Playing “On the Wind”

[Music: Flight of the Bumblebee]

Double reeds are wind instruments and naturally the use of the air is pivitol to their playing. But more important than using the air to get out sound is that double reed players need to use the air for musicality and phrasing. The shaping of phrases in music on the double reeds depends upon the controlled application of air. This is something that double reed players need to practice and need to carefully consider.

The term “playing on the wind” refers often to phrasing that occurs even when there are tongued notes or there are articultations. tonguing notes. These phrases often feature a crescendo and diminuendo. There may be rests or spaces in the music but this doesn't mean that the music is interrupted.

Too often players restart the air flow with each tongued note. This results in disjointed approaches to phrasing. Each note is given its own crescendo and diminuendo. Let me demonstrate.

[music on bassoon]

Notice that each note was individually shaped with its own crescendo and diminuendo and there was movement in my jaw. Playing on the wind, however, is quite different. The wind shapes the larger phrase, not each note. Each note is articulated with the tongue, not with movement of the jaw. Changes in dynamics come from a single, sustained movement of air rather than the air being re-engaged with each note.

For instance, here is playing on the wind.

[music: opening from Orefici #2]

When I am stopping the note with the tongue (and I stop with a way that is not too abrupt) I am still continuing the air pressure. There is one continuous motion of the air, one arc or shape given with the air here.

Here is an application of playing on the wind in Orefici's 20 Melodic Studies for Bassoon. This is the start of the second study. I start by increasing the air on the second beat, through the third beat, into the fourth beat, with the arrival on the downbeat of the second measure. So this is one continuous motion of the air with a crescendo to the downbeat and then a descrescendo after that downbeat.

Here is how it sounds when playing on the wind.

[music: opening from Orefici #2]

Notice that chewing each note, moving the jaw, would hinder the sound. Now I am going to try to chew each note.

[excerpt from Orefici #2 played on bassoon played with jaw motion]

I don't know if you could notice the motion in my jaw there.

Playing on the wind more effectively phrases the music and gives a sense of motion in the music.

[music: opening from Orefici #2]

Once again, I am stopping each note with the tongue, but in such that it is not an abrupt stop.

So in summary, playing on the wind forces the air flow from the lungs in one motion. Articulation by the tongue should not influence that motion at all. It should still be one phrase, one motion with the air.

I hope that this has been helpful for you.

[Music: Flight of the Bumblebee, ending]