Topic: Air "leaking"?

I've been having a problem for a few years, but it becomes more pronounced and irritating every year.  Whenever I play my oboe for more than about 30 minutes, it starts to feel like air is leaking from my throat out my nose, even though I'm trying to blow the air through my instrument.   It is really quite irritating, and when it gets bad, I have difficultly getting any air through my instrument at all.  It especially seems to be bad in spring and winter.  Does anyone know what is causing this and what I can do to make it stop?
Thanks!

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

Hi Ashley - Go to the main Index then to "Teaching - General: Solutions, Question, Tips
» Odd noise made by student"

There is an exchange frm pre Forum days which might shed a little light.

Regards Neville Forsythe

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Air "leaking"?

Hi Ashley,

This is a rather common problem, I think, and one I've had quite a bit of experience with.  Here are my thoughts:

- The strengthening idea Neville offered is quite helpful - I've had this recommended by a speech therapist. Since the soft palate is a muscle, it can easily be strengthened.  Her recommendation was to do that exercise (attempting to blow through the nose, while stopping the blowing with the soft palate) while waiting at stoplights - just occasionally throughout the day.

- I've personally found that dryness exacerbates the problem, perhaps why it seems worse in winter and spring. By this I mean both internal and external dryness. I'm constantly drinking water while practicing and in rehearsal, and I also find that generally keeping very well hydrated helps. I would hesitate to take any "drying" medications, and it may be possible that a current medication (for allergies, perhaps) may be encouraging the problem.

- Since you've had this problem for a few years, you may want to consider seeing an Ear-Nose-Throat doctor if it does not improve. It could be a simple matter of muscle strengthening, or it could just be "how you're built."

- I'm sure you've thought of this, but I have to mention it: Perhaps your reeds are harder than they need to be? If you feel like you are "working hard" to play the oboe, then your muscles will obviously feel that way, too.

Feel free to email me if I can answer any more questions.

Kendra Johnson

Last edited by kjohnson (2007-02-12 22:48:49)

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

Hi Kendra

Thanks for raising the "contra" possibility of dryness being a possible factor - I've usually found it is due to moisture, but as you point out dehydration could easily be indicated for some players. Generally we are told we don't have enough water on an average daily basis. I certainly wouldn't recommend a "drying" medication unless it was likely that a runny nose / allergy (unmedicated) was the most probable cause.

I have taken the liberty (as a Forum Moderator) to copy your suggestions onto the growing file on the Teaching section "Odd Noise..."

Other offers welcome - there are a few Doctors out there! (One GP I know whose bassoon playing daughter suffered this condition, confessed that they never were that great on anatomy!)

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Air "leaking"?

I have been playing bassoon for 2 years .and when i play long slow passages or anything above midle c for over a few minutes my lips seem to seise up and air starts to leak out around the reed. is there any way to fix this or is it just a matter of building stamina. i also switched to mediam reeds last june could that be a factor? Any tips or tricks would help as i am playng at a woodwind compatition in 2 weeks.(I am playing chanson triste by petor tchaikovsky and movements 2 and3 from sonata in g minor by francois devienne) Any help would be greatley apprecaitied.

-Mr Bassoon
9th grade bassoonist

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

Mr Bassoon wrote:

I have been playing bassoon for 2 years .and when i play long slow passages or anything above midle c for over a few minutes my lips seem to seise up and air starts to leak out around the reed. is there any way to fix this or is it just a matter of building stamina. i also switched to mediam reeds last june could that be a factor? Any tips or tricks would help as i am playng at a woodwind compatition in 2 weeks.(I am playing chanson triste by petor tchaikovsky and movements 2 and3 from sonata in g minor by francois devienne) Any help would be greatley apprecaitied.

-Mr Bassoon
9th grade bassoonist

You are just building up muscle.  If your embouchure is good (and remember there is no one "right" embouchure on the bassoon) you will develop the muscles in your face so that this is not a problem.  If you are taking lessons with a good bassoonist he or she will hopefully be able to notice if you are working too hard and help you adjust yourself to play with less tension.

