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Since writing “The Really Easy Oboe Book” for Faber Music about 30 years ago now, I have been regularly asked when I was going to write another book along the same lines. I have finally responded to these requests with “Forging Ahead on the Oboe”.
The features which oboe teachers seem to particularly like about “The Really Easy Oboe Book”are:
a) all the material is original
b) it encompasses a wide variety of styles
c) it is progressive
d) the piano accompaniments are straight-forward and playable by ‘non-pianists’.
I have written the new book using this same set of criteria. “The Really Easy Oboe Book” was written for players of Grade 1 – 2 standard. This new book continues where the former publication left off, addressing the Grade 3 – 5 level. As the oboe parts are a little more advanced than in my previous book, it is inevitable that the piano parts are also slightly more advanced in the new one. They are, however, still playable by second or third study pianists. As I, myself, am to piano playing what Julie Andrews is to Rugby League, I have worked to the remit that if I can play the piano parts, – anybody can! The book is currently on the Trinity Exam Syllabus.
As with “The Really Easy Oboe Book”, although the book is a set of pieces to be enjoyed by young oboists, there is a carefully planned study element which underpins the whole series of pieces. The book is designed to progressively introduce new notes, new techniques and new musical issues as they become appropriate. Indeed, this is one of the key aspects of the book.
Both teachers and pupils seem to prefer books which contain a mixture of styles and idioms rather than books which focus on just one type of music. The new book reflects this preference.Below is a full list of the 20 pieces contained within the book, complete with practice notes (which are also provided with each copy). This will give you a comprehensive view of the whole book and its contents.
FORGING AHEAD ON THE OBOE
1. Mexican Twilight Always look at the title of a piece as this will often give you good clues as to how the piece should be played. Try to play this opening piece in as relaxed a manner as possible to get across the atmosphere of a sultry evening down Mexico way. (Key: C major)
2. Spooky Waltz As with the first piece, the title clearly gives you the character of the piece. The ‘spookiness’ is particularly apparent in the second half where trills are used to eerie effect. Note the fingering for these trills. To trill on ‘C’ we need to use a trill key. On some oboes you will have the choice of either a left-hand or a right-hand option; on others it will be available only in the left hand. The trill on ‘B’ can be done either with the side-key (sometimes called the banana key for obvious reasons) or with the first finger of the right-hand, depending on the system of your oboe. Never trill with the thumb! (Key: E minor)
3. Leprechaun’s Day Off This is the first tune in the book which uses compound time.Spotting compound time is easy. If the top number of the time-signature is a multiple of three (i.e. 6, 9, 12, etc.) you are in compound time. It is a happy piece in the style of a jig. There are two short three note chromatic groups at the beginning of the main theme which take you through both the right-hand C# and D# keys. Keep the little finger extended right from the start, ready to take these keys when needed. (Key: G major)
4. Time to swing With the growth of wind bands and lots of popular and jazz-based music for young players, it is necessary to know about ‘swing-time’ from a fairly early stage of learning. In the first bar of the oboe part (Bar 5) think “humpty-dumpty” and this will give you the correct swing ‘feel’ for the rest of the piece. The range of this piece takes us up to top ‘C#’.(Key: D major)
5. Ballroom Scene With a waltz like this, it is necessary to count just one-in-a-bar. Trying to count three at this speed will just be too mind-bending. I would, however, recommend slow practice in three at first to get the rhythms firmly fixed in the brain. Pay particular attention to the cross-rhythm in Bars 21 – 24, and Bars 40 – 43. Top ‘D’ makes its first appearance in the book. (Key: A minor)
6. Right Fork Hoedown In the middle section of this tune, the forked-F fingering is used several times; in particular, the cross-fingering created when the ‘F’ comes between a ‘D’ and an ‘E’. (No cheating please!) One other bit of fingering which needs some care is the slurred change from ‘G#’ to ‘A’ in the upper register. Make sure that you add the side octave-key as you make the move or the top ‘A’ will be flat. If you have a simple system oboe with separate octave-keys you will need to release the back octave-key at the same time or the ‘A’ will be sharp!
