Lynne Marie Mangan

Classical Musician and Educator


Eating Your Own Dog Food in the Music Business

There is a commonly used phrase in the business world: “Eat your own dog food.” It typically means that a company makes sure to use its own products, which will help validate how well the products work. Why use something that your competitor makes, or something that you are trying to make obsolete, when you can use your own product?

A classic example of “eating your own dog food” is how, in 1980, the CEO of a young company called Apple Computer sent out a memo to all staff saying (yes, in all caps), “EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY!! NO MORE TYPEWRITERS ARE TO BE PURCHASED, LEASED, etc., etc. Apple is an innovative company. We must believe and lead in all areas. If word processing is so neat, then let’s all use it! Goal: by 1-1-81, NO typewriters at Apple… We believe the typewriter is obsolete. Let’s prove it inside before we try and convince our customers.” (see this fascinating 1981 article from Inc. Magazine about Steve Jobs and Apple Computer).

How can we apply this concept to the arts?

I don’t want to make things “obsolete” – I believe the arts are inclusive. So I have a different take on eating our own dog food in the music business – or in the arts in general.
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Recommended Oboe Accessories

I’m often asked, “what tools and accessories do I need as an oboe player?” There are a myriad of tools and accessories – some are truly necessary, some are very helpful, and some are optional (depending on the skill level of the player). Below is a list of all of the tools I think most oboists need, and have included some notes on my favorite styles or brands of these products.

The best sources for these items are stores that specialize in supplying oboe and bassoon accessories. For a list of some terrific double reed specialty stores (which will ship your products by mail), visit this link: Resources for Oboists and Bassoonists.

Basic Supply List for Oboists: Every oboist, no matter the skill level, should have all of these tools and accessories!

  1. Water Container for Soaking Reeds: this is a must! It is absolutely necessary for oboists to soak their reed in water for at least 2-5 minutes before every practice session, rehearsal or concert. Soaking the blades of the reed in a small container will ensure the reed will vibrate properly. Soaking a reed in your mouth, or dipping it quickly in a water fountain, is not adequate. The reed will vibrate better, have less chance of cracking, and last longer if you soak it in a container! Many oboe supply stores sell this Tupperware Midget container with a clip attachement, allowing you to clip the soaking cup to your music stand.
  2. Oboe Reed Case: a good reed case will protect the delicate tips of your oboe reeds. I recommend “French style” (also often called “cigarette style”) cases. See this article with more details about styles and options for oboe reed cases.
  3. Swab: a silk oboe swab, such as this Gem double-ended silk swab, is important for keeping your instrument clean. Swab every time you finish playing your oboe! I personally swab my instrument several times during every playing session – approximately once every five to ten minutes! I recommend the double-ended pull-through style swabs, as they are less likely to get stuck if knotted.
  4. Cork Grease: An all-natural cork grease such as this Doctor Slick Cork Grease is less likely to dry out your tenon corks than petroleum-based cork grease. Grease your corks every couple of weeks, and whenever they feel dry or you have difficulty assembling or taking apart your instrument. This will keep the cork moisturized and less likely to tear.
  5. Cigarette Paper: Ungummed cigarette paper is extremely useful for cleaning the instrument. Use ungummed paper underneath pads to remove moisture. I always put a small piece under each of my octave keys every time I put my instrument away! Regular swabbing and use of cigarette paper keeps the “gurgles” away.
  6. Music stand: it’s impossible to practice with good posture without using a good music stand! See this article for some music stand recommendations.
  7. Metronome: every musician needs a metronome for practicing! Check out this article about metronomes and tuners.
  8. In-case humidifier (for wood instruments only): I really love the Humistat in-case humidifiers. Just fill it with water every few days, open the holes up, and stick it in your case (not inside the instrument bore itself!) Another option is the Dampit, which needs to be filled/soaked at least every other day. Despite the directions on the Dampit, NEVER put a Dampit into the bore of an oboe!
  9. Breath Builder: this is an optional, but highly recommended tool. The Breath Builder is a device which helps you breathe very deeply, expanding your lung capacity. I recommend this for wind instrument players of all skill levels!

Intermediate level-tools needed: all of the above plus:

  1. Tuner: a tuner is an essential tool for the intermediate and advanced-level player. Many good tuners also come with a metronome. For more detailed recommendations on what to look for in a tuner and/or metronome, click here.
  2. Screwdriver set: an oboe screwdriver set with different tips will give an oboist the ability to adjust all screws. Caution: make sure to get training on basic oboe adjustments before turning any screws! Oboe adjustments are very complicated, so proper training is very important.
  3. Key Oil: a needle-oiler like this makes key oil easy to apply on rods and joints. A few drops of oil in the right places every couple of months will keep your oboe’s mechanism working well.
  4. Case Cover or Oboe Bag: this is a terrific way to protect your instrument, carry your supplies and reeds, and sometimes even carry music. See this article about what to look for when considering oboe bags & case covers.

