minstrel: shawm embouchere questions

Barbara Webb bwebb at inf.ed.ac.uk
Tue Nov 8 13:54:47 PST 2005

I'm not a teacher but have played shawm for some years. In my experience, 
you should use the pirouette to rest your lips against, but still be 
gripping the reed in your lips more or less like a bassoon or oboe. This 
gives both support and control for a good tone. To do so of course 
requires that the pirouette is designed to sit in the right place with 
respect to the reed. Not all modern shawn makers build them this way, and 
indeed not all modern shawm players do use the pirouette, but that does 
raise the question you ask - what else is it for? As far as I can see from 
period illustrations they have their lips against the pirouette.

I hope this helps - if you can specify the shawm maker I may be able to 
tell you my experience with that specific design. The main other factor 
with shawm tone is simply developing the strength in your embouchure. I'd 
expect a bassoon or oboe player to have little trouble, anyone else it is 
going to take some time and practice (starting with clarinet embouchure as 
I did was little help).

Best of luck - the world needs more shawm players!


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