Samek Music

Tips & Advice

Helping a student - TIPS & ADVICE

In offering tips and advice, it is not for me to interfere with your methods or your teacher’s. Opinion is just that; if it’s offered too freely and without due consideration to the individual needs of the recipient it can be divisive, even when delivered by the most qualified or experienced person.

The most successful learning ultimately comes from self-developed tools and methods which in turn give ownership and commitment to the practice and performance process.  

We’ll be taking various topics and exploring them in greater depth using both the written word and video. These will include ideas to support your practice and ways of developing your own practice.

We will also launch a series on warmups (my favourite topic!), scales and technique. Choosing repertoire, preparing for a performance, understanding and dealing with the various forms of anxiety including task and performance anxiety will all feature here in time.


First off, the most important component we use: reeds.

On a purely practical basis, trying reeds can be a very confusing process. What are we looking for? While I will again write more extensively on the subject, I would offer some immediate suggestions. Ask yourself clear, articulate questions. So for reeds:

  1. Do I like the sound my reed is making?
  2. Is the strength appropriate for me? Reeds are more prone to get softer not harder. So bear that in mind.
  3. Does my reed offer me focus and security throughout the range?
  4. Most importantly, when you find the reed you love, don’t play on it longer than 15-20 mins the first day, 30-40 mins the second and 1-1.5 hours on the third. After that it will be good to go. This restraint will ensure your reed lasts much longer. Play on a reed too long at the beginning and  it will peak and blow itself within a few days, if not a couple of hours.
  5. On a final note, don’t feel you have to use fancy language to describe the way your reed sounds. It’s about what is meaningful to you!  Here are some ideas for vocabulary. Is the reed: centred, rounded, too resistant, too soft? Are top notes secure with this reed? Are the low notes centred or slightly buzzy?

Coming up next – some help with trying mouthpieces….