Having a heavier reed will certainly wear you out faster.  You'll find as you start to make your own reeds that "medium" "soft" and "hard" aren't really accurate when used to describe student reeds.  I would guess you are playing on Jones or LaVoz right now since those are two brands I know that use the soft, medium and hard grading scale for bassoon reeds.  For those reeds it really has nothing to do with actual hardness of the cane, but rather how thick the scrape is.  Thicker is not necessarily better for the bassoon, so don't feel like you need to work your way up to a "harder" reed like your clarinet colleagues.

Last edited by Trent (2015-02-11 15:21:11)

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Air "leaking"?

The lack of endurance in younger players is a complicated one. Certainly having very heavy reeds can be a factor, but be sure that your reed is working well too. By that I mean that the wires need to be firm so that your opening stays when you are playing in the upper register where you ARE making a smaller opening with you embouchure. If the reed opening is too small or you don't have a proper opening to begin with that can create just as much fatigue as a too heavy reed. Before I went to Louis Skinner to study reedmaking my reeds were too soft to hold a pitch in the upper register easily and consequently I tired easily when playing extended passages. After working with him while I was at NEC I no longer had that problem. I hope this help anyone with this problem.

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

Check out the offerings in the teaching Section of the Forum - a posting headed Embouchre has several observations worth reading.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Air "leaking"?

All the above postings only talk about embouchure & reeds. What about the number one priority - the air supply. I'm a  mainly self taught bassoonist but do know that this is the main factor. It always mystifies me that even top quality teachers never seem able to talk about this - is it because it is a more difficult concept to get across?

Ian

Re: Air "leaking"?

I think the reason these particular answers don't refer to air-supply (important though it undoubtedly is), is that the problems described appear to be less to do with air supply, and more to do with the management of that air supply at the place of transition (odd glottal noise due to leakage) and delivery (collapsing embouchre).

Very few players complain of inability to maintain abdominal and intercostal muscle stamina - those systems are very durable albeit requiring focus for best use in producing a good sound.

However if there is something in the supply side (maybe like over-supply or blowing to hard) then by all means address any observations you may have that could be of help.

There are a number of postings on breathing techniques and management, support, vibrato, tone etc.

Perhaps the point being offered here is that unsupported breath may indeed result in overuse of the lip and jaw muscles to squeeze the reed to maintain pitch and produce high notes. A sound breathing technique will avoid much of that reed based management.

This is absolutely true.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Air "leaking"?

"Perhaps the point being offered here is that unsupported breath may indeed result in overuse of the lip and jaw muscles to squeeze the reed to maintain pitch and produce high notes. A sound breathing technique will avoid much of that reed based management."

Exactly what I have in mind.

Ian

Re: Air "leaking"?

From my review of the medical literature on this topic (the precise diagnosis is velopharyngeal incompetence or velopharyngeal stress insufficiency), exercises prescribed by an ear-nose-throat specialist may often alleviate the problem. It's always best to have the specialist see you play your istrument to help verify the diagnosis. Occasionally, surgical correction of the soft palate defect may be needed, but I'd suggest talking with the ENT specialist at some length before considering surgery.

Hope this helps.

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

I've been reading these posts and realize that I have been having both problems with air leaking out around the reed and embrochure collapse, like when my lips can't hold a steady embrochure. I was just wondering if this would have anything to do with having braces. If not, how can I change this predicament, because it is really irritating.

Darren (entering university bassoonist)

Darren Hicks
Grade 12 Bassoonist

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

I had the airleaking problem once and was told by my doctor, that it is caused by insufficient strength of that part the closes throat from nose ( I do not know how that is called in English...)

You can easily do a little bit training to get a it away: speak loudly very often words with K like: can, cong, kang.

No kidding, it helps after 3-4 days!

Michael

Share

Re: Air "leaking"?

Hi Darren

If you check out the posts at: Index » Teaching - General: Solutions, Question, Tips » Bassoon embouchure,

you will find some suggestions specifically addressing embouchure and stamina. I gather your "leak" problem is not inside your mouth at the back of the throat / into the nose passages, (which results in the "noises" complained of in this original query), but at the reed itself. This is different territory and requires the formation and development of a strong but durable embouchure. A number of other "Teaching" posts cover this matter fairly comprehensively.

Regards Neville

Last edited by NevilleForsythe (2008-08-07 03:31:34)

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor