minstrel: Re: shawm embouchere (Mary Hodges)

Barbara Webb bwebb at inf.ed.ac.uk
Fri Nov 11 02:25:57 PST 2005

> My shawm was made by John Hanchet.  It's an alto Spanish shawm in F,
> that's the F below middle C.  It has a two piece pirouette.  The more I
> play it the more I like it, except that it's almost too big for my hands
> (and I have big hands, for a woman).  I just barely got this one, and I
> now I want a C instrument.

I have a Hanchet Spanish C shawm. They are definitely made to be played 
using the pirouette to support the mouth, while the lips support the reed. 
I hope you are getting the hang of it. I find it helps a lot to soak the 
top part of the reed in water for a minute or so before playing (i.e. put 
it upside down in a glass with a little water in the bottom). I've also 
noticed that the Spanish shawm design seems to produce a more trumpet-like 
tone than my other shawms - not quite as clear, but very pleasant in its 
own way.

> I've never played a reed instrument before, unless you count the harmonica.

Then practice will definitely make a big difference! A little every day... 
One tip is that I've seen many amateur shawm players who tend to play with 
the shawm end pointed down; whereas most professionals play with it 
pointed well up (i.e. the shawn is held almost horizontal to the 
ground). I find this helps the embouchere and tone. Playing standing 
up can also help.

Good luck


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