(Key: F major)
7. Fresh Ayre This is another piece in compound time. The length of the bars changes periodically but don’t be thrown by that. Just keep counting the beats and the bars will look after themselves. It is in the style of a Siciliana which is a lilting dance. You will find more forked-F’s in this piece. When playing in flat keys you are very likely to meet quite a few forked-F’s. (Key: G minor)
8. In anticipation Here is another piece in swing-time. This one has a bluesy feel to it. A rhythmic device often found in jazz and popular music styles is called an anticipation. The simplest way to explain this is that notes which feel as if they are going to come on the beat actually arrive slightly before the beat. In Bar 3 for instance, the bar where the oboe begins, the quaver ‘D’ at the end of the bar anticipates the first beat of the next bar and is tied to it. You will find other examples throughout the piece. Look particularly at Bars 15 & 16 where you will find three within just a few beats. (Key: D minor)
9. Ducks on parade This slightly silly piece uses the dotted-quaver/semiquaver rhythm. Make these very clearly defined and in character with the military nature of the music. Be very careful when the dotted-rhythm is adjacent to a triplet. Ensure that the two patterns are precisely contrasted. You will also find top ‘Eb’ appearing in this tune. (Key: Bb major)
10. Alpine Serenade So far in the book all simple times have had a crotchet beat. Here we have a change with three minims in a bar. Resist the temptation to count in 6 crotchets. The tune is fairly slow so you shouldn’t have any problems once your brain has got used to the idea! (Key: D major)
11. Madrigal Notice the time-signature of this piece. The ‘C’ with the vertical line through it is known as alla breve and is another way of writing 2/2, – two minims in a bar. Although it will probably help to count in crotchets when doing slow practice, resist the temptation to slip into a crotchet count when playing it up to speed. Take particular care with the dotted-crotchet/quaver rhythm when counting in minims. (Key: B minor)
12. Peesovold Rag As with many ‘rags’, the time-signature is 2/4 yet it is much easier to count it in four quavers (as with, probably, the most famous rag of all, The Entertainer). Ragtime is an abbreviation of ragged time, so called because of the syncopated nature of the music. Feeling the quaver pulse and fitting the syncopated rhythms around it are the two issues in this number. (Key: Eb major)
13. Elegy Again, rhythm is an important issue with this piece. In the second half the quaver/two semiquavers pattern becomes the dominant figure. To count this accurately you could use the French time-names, “Ta-tefe”, or, on a more morbid note, “Dead body”. You will find a number of forked-F’s in this piece, even a trill on a forked-F in the penultimate bar. To achieve this trill just wiggle the first finger of the right hand. (Key: C minor)
14. Swing Waltz Here is yet more swing; this time in the form of a waltz. You should be getting the hang of the swing quavers by now. On the technical side, octave-key changes are frequent in this number especially that tricky one from ‘G#’ to ‘A’. (Key: A major)
15. The ghost walks We have dealt with issues of counting in minims and quavers as well as in crotchets. Here is another counting issue; – an unusual number of beats in the bar, in this case, five. The pulse is a plodding quaver count with the quavers in each bar grouped in three and then two. As we near the end, a technical issue arises, the playing of quiet low notes. Keep the embouchure very relaxed for these or you are likely to have a rather wheezy and asthmatic ghost! (Key: F# minor)
16. Parlour games Generally speaking, musical phrases are of predictable length; – but not always. Sometimes music doesn’t always go where you expect it to go and do what you expect it to do. The purpose of this piece is to train you to deal with irregular phrase lengths and unexpected twists and turns. Another technical issue is introduced here, the left-hand Eb/D# key. When moving between ‘Db’ & ‘Eb’ in this piece you must use the left-hand Eb key thus alternating little fingers as you make the change. Do not cheat by trying to slide between the two right-hand keys or Father Christmas will not give you any toys next year!! (Key: Ab major)
17. Look sharp! In this number I have introduced double-sharps, which are marked ‘x’. The two that you are most likely to meet are on ‘F’ and ‘C’ and you will find them both here. A sharp raises a note by one semitone; a double-sharp raises the note, logically, by two semitones (a whole tone). Try not to think of ‘Fx’ as a ‘G’ and ‘Cx’ as a ‘D’ or you might find that you get confused over the other sharps in the bar. It does take a bit of getting used to. You may well find that your brain objects to start with. You will need to use the left-hand D# in this too. Remember what I said in the previous number and don’t try to cheat. We meet top ‘E’ in this piece for the first time. (Key: E major)
Three animal pieces
The final three pieces may be used individually or together as a little concert suite.
18. March Hares The two main issues here are octave leaps and changing time-signatures. Try to visualise the March Hares bouncing unpredictably around a field to get the character of the piece. The time changes flip between 2/4 and 3/8 so you will have to concentrate very hard to feel the different patterns. I have also introduced top ‘F’. If you can play top ‘E’ in the previous number then top ‘F’ won’t be a problem. On most modern oboes top ‘F’ is the easiest note in the third register both to hit and to tune. (Key: F major)
19. Shire horses Paint a picture of these wonderful animals as they plod their way over the field pulling the plough behind them. Concentrate on producing a full resonant tone by relaxing your embouchure and supporting the sound with the diaphragm. (Key: F minor)
20. Spring lambs This piece rather speaks for itself. Play with as much joy and bounce as you possibly can and emphasis the staccato throughout. As with all three of these “Animal pieces”, try to make the audience ‘see’ the animals in action. (Key: F major)
As music publishers are only interested in music which fits their current projects or series, I am publishing “Forging Ahead on the Oboe” myself. The book is, therefore, only available directly from me at present, – although this may change in the future.
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