On Instruments

Hi all! So I wanted just to give you a little insight into what’s going on in my life right now.

I like to think that I’m a musician. I play instruments and read music and all that fun stuff. I was actually in marching band all through high school. Since I still feel a bit out of place at my new school, I decided to join the band there.

Oh, boy, guys. I have a lot of work cut out for me.

So in high school, I was primarily an oboist. You can’t really march an oboe. Instead, I marched the flute. In college, all of the flute players play the piccolo. I can’t play the piccolo. I don’t want to play the piccolo. Have you ever heard a piccolo? I’m not the biggest fan. Besides, in the hands of the wrong people, piccolos sound awful. I am the wrong person to handle a piccolo. It would just end badly.

Instead, I’m playing the alto sax.

A little bit of background for non-musical people: the alto sax, oboe, and piccolo, are all woodwinds. Besides a few differences, the finger patterns (what fingers you hold down to make a note) are pretty similar. So basically, I can switch instruments among the woodwind family and still have a good grip on what I’m doing finger-wise.

The main differece comes in the way you blow through the instrument to make a noise. For a flute, there is no reed. It’s kind of like an open hole that you blow across. Have you ever blown across the top of a bottle to make a noise? It’s kind of the same mechanics. So that’s how a flute works. An oboe has a double reed. This is two thin pieces of wood put together with a slim hole in the middle. By blowing through the hole with the correct pressure, you make noise. It requires a lot of… facial muscles? I suppose that’s one way to put it.

An alto sax uses a single reed and mouthpiece. This means that the reed is secured to the mouthpiece. When you put your mouth on it to play, your upper teeth rest on plastic and your lower lip presses against a wooden reed. Those are the basic mechanics.

Going from a double reed to a single reed has been really difficult for me. I’m used to covering both sets of teeth with my lips to play. I can’t do that for the alto. Besides, the breath control is completely different.

Oh, and I have three weeks to perfect it. Whoops.

Essentially, I have my work cut out for me. One of my friends is teaching me (thank God) so I’m not completely drowning. It’s going to be interesting, to say the least. We made a lot of progress today, but I still have a ways to go. Wish me luck, friends!


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