Extended Techniques

1. Bisbigliando
2. Double trills
3. Extended articulation techniques: triple tonguing, flutter tonguing, slap tonguing
4. Extreme high register
5. Glissandi and pitch bending
6. Instrument only breath and other sounds (without reed)
7. Micro or quarter-tones
8. Muting
9. Multiphonics
10. Reed only
11. Rheita (Rhaita) style
12. Singing and playing
13. Vibrato effects


1. Bisbigliando

Following is a quote from Nancy Bonar on the technique of bisbigliando:

Bisbigliando was originally a technique used on the pedal harp directing the harpist to quickly alternate between two strings tuned to the same pitch. Bisbigliando on the oboe, or any wind instrument, requires that the instrumentalist find a fingering close in colour, but different, to the traditional fingering, and that he alternate quickly between the two. Often the performer is asked to regulate the speed of the alternation, beginning slowly, speeding up, and slowing down again. Bisbigliando is most often done alternating the traditional fingering for the written note with the harmonic fingering. This obviously poses limitations to the number of notes possible with bisbigliando. First harmonics (an octave above the fundamental) are also possible (Bb to C#”). Enlarging the possibilities, trill fingerings involving special trill keys work as well. When using bisbigliando, it is important to match perfectly the pitch of the alternate fingering with the traditional one. If the pitch is changed, no longer is bisbigliando being used, but rather a microtone trill … Bisbigliando is usually notated by repeated notes, alternate notes marked with a ‘o’.

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2. Double trills

Some trills have two possible fingerings; D4 (or 5) to regular or left E-flat4 (or 5), for example. A double trill involves alternating between the two possible fingerings to create a very fast trill, which is generally used only when specifically asked for, as it does not sound like a regular classical trill. It takes some practice to perform these evenly.

Click here for a fingering chart for several double trills from an article by Nora Post.

More extensive double trill fingering charts can be found in The Oboe Unbound.

Click here to watch Christopher Redgate demonstrate double trills

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3. Extended articulation techniques

  • Triple tonguing

Triple tonguing is more rarely used on the oboe than by brass players, but there are places in the literature it can be helpful. The syllables often used are the same as for double-tonguing, but in the following manner: ta-ka-ta   ka-ta-ka, etc. It can be initially challenging to make this articulation even.

  • Flutter tonguing

This articulation is created by rolling or fluttering the tongue while playing. Some players are also successful using their throats (uvular) to make the rolling, growling sound. While written more for flute and brass players, many (though not all) oboists can flutter-tongue effectively. Here is the common notation for flutter-tongue:

Flutter

Click here to watch a video of Colin Maier on how to flutter tongue

Click here to download a dissertation including information about flutter tonguing (page 47).

Click here for a double, triple and flutter tonguing demonstration with oboist Christopher Redgate

  • Slap tonguing

Slapping tonguing is “slapping” the tongue against the reed forcefully enough to create a sound without actually blowing enough to vibrate the reed. This is most effective, and loudest, in the low register. However, when performing pieces such as Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, which asks for slap tonguing, he does intend that the player blow hard enough to get the actual pitch as well. Oboe reeds cannot be slap-tongued with the same effectiveness as saxophone reeds.

Click here to watch a video about slap tonguing with Peter Veale

Click here for more information about slap tonguing

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4. Extreme high register

The oboe can produce notes up to C7, though standard orchestral repertoire requires up to only A6, and most frequently up to only F6. Contemporary band or wind ensemble music, however, increasingly asks for high and very technical playing, necessitating the need to know these notes as younger players. Notes above A6 can be difficult to produce at first because they require the teeth to lightly touch the middle of the reed while playing. Extreme high notes can be hard to produce at all on some reeds. Notes above F6 often have several possible fingerings that may be appropriate in different situations.  Click here for a detailed fingering chart.

Click here to watch Christopher Redgate demonstrate the extreme high register

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5. Glissandi and pitch bending

Short embouchure glissandi can be very easily accomplished by rolling the embouchure and reed in and out. On most notes and reeds, the pitch can drop by at least a half step with the embouchure alone, but more than that amount is not easy to do on stable reeds. The embouchure can also gliss the pitch sharp a small amount. Longer finger glissandos are not as easy to perform as they are for the clarinet because of the oboe’s covered key system, though still quite doable with practice. Finger glissandi are not yet standard on the oboe, and most oboists will play chromatic scales to approximate a long glissando.

Finger glissandi can be challenging at first, and involve some coordination between slowly moving off a key and manipulating the embouchure as necessary. Finger glissandi are useful for jazz styles in particular, but also in some classical pieces, particularly in the modern era. One of the most famous glissandi in the standard orchestral literature is found in Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, fifth movement. This gliss is usually performed by the embouchure alone, allowing the pitch to drop fairly slowly.