Helpful tools for the more advanced player:

  1. Instrument stands: many good quality instrument stands are available – just for oboe, just for English horn, or for both instruments. Look for a stand that is sturdy, but also easily portable.
  2. Spring Hook and Octave Vent Remover: these two tools are very useful for maintaining a good quality instrument. A spring hook is used to move springs during oboe repairs. An adjustable octave vent remover allows the oboist to remove vents for cleaning octave key holes. These tools should only be used by oboists who have been shown how to use them!

Special Accessories for English horn players include:

  • a neckstrap or English horn bell support peg – supports the weight of the instrument.

  • an accessory tray – hooks onto your stand for your water, reeds, cigarette paper, and swabs. This is especially useful when playing both oboe and English horn on the same concert!


Double Reed Gift Ideas

Great gift ideas for oboists:

  • A Padded Leather-Covered Music Folder for carrying music is on sale at Flute World for $7.95
  • Oboe jewelry, key rings, instrument tags and other fun gifts such as stationary, note cards, and pewter figurines of oboe-playing ducks can be found at Edmund Nielsen Woodwinds
  • Jewelry, Note Cards, Decals, Beach Towels and other fun gifts are available at Charles Double Reed
  • “Reed Freak” T-Shirt and a lot of great sheet music is available from Gail Waarnar Oboe Shop (call to place orders)
  • Oboe-inspired art is available from Midwest Musical Imports and OboeWorks
  • OboeWorks also has a really cool oboe mobile (it’s not on the website – call for info)!


Music Stands

A good quality music stand is one of the most important pieces of equimpent in any musician’s home! A durable high-quality folding stand is very nice for portability and saving space!

I don’t recommend the old wire folding stands, as they’re not very durable and don’t hold very much music or large books well.

If you don’t already have a good music stand, consider getting the Peak Music Stand or a folding Manhasset stand.

Both of these durable music stands are available at many retailers, including Flute World in Farmington Hills, Michigan.


Oboe Case Covers and Bags

altieri obeh bagA carrying bag for the oboe protects the instrument and ensures that reeds aren’t left behind! Many of these carrying bags have room for reed cases, tools, pencils, and music. I strongly recommend zippered Altieri Oboe Bags, which are very durable and versitile. Personally, I prefer their backpack bag which also has a handle and shoulder strap, but the standard carrying bag without a backpack option is also very good. The Altieri bags are available at a good price at many oboe specialty stores, including Midwest Musical Imports.

Note: A “case cover” is different than an oboe bag. They are form-fitting to the case, often with a small zipper pouch, but no room for music. Case covers need to be chosen specifically for the type of case the oboe is in, and do not have room for music, books, etc. If you’re interested in a case cover, contact your teacher to discuss what case cover will fit the oboe case you have.


Oboe Reed Cases

reed caseEvery oboist should have a good reed case. Not only do they look great, they also protect reeds from damage. For those who will be learning to make reeds, more reed case space is needed! There are several good reed cases available.

I recommend reed cases that will hold between 5-12 reeds (preferably 10 or 12 reed capacity). I also strongly recommend reed cases that hold reeds “cigarette style” or “French style”, instead of a reed case that holds reeds with pop-up white mandrels. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A variety of good, affordable reed cases are available from Forrest’s Music. I recommend the U-39 and U-40 reed cases (with our without leather), ranging between $19.95 and $29.95.
  • A French leather-covered 6-reed case from Edmund Nielsen Woodwinds for $32
  • Many of the Charles 12 reed cases from Charles Double Reed are very nice and durable (yes, the flask reedcase does hold beverages!)
  • Harris Reed Case makes beautifully crafted wood reedcases, and he’ll personalize it for an extra $5 if you order direct from him.
  • “Altoids”, “Crayola”, and “Hello Kitty” tins that have been made into 6-reed reedcases for $10 – very fun! Available from OboeWorks.

harris reedcase altoids reed case


Tuners and Metronomes

Korg TM40 tuner metronomeA tuner and a metronome are both essential tools for any musician. Both of these tools are incredibly helpful in developing key skills and for effective practice.

Oboists need a good tuner for when they’re asked to tune the band or orchestra. A good tuner should have the ability to sound at least one octave of pitches so the musician can listen to one pitch and tune a different pitch by ear. This is important for developing a good sense of relative pitch. It is very helpful to have a metronome that will subdivide beats and will indicate meter. It’s also convenient to have one that uses AA or AAA batteries instead of watch batteries.

All of the tuners, metronomes, and combo units I mention below have the key features mentioned above. While you may be able to find slightly cheaper prices at some online stores, I’d like to encourage you to support local music stores that carry such items. It’s nice to help our local merchants stay in business, providing us the ability to get music and some tools locally.

If you don’t already own one of these tools, it’s smart to get a combination tuner/metronome of good quality. I recommend either of the following:

  • Korg TM40 (available for $35.95 at Flute World on Orchard Lake Rd. in Farmington Hills)
  • Trevor James Tuner/Metronome (available for $39.95 at Flute World)

If you just need a tuner, I recommend the Korg CA-30 ($24.95 at Flute World).

If you just need a metronome only, I recommend the Korg MA-30 ($29.95 at Flute World).


So, you want to purchase an oboe…

Purchasing an instrument is a big step, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Oboes are expensive instruments, and owning one is a responsibility. If you’re thinking about purchasing an oboe, consider the following:

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