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Improve Your Doubling: Advanced Studies for Doublers by Chris Vadala

The world of woodwind doubling is foreign to many performers, certainly those from a "classical," or what has become known as a "legitimate, or "legit" background. It is more of an issue among jazz players, particularly saxophonists and those who deal with the practicalities of commercial music. The practice grew out of the need for players to cover parts on more than one instrument in the big bands of the 1920s and 30s and spread to the pits of Broadway shows and the TV staff orchestras at NBC and CBS. Saxophonists were initially expected to double on the clarinet until it was largely replaced by the flute in the 50's as it saw more acceptance in jazz. The 60's brought new colors adding oboe and bassoon parts for doublers--or triplers--to deal with until players such as the legendary Romeo Penque appeared on the New York studio scene prepared to play every woodwind instrument known to man often in quick succession a situation further complicated by the re-emergence of the clarinet on the 1980's. I counted over 20 instruments stacked up in front of the five-piece reed section of the Maria Schneider Orchestra at a recent concert. Woodwind doubling is here to stay!

For many years classical artists have tended to dismiss their doubling counterparts as inferior seeing them as saxophonists with a secondary instrument. This is changing however as college jazz departments now expect woodwind students to approach all their instruments as primary as far as performance standards are concerned. One of the principal movers in this effort has been woodwind specialist Chris Vadala his book Improve Your Doubling has been an essential source for students looking to improve these skills.

Focusing equally on flute clarinet and saxophone Vadala presents a series of etudes that require the student to switch between the three instruments while addressing fundamental performance issues--intonation articulation dynamics--technical challenges such as fingering choices register contrasts vibrato formation etc. and stylistic contrasts encountered in the various repertoires associated with each instrument. Acoustic differences between the instruments are explored along with exercises to create uniformity of technique among them. "Extended" techniques are examined along with studies in extreme ranges. One feature that I especially like is that Vadala requires the student to deal with the kinds of demands that working musicians encounter on a daily basis outside the confines of symphony orchestra or chamber ensemble such as requiring the student to transpose at sight or harmonize a given line. Vadala is nothing if not thorough. He has put years of practical experience into these exercises and it shows.

In the introduction Vadala writes "To be a woodwind artist in this day and age is to be a doubler . . .versatility is more of a necessity than an option." That being the case Improve Your Doubling should be an indispensable part of every woodwind player's training.

Additional Info

  • Book Title: Improve Your Doubling: Advanced Studies for Doublers
  • Author: Chris Vadala
  • Publisher: Dorn Publications - www.dornpub.com/dornbook.html
  • Year Published: 1991
  • Book Type:: Musical Instruction
  • Rating: Four Stars
  • Number of Pages: 80
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