Gliss

Click here to hear the fifth movement of Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.

Click here to watch Colin Maier explain how to perform embouchure and finger glissandi

Click here to watch Colin Maier play glissandi in performance

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6. Instrument only breath and other sounds (without reed)

Modern composers sometimes ask for sounds created just by the instrument without the reed. These sounds include blowing air through the instrument, using a trumpet embouchure (buzzing), and key clicks. For demonstrations see the following video.

Christopher Redgate and sounds with the oboe without a reed

Peter Veale and the trumpet embouchure

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7. Micro or quarter-tones

The oboe can play notes that are in between the half-steps of the chromatic scale. These notes can sound “out of tune” in a Western European classical style, and so are used to imitate folk instruments and world music styles, as well as for other tonal effects.

Generally, special fingerings are used to reliably produce the altered pitch, rather than embouchure manipulation. Oboists can invent their own fingerings through experimentation. Alternately, fingerings can be found in books such as The Oboe Unbound by Libby Van Cleve.

Click here to watch Christopher Redgate demonstrate oboe microtones

Christopher Redgate performs microtones in Nigel McBride’s work for solo microtonal oboe ‘uncompromisingness with which dogma is held’ (2015) 

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8. Muting

muteThe oboe sound can be muted, particularly on the notes that require keys being depressed on the lower half of the instrument, by placing an oboe mute or a handkerchief in the bell of the instrument. This produces a darker, covered sound. If the handkerchief is placed too far in or too tightly, there will be response problems with notes that require most of the finger holes to be covered. Sometimes oboists use mutes to simply play more softly in the low register, but with good reeds and good experience in combination with the necessary embouchure changes a mute should not be needed in those situations.

The Berceuse movement on this following video is performed with a mute for the tonal effect.

Amy Selkirk performing Berceuse from Cinq pièces pour hautbois by Antal Doráti. 

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9. Multiphonics

There are many possible multiphonics (playing more than one note at a time) that the oboe can create. They require non-standard fingerings, and generally also work better with a vibrant reed, more reed in the mouth, and often much looser embouchure pressure. Experimentation with fingerings is usually necessary to obtain the correct pitches. Some multiphonics don’t work on some brands or styles of oboe, and fingerings may vary instrument to instrument. The notation for multiphonics generally shows the sounding notes of the chord as well as a possible fingering.

B multiphonicHere is a relatively easy multiphonic fingering for a B major chord. You may need to tune it by manipulating the shape of your oral cavity.

The Oboe Unbound  by Libby Van Cleve contains fingerings for a variety of instruments.

Click here to read more about multiphonics.

Click here to watch Christopher Redgate talk about multiphonics

Click here to watch Heinz Holliger performing Studie über Mehrklänge (1971) for Solo Oboe by Heinz Holliger

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10. Reed only

Some composers ask for the oboist to play the reed only and get specific pitches. Generally a more vibrant than normal reed is needed to get a large range of note possibilities.

Here is an example of a piece with the oboe reed alone: PDQ Bach’s Iphigenia in Brooklyn, Mvt IV “Dying

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11. Rheita (Rhaita) style

This technique is named after the double reed instrument from north-west Africa. It is nearly identical in construction to the Arabic mizmar and the Turkish zurna. To perform in this style, put the reed mostly in the mouth, creating a more brilliant, less focused sound. The most well-known classical composition featuring this technique is the Oboe Concerto written by John Corigliano.

John Corigliano, Oboe Concerto, Rheita Dance with Bram Nolf, oboe

Here is a video of the original instrument the technique is named after (the Rhaita or ghaita)

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12. Singing and playing

 It is possible to sing and play the oboe at the same time. Experiment with air pressure and embouchure shape to accomplish this.

Christopher Redgate and singing while playing

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13. Vibrato effects

There are many different ways to vary the speed and size of vibrato. For a demonstration of some of the possibilities, see:

Christopher Redgate and vibrato effects

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original1.Teaching Woodwinds Cover smallLearn more about extended techniques with Teaching Woodwinds: A Guide for Students and Teachers. It’s a comprehensive resource perfectly suited for university woodwind technique classes, band directors needing woodwind details, or anyone looking for in-depth information on how to play flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, or saxophone. Teaching Woodwinds is the only resource of its kind: a book and a website. The book contains playing exercises for each instrument, group exercises in score form, and fingering and trill charts. The website contains information about how to play each instrument including sub-chapters on getting started, technique, intonation, tone and much more, and offers over 300 full color images, 130 videos, audio files, PDF downloads, PowerPoint/Keynote quizzes, and hundreds of links. Designed to be a lifelong resource, the platform of a book and website has provided the authors with a rich palette with which to deliver the content with clarity and precision. This format serves as an effective woodwind methods curriculum, and will continue to be a valuable resource for music educators long after graduation.

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