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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As a play-for-fun woodwind doubler (clarinet, alto sax and flute) I'd really like to try Oboe. I've always loved the sound and been intrigued by the instrument. Unfortunately it seems like very few people play it. Not many places hire out Oboes to try and they're very expensive so I'd like to get hold of a relatively cheap beginner Oboe to try (that I can resell if I don't get on with it, so at least I get some return on investment). Also so that I have more time to work with it without worrying about returning it.

Lots of people recommend Howarth S10s and new beginner Yamaha's but £800+ is a lot to drop on an instrument that I'm looking to try out and isn't my primary (at least to begin with). If I found I loved it I could always upgrade. I have found very few secondhand student Howarths and Yamahas for sale and they're still pretty pricey so I have come here for advice as unfortunately I don't know anyone who plays Oboe who I can ask.

So my question is, which of these cheaper second-hand beginner Oboes is the best of the bad bunch?

Bundy plastic Closed hole Thumbplate (likely about 40 years old with the B and F keys). I've heard that the conservatoire Bundy's aren't good but the Thumbplates are better and that closed hole and plastic is good for beginners but is this any good?

Various Buffets (wood and plastic I think, thumbplate, b and f keys but mostly open holed). I've seen mixed reviews on Buffets especially negative reviews of the Evettes so I'm thinking of steering clear of those however is an open hole Buffet better than the closed hole Bundy?

Rudall Carte. Open Holed b and f keys. My research suggested these are really old and are mostly open holed. Is this any better than the aforementioned instruments?

Various Boosey and Hawkes, open holed with f and b keys. Again mixed reviews, mostly older and open holed.

Any other suggestions I have missed that I should look out for?

Is it better to compromise on the closed holes and get a better make? I understand that plastic is recommended for beginners but is wood a good compromise for a better make? Is an open holed old Howarth (e.g. Howarth B) infinitely better than all of the above? A lot of the older instruments available seem to be open holed. Is is it better to go for whatever is newer to avoid issues or to focus on the make? Is it best to go for a better make such as a JP or Howarth and forgo the extra keywork to get a newer model?

Any suggestions or thoughts the above are welcome, especially what points to focus on. I know none of the aforementioned Oboes are going to be groundbreaking but I'm trying to work out which aspects are most important for compromising with a beginner Oboe.
The price difference between these and some of the fancier models is the difference between trying Oboe or not for me currently. As mentioned before, if I loved it I could upgrade.

Thanks!
 

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I started with oboe half a year ago (for fun doubler, too), and this is my advice:
Take some lessons on oboe. I learned, except flute, everything on my own, but oboe lessons have been very helpful. Perhaps your teacher has a beginnet oboe he/she can give you for a period of time? You'll need some reeds to, and your teacher can point you to a source. It won't work with ordering an oboe, some reeds and a fingering chart online.
Second tip, that worked for me: legere reed. Really pricey, but it plays great for me and I have no hassle with reeds any more.
Third tip: Focus on oboe for some time.
Good luck and have fun!
 
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+1 regarding lessons. I played bassoon in high school and college, and was fortunate to have a high school band teacher with a masters degree on bassoon. Double reeds are a unique beast, best learned from a knowledgeable player.

I suggest that you’ll have a better time with a soprano sax.
 

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+1 regarding lessons. I played bassoon in high school and college, and was fortunate to have a high school band teacher with a masters degree on bassoon. Double reeds are a unique beast, best learned from a knowledgeable player.

I suggest that you'll have a better time with a soprano sax.
DO take lessons. While you're at it, learn to make your own reeds. It'll help you save money and it will give you insight into what makes a good reed for YOU. You can improve a bad reed to an extent but a bad oboe reed is a bad oboe reed.

Shop around for a decent knife. You don't need an expensive Rigotti or Landwell knife.
 
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Making your own reeds as an advice for a part time doubler? That would be an expensive and time consuming way. You need something that plays at the beginning to sort out all the other problems you'll be confronted with.
 
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@RedKite As a first study Oboist at Music College, and then a professional Oboe doubler for many years, I cannot stress how much more pleasant your learning process will be if you get a good instrument in the first place. The Oboe is a very unforgiving instrument and if you buy something reasonably good it will make the difference between frustration and progress.

My advice is to go for the cheapest Howarth. The reason I say this is because Howarth will always treat you well and make sure even an elderly instrument is put into the best playing condition it can achieve for the simple reason that it's 'one of their own' - and they take their lineage extremely seriously! I learned on something like a 'B' model at school and it made the process enjoyable. A cheapo Bundy or similar will only be a frustration.

Concerning open and closed holes: closed can make things easier, but if you already play clarinet you will be OK with open holes.

Don't worry about making reeds for the time being, it can be a distraction for a beginner. Better to play for a year or two and then get some really good tuition on reed making.
But do get a good teacher right from the beginning who will make nice reeds for you.
 

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Making your own reeds as an advice for a part time doubler? That would be an expensive and time consuming way. You need something that plays at the beginning to sort out all the other problems you'll be confronted with.
Of course, a beginner should start on commercially made reeds. I began playing oboe in high school as a triple threat. With the state-provided oboe came a reed making kit. After shelling out a fortune from my minimim wage after-school job, I was eager to learn to make my own. I figured it out pretty quickly. It's not that time consuming once you get the hang of it. My reeds played better than anything I could buy at the local music store. (This was during the pre-internet era).

Unlike in the early seventies, everything is available online today. I had to reuse the fish skin (and staples) from the first four or five store-bought reeds until I figured out a way to make Saran Wrap or clear nail polish work. Now you can buy the fish skin from several places.

Aside from the reed materials, all one needs is a decent knife with a very rigid straight blade, a mandrel, a cutting block and a straight edged razor and a little manual dexterity.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the advice everyone! Due to budget constraints I decided to get a bargain Bundy (thumbplate which I've heard is better than the US versions for some reason, closed hole, plastic (so no cracking worries hopefully) with the B and F keywork) to see how I like the instrument. It won't be the best instrument in the world but I have seen some people who've started out on them or similar and I'm pretty sure it's the cheapest way to try Oboe. Hopefully I can always resell it (for probably more than I paid for it which was literal peanuts in Oboe terms!) if I don't get on with it. I intend to get some shop sold handmade reeds to make the best of it. Howarths and some other shops seem to supply these. I have done some research on reed making but for now I'll stick with reeds handmade by someone else I think until I'm more familiar with the process. I won't rule it out completely just yet though! Hopefully this will be a positive journey but if not soprano sax is always waiting in the wings if things don't go to plan! haha!
Thanks again all!
 

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Have fun with oboe! I waitet 30 years to get started and enjoy no very much to play a little handel or telemann.
All the best!
 
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