Releasing Tension Whilst Playing The Oboe

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Oboe By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Oboe
Last updated: 09/01/2018
Tags: advanced oboe, free of tensions, oboe technique, support

When I began my studies in Germany, I spent 2 years relearning the basics (breathing, sound production) and kept a journal of the whole process - 6 books to be precise!

Here, I will touch upon the issue of tension in oboe playing:

Tension seems to be the cause of the vast majority of technical problems when playing the oboe. Upper body tension can restrict air flow, tighten lips and mouth in addition to locking up everything from the back through to the fingers, limiting movement and speed.

Further problems due to tension are stamina issues, much like in sports people and most importantly, it limits the player in colour and beauty of sound. If the body is tense, varying the speed of vibrato and dynamics become near impossible.

If oboists feel these things and a general discomfort during playing and look visibly tense, it is obvious that they must try to relax. However, it's not just a question of thinking about being relaxed. The real cause is almost always a lack of support. In order to eradicate as much tension from the upper body as possible, oboists must learn how to effectively use support.

As we expel air from our bodies into the reed and oboe, our diaphragm involuntarily rises as the air leaves. When this natural bodily process is unchallenged, it can create a feeling of tension and 'straining.' In order to counteract/challenge this, we must create an 'anti-tension' in our lower stomach region to anchor ourselves as the air is expelled.

Through daily practice and specific support building exercises, students should learn how to create and then keep a 'belt' of pressure lower down. This way, whilst the diaphragm is rising, all the tension can be constantly directed towards the 'belt' and so the upper body has more possibilities to remain free. With effective use of support, all tension and embouchure problems can be solved.

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