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Why are double reed instruments so unpopular?Why are double reed instruments so...

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wanderista | Student, Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:18 AM via web

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Why are double reed instruments so unpopular?

Why are double reed instruments so unpopular in your opinion? Here is a list of the double reed instruments I mean;

  • Bassoon
  • Oboe
  • Cor Anglais
  • Contrabassoon
  • Oboe D'Amore

4 Answers | Add Yours

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2012 at 4:31 PM (Answer #2)

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I think that double reed instruments have a sound that is very deep, and not very pleasant.  Also, double reed instruments are harder to master.  Most people would typically prefer an easier, nicer-sounding instrument that sounds good on its own.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:00 PM (Answer #3)

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As the previous post mentioned, double reeds--oboes, bassoons, and English horns--are difficult to play and have an unusually "reedy," almost squeaky tone. Additionally, double reeds are not used in much popular music today aside from orchestral works--they have a sound more suggestive of centuries-old music--so most young musicians shy away from them. It takes someone with an unusually independent nature to tackle these horns when the more popular single reed instruments (clarinets and, particularly, saxophones) are more accessible and easier to play. I play clarinets and saxophones (and recorders), and I took oboe lessons for a summer. It was a much harder switch than between other single reeds, and I was never happy with the sound it (I) produced. However, I have always wanted to learn the Cor Anglais (English horn) since I love the lower range it produces in comparison to the higher pitched oboe.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:44 PM (Answer #4)

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One possible reason for their perceived unpopularity is because the are rarely the stars of a performance or performed in solos, rather they are backup or supporting style instruments.  American culture today emphasizes the power of the star and the individual.  Instruments like the saxaphone sound "cool" when played by themselves and have a certain celebrity following, the trumpet is often a featured soloist, and percussionists could go on to star in a rock band.  The simple fact is that in American culture, not just music, people don't want to play a supporting role.

My husband was a football coach, and he was always frustrated that half the team wanted to be the quarterback or the running back, but never on the offensive line.  The kids wanted the "star" positions, even if their skill set wasn't suited for the position.

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted October 12, 2012 at 10:52 PM (Answer #5)

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This is a very interesting question. I've always classed double reed instruments as specialty instruments, not as popular instruments; maybe "the times, they are a' changin'." Howsoever that may be, one quality of double reed instruments is, as others have said, their tonal range. The interesting thing about this tonal range is that it is in a speaking voice range (with variations of course). This range vibrates in the chest rather than in the head. This chest vibration creates a physically stirring sensation and, at least for some, a corresponding emotionally stirring sensation. These qualities can certainly be ascribed to these instruments' popularity and appeal. 

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