There was a guy that I heard about a while back that was known for his ultimate care and maintenance of his automobiles. This guy loved cars more than anything. He worked his whole career being very frugal and never owned a flashy, awesome, eye-popping, supercar-like most people until he retired. He saved up his whole life so that when he retired, he could “live the dream!” So now in his retirement, he has fulfilled one of his life passions, buying and maintaining his dream cars. This guy spends his days cleaning under the hood, hand polishing the exterior to a high gloss shine. His cars are cars of fantasy, cars you would see on the cover of Automobile magazine, cars that make everyone’s heads turn. Matter of fact, his cars do make people’s heads turn because when he frequents the local car show, there is always a crowd around his car, no matter which car he brings! But then one day after all the preparation of cleaning and polishing, he was in route to the next show and he ran out of gas. Can you imagine? After all the hours of love and care, in preparing his beautiful car for the next show, he forgot one crucial thing and he fell short.
Have you ever tried so hard to do something and no matter what you do, you just simply fall short? As a professional musician or aspiring professional musician, there are countless things that you must do to prepare yourself for that lifestyle. If you are aspiring to be a professional symphony musician, collegiate professor or even a member of a smaller group like a professional quintet, at some point you will have to audition. You will have to show up and be the best that you have ever been in that one moment in time. Not only must you be the best that you have ever been, you must be the best out of all candidates that are applying for this same position.
To be the best of the best, you will have a daily practice routine, which usually includes some type of warm-up, scales, musical excerpts or simply playing your favorite tune to remind yourself why you are doing all this in the first place. Most of you have spent hours with your teachers and/or professors doing these very things. You have worked all of your scales and excerpts and even completed harmonic analysis’s of the music so that you can learn how to make an appropriate musical phrase. You all have probably heard this one too, “If you can’t make music while playing your scales, how can you expect to make music playing, well anything?”
Just like the gentleman with his awesome car, you will spend hours polishing and cleaning your technique. You will be extremely proud of your work and the results you have gotten from the hours of polishing. You possibly have even played mock auditions in front of family and friends, colleagues and teachers as one more layer of preparation for the big day, Audition Day! But, just like the car guy, have you forgotten to fill up with gas? Without enough gas, you will not make it to the audition or through the audition.
The other day we had one of our professional oboist clients come in for a quick adjustment. He said he was about to fly across the country for one of the top principle oboe positions in the United States. Knowing this client I can say, I know he has polished and cleaned his technique and the music he plays! He is easily one of the top players in the country, even at his young age. This particular day, this client wasn’t cleaning and polishing, he was filling up with gas!
One of the most overlooked aspects of preparing for major auditions is not having routine maintenance. Oboes and clarinets are comprised of many pieces and parts and these parts do wear out. These are a few examples of common maintenance issues that can keep you from reaching your career goals:
- Pads change and stop covering tone holes. When this happens note response goes out the window, especially as you play lower notes. Note resonance is less than ideal which can effect tuning and overall timbre of your oboe.
- Keys become loose on the instrument which makes the pad accuracy less than reliable.
- Tone holes become clogged from the constant cycle of playing and swabbing. This can lead to water build up in tone holes and tuning issues.
- Corks wear out and the mechanism becomes noisy and/or the joints become loose.
When you do not maintain your instrument, all of the hours of practice, cleaning and polishing can leave you stranded, literally without a job. So if you are playing the audition circuit and haven’t considered maintenance as part of your audition plan, I would highly recommend a visit to the repair shop. If you are planning on auditioning soon, make plans to visit the repair shop sooner than later. And as you go through your musical life, instrument maintenance should be part of your regular practice routine. How can you be the best of the best when your equipment is not the best it should be?
Many blessings to you as you pursue your life to the fullest.