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Students Guide on Beginning the Oboe

About

Oboes are a treble (high) instruments in the double reed family. The oboes large range, over 2.5 octaves, allows the oboe to play long singing melodies as well as hunting tunes!

The precursor to the oboe is thought to be the shawm (see a picture of a shawm) which was used from the ~1100's. The jointed oboe, which could be manufactured more accurately, came into use in the 1600's and has been continually developed into today's 'modern' oboe. The Oboe family includes its larger and lower relatives, the cor anglais & oboe d'amore.

  • Only 65cm long
  • Uses a double reed (two pieces of cane attached to each other)
  • It has a conical bore (the hole in the middle of the oboe gradually gets bigger and bigger as you move to the one end)

Listen

Here are a few examples where you can hear the oboe!

Strauss oboe concerto played by the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra & Selcuk Akyol (oboe)

The Reed Rage Bassoon Quartet playing Bassoonist's Holiday...!

Gonzalo Ruiz playing his baroque oboe in one of Couperin: Sixième Concert for oboe

Jolivet's bassoon played by Robert Rønnes, an amazing concerto that shows off the bassoon!

Oboe Reeds

The oboe uses a double reed which means that there are two pieces of cane that are attached together. These pieces of cane vibrate when air is blown through the lips which produces the noise to play the oboe. If you are just starting or are relatively new to the oboen we recommend that you initially use student oboe reeds which are free blowing, easy and cheap. A beginner oboist requires a free blowing reed to help with the formation of their embouchure. Beginner oboists may through accident break their reeds and so the cheapness of these reeds makes the cost more reasonable. We recommend always having three oboe reeds at all times so that one breaks you always have another to play.

When you become a more advanced oboist you will have developed a good embouchure and will be very unlikely to break reeds. This means that you can move onto slightly more expensive oboe reeds that will produce a rounder warmer sound.

How do I Assemble an Oboe?

View our printable guide about assembling oboes here! (coming soon!)

Oboe Accessories You'll Need

Reed Case

A reed case helps ensure that your oboe reeds last as long as possible which saves you money in the long run! The reed case chosen should allow air to circulate freely so that the reeds can dry fully when put in the case. We suggest that a beginner has a case which holds 4 - 6 oboe reeds. This means that if one gets broken you have a 2 - 3 more ready to play so you never end up without a reed!

Swabs / Cleaning Cloths

There is one oboe swab - this is dropped down the oboe and soaks up all of the moisture from the oboe. Usually it is best to purchase a microfiber swab as these are better at absorbing the moisture.

Water Pot

Soaking reeds for 30 seconds before playing your oboe means that the reed will be nearly ready to play well once it is taken out the pot and will help the reed to last as long as possible. You can either find a film canister or you can get water pots that attach to your music stand to avoid water spillages.

Cork Grease

When parts of your instrument become stiff / hard to remove you need to apply cork grease to the cork (don't put too much though as you don't want the instrument to slide apart!)

 

 

Pencil

A pencil is vital to write down points in your lesson or to mark items into your music during an orchestral / band rehearsal. There should always be one in your case!

 

Instruments - Rental & Buying

Rental

If you wish to rent an instrument the first port of call is to talk to your local music service or 'music hub'. This is often the cheapest way to obtain a rented oboe. For other oboe rental sources please pop us an email to sales@crookandstaple.com and we will email the sources from which you can obtain one.

New Oboes

Buying an instrument for a beginner oboist is initially an unwise choice as the student my in the future may not want to continue to with the oboe. We advice you get to about grade 4 standard before considering buying a oboe. It is often wise to consult your teacher when choosing a oboe as they will have valuable advice they can offer.

2nd Hand Oboes

New oboes are quite expensive so buying a 2nd hand oboe can be a cheaper alternative. You have to be careful when purchasing 2nd hand oboes, always take the instrument to your teacher or another very experienced oboist to have the instrument checked over.

Oboe Teachers

At Crook and Staple we hold a list of oboe teachers from all over the UK. If you would like details of teachers in your area please pop us an email with what area you live in to sales@crookandstaple.com

Starter Oboe Books

Here is an example of a book you could use:

Beginner Oboe Tutor Book: Abracadabra Oboe

Tutor Book

 

Oboe Maintenance

If is important to keep your oboe in good working order. To find out more click here to view daily, fortnightly and less regular maintenance routines.

Oboe Accessories for When You're More Advanced

Metronome

This is not vital for the beginner oboist however for the intermediate oboist it is essential. Practicing with a metronome can be tedious but it pays off, it helps to build up your sense of rhythm and increases the accuracy of your fingers. We recommend that you practice scales with a metronome.

Tuner

When you are more advanced a tuner will be useful for your long note practice (which is very important for building stamina and tone quality) as it allows you to ensure your tuning it correct at different dynamics / air pressures. The use of a tuner will build any instrumentalists sense of pitch which is vital when playing. Being an oboist it is vital that your sense of tuning is very good as you will eventually be tuning the whole orchestra!

Reed Adjusting Tools

As you become more advanced you are likely to gain an interest in how oboe reeds are made. The first step is to learn how make adjustments to your oboe reeds. For more information about this and the tools you need have a look at our guide on how to make adjustments to oboe reeds.

Oboe Stand

A oboe stand it useful for the intermediate oboist. When playing in a concert you may have a lot of rests and it is often beneficial to put the oboe down for a few minutes. Another reason to get a oboe stand is that it will encourage younger oboists to practice more often as they won't have to put the instrument away between playings, although I would suggest clean the instrument with a swab to remove the moisture from the instrument.

 

For more info about learning the oboe have a look at the resources in the top left and the website 'Learn to Play the Oboe'

 

This Article Was Written / Collated By

Matthew Petrie

 

Double Reed Expert at Crook and Staple

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