|Some of the more
frequently asked questions about Blow & Blast
woodwind ensemble workshops and the Blow & Blast
lunchtime woodwind band.
Do I need an instrument?
If you no
longer have an instrument or you have never played
link has some useful tips. You might also like
to consider coming to one of our
Do I need to be able to read
although, in an Introductory/Easy group, basic
recognition of pitches and note values in
Orchestral and chamber
music are written traditions.
Poor or non-existent
reading skills severely limit the music to which the
player has access.
Are five notes really sufficient
for the Introductory workshop?
only if you can already read music and have some
other relevant experience.
Obviously, you will
enjoy the workshop far more if you have progressed a
If your range of notes is very
limited, it is particularly important that you
specify exactly what you can manage at the time of
booking, so that appropriate parts can be arranged
I’m ‘borderline’ – should I come
to an Easy/Improvers or Intermediate workshop?
depends on your personality and previous experience.
If in doubt, most
players opt to come to the Easy/Improvers workshop
first, as this is a good confidence-builder.
Remember that you can
gain as much - or more - from being one of the best
of a lesser group than playing the easier parts with
The woodwind band caters for a
mixture of standards, so is a good way to discover
how well you will manage alongside people who
already participate in the Intermediate group.
happy for ‘borderline’ players to attend both the
Easy/Improver and Intermediate workshop.
all day makes huge demands on a player’s
concentration so two workshops (or one workshop plus
band) are usually more than plenty!
What is the difference between a workshop and a
Essentially, the level of nitpicking! In the
workshops, we aim to develop your ensemble-playing
skills. Players are encouraged to attend
carefully to details of articulation, dynamics and
balance, all of which improve the overall level of
Play-along events are
more of an opportunity to enjoy group music-making,
in a context where the music has been tailored to
participants' ability levels. While we
encourage everybody to do their best, there isn't
the same emphasis on technique...in part because we,
as tutors, don't have the same expertise when it
comes to things like trombones and violins!
I'm coming to a workshop
and playalong event. What can I do about lunch?
In Birnam, the players have access to the community kitchen.
Anyone who intends coming to
both a workshop and a play-along event may wish to bring a
sandwich and help themselves to tea or coffee.
There is a lovely café
downstairs but this is better visited before or
after playing, when there is more time to enjoy what
is on offer.
Both the Perth Theatre and Concert Hall have
but it is difficult to squeeze a proper lunch in
between playing sessions.
quick snack is probably a good idea.
Am I too old?
Starting young is obviously best but it is
seldom too late to get great enjoyment out
of playing a woodwind instrument. It
is just a question of being realistic about
your rate of progress and final performance
level. Our 'Blow & Blasters' include a
number of players who have taken up
instruments in their 70s and 80s.
However, problems with arthritic fingers and
deterioration in eyesight or hearing have to
be taken into account. There can also be
issues with teeth. Frequent dental work can
make it very difficult to manage consistent
sound production, particularly on the
clarinet (or saxophone). False teeth in
themselves are not necessarily a handicap.
...whatever your age!
Would you consider running
workshops at other venues?
Have you considered similar
workshops for families or young people?
Yes, but we are rapidly running
out of spaces in our calendar!
Could I have copies of the music
to practise in advance?
Unfortunately, this hasn't proved to be practicable.
Often we do not know
the exact composition of the group until the last
minute, so it is impossible to decide weeks in
advance which pieces to play.
Also, we like to be
able to adjust the repertoire on the day depending
on how well the group is managing.
that many players feel more confident if they have
been able to practise parts in advance, so we are
still working on this one!
Why do you have so little modern
copyright and performing issues with music that has
been composed recently and, in some cases, it is
necessary to apply - and pay – for permission to
have a new arrangement.
Also, more modern
material tends to have complex rhythms so it is much
more difficult to sight-read than Haydn or Mozart!
Why do you ask for information
about instrument, standard and musical experience?
not so that we can be selective about whom to accept
– we work on a ‘first come, first served’ basis
(except for ‘extras’ in the band).
The music is specially
arranged to match the capabilities of the players.
Adult learners are a
real mixture – some are learning completely from
scratch, others already read music fluently but are
struggling with technique on an instrument that is
new to them.
Some want a bit of a
challenge; others prefer to gain confidence playing
well within their ‘comfort zone’.
never taken any Grade exams.
How do I know what
standard I am?
need to know exactly.
If you have a teacher,
ask him/her to say roughly what level you have
It is possible to look
up the requirements for the ABRSM Grade exams on the
However, it is probably
less trouble just to email us and tell us your range
of notes, what you can and can’t play comfortably,
etc, so that we can be sure to have appropriate
parts available for you.
What is the likely composition of
varies, although generally there tend to be rather
more flutes and clarinets than oboes and bassoons.
The players include a
mixture of men and women – some are parents of young
children, others are retired. Blow & Blast
participants range from an undergraduate music
student to a 90-year-old flautist who is registered
blind (although she does have enough vision to see
the music). We've even had visiting players
from as far away as New Zealand! Enthusiasm is the essential
Numbers are limited to a maximum of 10-12 players in
the workshops, so that everyone receives some
individual attention. There may be up to 25 in the band.
Why are saxophones not included
in the woodwind workshops?
The saxophone is sufficiently
powerful that it is capable of drowning out a whole
group of orchestral woodwind instruments!
Also, it is virtually impossible to come up with
music in 'beginner-friendly' keys and suitable
registers for a small group containing E flat, B
flat and C instruments.
We accept a few
saxophones in the lunchtime band but
have to limit the
number to retain the musical balance, so
first if you would be interested in coming along.
Also, we now have a separate saxophone/brass group,
which gives saxophone players access to the
'workshop'-type experience too.