations, decrescendos and crescendos and all dynamics, right across the range of the oboe that you can play. Each has its own feeling, resistance and response. THis is the most valuable thing to include in your practise. When working on stdues and pieces, mark in your breath points, and whether or not they are exhale , inhale or both points. Make sure these coincide with the phrase you are playing. it often helps to sing through it first, this may help. Be prepared to work on these in short concentrated bursts and after time, you will become more at ease with it. Do not regard yourself as untalented. Oboe playing is something that is not inherently "natural" for most of us, and even after 50 years of playing, I am constantly thinking and refining. Good luck in your journey.

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 Re: How does it feel like when you support?
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2021-07-06 22:53

I agree with most of what oboist2 said, but I disagree about breathing deeply.

I find that with full lungs, the amount of work I have to do with the diaphragm is decreased, in the same way as (I use this analogy with students) imagining how hard you have to squeeze a tube of toothpaste to get some to come out. When the tube is full, you only have to press lightly, but when it is 3/4's empty, you really have to scrunch up the tube pretty hard to get something out. With full lungs, only moderate diaphragm pressure is required to get good support.

I believe that "support" can be equated with "fast air," similar to what you get (here's another analogy I use) with a can of compressed air. The width of the can is wide, but the opening that the air exits is very tiny, which means the air under pressure shoots out at great speed. With oboe playing, your lungs and diaphragm pressure are equivalent to the can, and your lips are equivalent to the tiny opening of your embouchure. When you blow hard, the air shoots out at great speed, which keeps the reed vibrating.

Make sure to keep your throat open at all times...your throat should always be as open as if you were yawning. That way, the power from your lungs is not impeded by a constricted throat.

When your embouchure is more open, the reed can vibrate wider and produces a louder sound. When you want to play softly, pinch the lips tightly to reduce the opening of the reed. Be careful to keep the teeth away from the reed, as the hard tooth material will shut down reed vibration. All closure of the reed must be done with the facial muscles, but the teeth must always remain as open as if you are trying to play a low Bb.

As an exercise, light a candle and place it across the room from you about 10 feet away. Take a standard drinking straw and try to blow out the candle from 10 feet away. In order to do it, you must tighten your lips, open your throat, push your diaphragm, and send very fast air across the room to blow it out. The feeling of pressure you have in your head, mouth, and throat while trying to blow out the candle is exactly what good support feels like.

Bay Area, California

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 Re: How does it feel like when you support?
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2021-08-26 05:56

I am also small and weigh 95 pounds. (44 kilos, more or less.) ... and I am 72. I came to oboe from brass, but I didn't start brass until I was 45. At some point I learned to "play with air" and you move a LOT more air in a brass instrument than you do through an oboe.
I would say I have to "blow harder" to play the oboe. That sure is putting it in non-technical terms, but if you have ever had to blow up one of those teeny-tiny balloons, that is what is required to get the balloon started. I've had a few teachers and no one has ever said I don't support, so I'm going to stick with my "blow harder" and stay away from trying to get a technical explanation out there. yes, my gut is tight and those muscles are very strong, but that is from brass playing. I remember a horn teacher once had me feel his abdomen and it was like feeling a blown up basketball.
When I first started oboe, even though I was already a wind player, I got dizzy with the air pressure required to make it sound good; but I always had pro reeds and never played on a floppy student reed. Maybe you need harder reeds to force you to blow hard enough to be supporting right.
Best of luck.

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