Victor Goines Visits Vandoren Musician's Advisory Studio N.Y.C.
Hello, my name is Victor Goines and I play clarinet and tenor saxophone. I’m a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, in addition to being the Director of Jazz Studies at Northwestern University.
Today we’re here to speak about a term that we use in the industry called “doubling.” A term that I don’t necessarily use as much because I like to believe that when one picks up a secondary instrument, they should be able to play each one of them equally as well. So, I want to encourage my listeners to be more proficient at playing the instruments on their own terms as opposed to thinking of them as secondary instruments. But, “doubling” is a term we use in the industry.
SELECTING EQUIPMENT FOR MULTIPLE INSTRUMENTS
The first thing I try to consider with selecting my equipment is to find things that will give me the same type of pressure on my embouchure from tenor saxophone, to clarinet, to soprano saxophone, to bass clarinet, and to alto saxophone. The more I can get the strength of the reed (not necessarily number but the strength in terms of how hard I have to bite down on my embouchure), the better I can get those things to be equal to each other, I think the better I will be able to survive as a person who plays multiple instruments -- to get a good sound across the board. I don’t want them all to feel different every time I pick up the horn. Obviously, they all are going to feel different because they’re different instruments, but the goal is to get them all to feel the same.
One thing I have done to try and work on being a better doubler, is to practice on my instruments simultaneously or in the row. So I’ll just set my soprano on the floor here next to me, and my clarinet I’ll put in front of me as well. I’ll take the cap off of my tenor saxophone. What I did at some point in my career, is I would line all of my instruments around me. There would be sopranino saxophone, soprano (saxophone), flutes, and all my other reed instruments. I would set them around me, then I would pick up one and play a scale, for instance, on each instrument, the same scale. *Plays scale on soprano saxophone* Then I pick up the clarinet and play that same G major scale *plays scale on clarinet.* Then I’ll pick up the tenor saxophone *plays scale on tenor saxophone.* Then I’ll go back and forth between all of them just continuously. You want to work on your articulation as well. And when I go through all of my instruments back and forth, I’m working on two things, and I want to be really conscious of two things:
One is I want to maintain the tone on my tenor saxophone that I feel I get when I’m only playing tenor saxophones. Because the time I have spent to prepare myself and my sound on the tenor saxophone, is really quite easy to reproduce if I’m only playing the tenor. But now, when I have to switch to clarinet and do it, you have to make that adjustment in your embouchure. I’m trying to maintain my clarinet sound independent of having to switch from one instrument to the next. I’ll take the same thing and do it on the soprano saxophone. So I’m trying to maintain the tone that’s unique and specific to each instrument along the way. The clarinet should not suffer because of the saxophone and the tenor saxophone should not suffer because of the soprano saxophone, and all around the board.
So what we’re actually speaking about, in my opinion, are two things. We’re talking about muscle memory and familiarity between instruments. You might have noticed a little bit earlier, I was very hesitant to use the world “easy.” And it comes from a philosophical view that was once shared with me by the great James Moody. In a workshop I once heard Mr. Moody say, ‘There’s no such thing as easy and difficult, only familiar and unfamiliar.’ So, the ability of one to be able to switch back and forth, between multiple instruments, and maintain the sound that’s unique to every instrument, is based upon two really, really important things. First, the familiarity with the instrument and the sound it’s supposed to reproduce and two, good equipment. That’s where Vandoren comes in.
Vandoren provides great equipment that allows you to find the product that is right for you. It can be the V16 tenor saxophone mouthpiece, it can be the M30 clarinet, it can be the S6 V16 soprano, and there’s other product that can be right for the performer along the way. It can be the Rue 56 reed, the Blue Box Traditional or the V•12’s. There’s everything for every particular individual. I’m sure you can find what you’re looking for along the way. But when you have a chance to sit down and practice, you want to find the equipment that first of all, allows you to do the job. And once you have the equipment in place, then it will allow you to take your musical skills to the next level by sitting down, and not having to worry about using equipment that is inadequate.
So, find the reeds, find the mouthpiece or mouthpieces that will work for you, put all of your instruments down on the floor, go back and forth from one instrument to the next and see what’s going to work for you when you get the product together. Practice slowly, repetitively, familiarize yourself with the equipment and familiarize yourself of what you’re trying to do and I guarantee at the end of the day, it will actually help you be a better doubler, independent musician, or whatever you want to be. It will make you a better person. Vandoren products, familiarity, practice, make it happen. My name is Victor Goines and I’m the director of Jazz Studies at Northwestern University. I’m a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. I hope I get to see and meet you soon – take care.