As a college student double majoring in Oboe Performance and Music Education, I use a wide variety of tools to assist my everyday musical activities. I have learned, over time, that investing in and maintaining the right equipment is an important part of a musician’s success. The gift-giving season may be over, but it’s never too late to splurge on some helpful items for yourself or a fellow artist! Whether you’re a beginner just starting to build your own inventory, a professional looking to explore new options, or anyone in between, check out the below recommendations of my favorite equipment that I use on a daily basis as an oboist, conductor, and musician in general.
Oboe/English Horn Products
Everyone knows the best part about making reeds is choosing your thread color! My favorite brand is Squirrely Stash, a company that specializes in creating fun and unique threads for oboe, English horn, and bassoon reeds. Each spool is hand-dyed and made in small batches, meaning the color options are constantly changing. Additionally, I have found Squirrely Stash thread to be particularly strong, so the chances of it snapping on you while tying are quite thin. Check out their website to browse the current colors!
The ultimate first rule of reed-making is having a sharp knife. This is why another piece of equipment that has been extremely useful to me is the Harvard Double Reeds Knife Sharpening System by John Ferrillo. The Ferrillo system is unique because it provides a jig that sets and controls the sharpening angle of your knife, ensuring you are applying pressure at the same location every time as opposed to eyeballing. The elimination of the knife sharpening angle variable was especially beneficial to me as a beginning reed-maker as it allowed me to focus more energy on learning other important techniques of the trade. The complete system also comes with the option of a right or left-handed knife, emory paper, and a sharpening stone so you’re reading to scrape any reed!
I take great care in transporting my instruments safely at all times, especially as someone who owns wooden horns that are prone to cracking in less than ideal weather scenarios. Whenever I’m on the move, my oboe is always stowed away in my Altieri Oboe Bag. Altieri offers a wide variety of bag sizes, styles, and colors for many different instruments. The bags utilize multiple layers of insulation to protect instruments from the weather and are large enough to fit your standard case, music folders, and a handful of additional accessories. Most of the styles come with the option of a single strap or two backpack straps for easier carry. I tend to enjoy loading both a regular backpack on my back and my Altieri bag on my front for the ultimate hands-free experience!
As previously mentioned, it is very important to keep wooden instruments stored in as optimal of conditions as possible for their safety. Fortunately, I am able to regulate the humidity levels inside my instrument cases with the aid of DryMistat Crystal Humidifiers. These tubes, originally designed to regulate the humidity of cigars, easily fit in most English horn cases (and some oboe cases depending on the size) and maintain a comfortable humidity level of 70%. The tubes are extremely self-explanatory and only require adjustment approximately every 2-3 months, keeping your horn in great condition year-round!
One product I use for English horn playing, in particular, is a neck strap to ease the added weight and pressure on my hands. My product of choice is the Kolbl elastic strap, which features a padded leather strap for ultimate comfort around the neck. This strap is exceedingly simple to adjust and the elastic band provides greater flexibility for movement as you are playing. Browse the Kolbl website for other instrument neck strap options as well!
The options for batons are endless, but one brand manages to consistently rank a cut above the rest for me: Mollard. I am a fan of the “P” Series Batons in particular for their extremely lightweight feel and timeless look. The handle fits especially well in my relatively small hands and the ease of motion required to move the baton through space eliminates all unnecessary tension. Check out the Baton Guide on Mollard’s website to help narrow down your perfect pick!
Score studying and marking are vital parts of operating as a successful conductor. I, personally, am someone who loves using color in my scores to differentiate various markings. However, highlighters and colored pencils have always been a no go for me in an attempt to avoid making permanent mistakes in the music. My solution - erasable pens! These writing utensils have been a lifesaver, allowing me to mark with color freely and without fear of making a mistake or changing my mind later on. I have linked my pens of choice above, but there are many different brands and options out there to explore as well!
General Musician Products
Have you ever found yourself stuck with a piece of music that has too many pages, forcing you to meticulously plan and position each page turn so as to not get lost? I combat this issue with the help of Stand-Out Shelf Extenders! These sleeves easily slide on to your music stand and provide extra inches of extension when you’re dealing with numerous pages or an oversized score. Stand-Outs are compatible with the majority of standard band, orchestra, and conductor’s stands and can be adjusted to practically any position to give you just the right amount of space.
Tuners and metronomes are essential pieces of equipment for every musician. For a long time, I simply used various apps on my phone before switching to a Korg Combo Tuner Metronome - a switch I wish I had made much sooner! The TM-60 model has a large screen that allows you to utilize both the tuner and metronome functions at the same time, while still being small and sleek enough overall to fit in any case or music stand with ease.
My sheet music travels almost everywhere with me - whether it be in my oboe bag, backpack, or some other unforgiving transportation vessel that threatens to tear and crumple the valuable contents within. This is why I chose to invest in a sturdy folder built with fiberboard and vinyl to protect my music, specifically the Protec Standard with Elastic Band style. This particular model features elastic bands to strap everything in place, deep pockets to hold multiple etude books and loose sheet music, and a handy pencil holder on the side so you’ll never be caught without a writing utensil again. My folder has been keeping music safe for over six years now with minimal to no signs of wear and tear damage. I highly recommend this folder if you’re looking to increase the safety of your music!
Musicians are naturally driven and hard-working people - it’s in our blood and apparent in everything we do. So go ahead, splurge a little and make some of that hard work slightly easier with the help of quality tools. You deserve it!