Oboe Overview and History
The oboe is one of the most important instruments in the orchestra or band. It made its debut in France in the mid-1600’s, but it has very early roots that date back to ancient Greece. The oboe that we know today is called the “hautbois”, which is French for “high wood”. The oboe is mostly made out of grenadilla wood and consists of three main pieces: the top joint, the lower joint, and the bell. It has a very narrow bore (the tube in which the air travels through the instrument), which gives it its high-pitched and somewhat piercing tone color.
Where to Purchase
Oboe Brands and Models for Beginners
- FOX Renard Protege Model 333 Oboe
- FOX Renard Artist Model 330 Oboe (slight upgrade)
- YAMAHA YOB-441A Oboe
Oboe Brands and Models for Intermediate Players
Selecting an Intermediate Oboe:
- Tone quality
- Intonation (use a tuner!)
- French Conservatory System
- Standard key configuration that is sold in the United States
- The F Resonance Key: This is one of the most important features on your instrument. It provides extra resonance (better quality “deepness” in your tone) in your sound while you are playing the forked F fingering.
- The left-hand F key is also desirable. It would be used instead of the forked F fingering.
- BUFFET Model 4052 Intermediate Oboe
- Fox Renard Model 330 Oboe
- Fox Renard Model 335 Artist Oboe
- Yamaha YOB 441 Intermediate Oboe
Some instruments are written in concert pitch. This means that when that specific instrument plays a “C”, a “C” comes out. To transpose means that the player is playing an instrument that sounds a different pitch (higher or lower) than the pitch they are presently reading on the staff. Oboists are lucky- you are in concert pitch and you do not have to transpose!
Hand Position and Posture
Embouchure and Sound Production
The sound generator of the instrument is the reed, and it is quite temperamental.
You must have a reliable source for reeds. You should be purchasing hand-made reeds at first, and eventually, hone your reed-making skills so that you may tailor your reeds to your exact specifications as a player. Purchase a “medium hard” reed, which will provide a good amount of resistance. If the reed is too hard, you can adjust it by rubbing fine sandpaper over the the heart (or thick hump) behind the tip of the reed.
SOAK YOUR REED: Use lukewarm water (not saliva) to soak while you are assembling your instrument.
Oboe Embouchure (the way in which a player applies the mouth to the mouthpiece of a wind instrument):
- Bring the corners of your mouth firm and forward, against the teeth.
- Jaw should be separated, chin down, tongue down.
- Use the syllables “ah” and “oo” to shape your acoustical chamber, or the inside of your mouth.
- Lips should be firm and “springy” and act as a cushion for the reed. Avoid a tight lip or “eee” position (produces a thin tone, sharp pitch).
To Crow the Reed:
- Lay the tip of the reed at the line of your bottom lip. Gently roll the bottom lip in so that the reed barely extends into your mouth.
- Your top lip should cushion and seal the reed from above.
- Inhale deeply, blow into the reed while making both reeds vibrate together.
- Have your teacher listen to you to ensure that you are producing a healthy octave “crow” before you insert the reed into your oboe.
Oboe Fingering Chart (Fox Fingering Guide)
Out of Tune Notes
For most of your out of tune notes, the most effective way to adjust pitch is to change the amount of reed in your mouth and the amount of tension in your embouchure.
Notable Oboe Players