Before I wrote my book on the EWI, I conducted a survey with many EWI players asking them what some of the difficulties were, if any, on learning to play the EWI. One of the major problems were using the octave rollers.
Woodwind instruments will have at least one octave key, operated by the thumb, but also placed opposite ergonomically opposite the middle of the hand. This is the case with a saxophone. A clarinet will have its register key slightly higher. A baritone saxophone with a low A key, will have a lever placed below the thumb rest. Bass clarinetists who play with the extended range to Low C, will have variety of options due to the lack of standardization among instrument manufacturers. Bassoonists are also quite “thumb-happy”.
The EWI USB has 4 octave rollers, and the EWI 5000 (the EWI SOLO as well) has 8 octave rollers. The resting position on the EWI USB will be between the 2nd and 3rd rollers, while the resting position on the EWI 5000 and EWI SOLO are indicated by two of the rollers have a gritty feel. These two rollers are the 3rd and 4th rollers from the bottom. The first and last rollers do not roll.
Consequently, the thumb position on the EWI is not always static. You’ll have to learn to move with more flexibility if you’re not already used to these movements.
As far as tuning the EWI (as a C, Bb, Eb, A, etc. instrument), use the tuning that you are most comfortable with at first. After you’ve gotten some practice, you may want to experiment with other tunings.
So, let’s start out with exercises for the octave rollers!
Play the following exercises concentrating solely on thumb movement.
Play various “C’s” with the same fingering.
The complete Octave Roller exercise you can download here.
This may be a small tip, but a very important step toward gaining proficiency on the EWI.