The Speed At Which A Piece Of Music Is Played How to Produce an Oboe Vibrato

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How to Produce an Oboe Vibrato

I always tell my students that oboe vibrato is more of a musical subject than a technical one. Wisdom must develop naturally. Assuming your basic playing technique is correct, it should be learned subconsciously just by listening to good harmonica players play. When used correctly, it improves the tone of the oboe. Vibrato, of course, is not unique to the oboe. It is used by many other musical instruments and singers.

Oboe vibrato makes air flow by pulsing through the diaphragm. Some players use their throat or jaw muscles to try to create vibrations incorrectly. It is very difficult to control and will degrade the tone rather than improve it. When we play, we try to keep our throats as open as possible and our jaws as relaxed as possible. Both of these incorrect methods of attempting vibration will compromise basic technique and affect much of the control. In particular, this will have a negative effect on the oboe.

As I said above, the vibration should develop spontaneously. But sometimes, if it doesn’t develop naturally, students need to learn how to do it. In this article, I will explain how I deal with the problem of actually teaching when the vibration is not developed instinctively. It’s helpful for players who get it naturally to understand exactly what’s going on and how to use it effectively.

A word about gobo vibrato is not about creating it, but about stopping it. It’s a technique that should be intuitive and vary in speed and intensity to match the music. One particular situation players often encounter is a long note with a crescendo. It can be very effective to gradually add vibrato to a note, increasing the vibrato intensity as the note grows dynamic.

So, how do I teach gobo vibrato when needed? Get a well-guarded note on the instrument (4th string ‘D’ is usually a good choice on most oboe). Start quietly, crescendo to a good ‘forte’, then drop back down to the starting level. Adjust the lip as needed to match the note and always check that all the work is being done by the diaphragm. If you think you can pull this off, start doing a continuous crescendo-diminuendo pattern as your breath continues – this is a long note that goes up and down in volume. What you are emitting at this stage is actually a very slow vibration. The next step is to gradually increase the speed until the vibration is controlled and released correctly. Always check that you are working with the diaphragm and not the throat or jaw. The button should move slightly in response to air blasts, but should never pulse on its own. The final step in the learning process is to work on varying tempo and intensity, as different musical contexts require different vibrations.

Remember what I wrote at the beginning of this post, vibrato is not a technical issue, it’s a musical issue. The whole purpose of vibrato is to enhance the oboe’s tone and add color to the piece being played. It should be possible to play any speed and intensity of vibration that is best for the music.

Copyright (c) 2010 Robert Hinchliffe

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