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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So over the my school winter break, I've been putting in some time on the ole' oboe and flute. Flute is a regular double and I haven't put in serious practice in many years. Oboe is still 'up and coming.' After I decided to work with soft-ish reeds and quit trying to fight the reed, I've made real progress.

Sax, Flute, and Clarinet seem to make logical sense in terms of keys. Oboe seems to be intentionally designed to be difficult to play. The Eb and c pinky and F/F# are flipped and a double octave key. Saxophones lost that in the late 1800's. About ? of the keys have a purpose but I have yet to need them.

The last a most interesting item is that the more you spend on an oboe the easier they are to play. Automatic Octave Key, Third Octave Key, Left Hand F, all the trill keys, no pinky needed for Forked F, and a Low Bb. Imagine giving a beginner sax player a double octave key saxophone without bell keys and charging $2,000.
 

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Full conservatory models have three octave keys. :)

I never had much problem with the fingerings when I was doubling on the two instruments, but then again I started oboe 3 years after I started sax. Since the second octave key is on the side, and it plays OK with both the thumb and second key depressed, it was never much of an issue for me. Which keys don't you use?
 

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@A Greene

The acoustics of an instrument define, for the most part, the keywork layout. The Oboe has developed over many years, unlike the sax, and the tradition of wonderful Orchestral and Solo playing is handed down from generation to generation. There is an understanding amongst Oboe manufacturers that whilst refinements can be made in the scale and tone of the instrument, it is perilous to alter too much to make the Oboe more 'facile' to play, because changing one thing will knock on to many others, probably to the detriment of the instrument as a whole and changes are made very slowly and tested over many years. The conical bore cannot be made 'perfect' (at this point in time, or perhaps ever), so it seems to me that the Oboe's reputation as a difficult instrument to master is likely to remain for some time to come - although new the new Legere reeds may help.

I learnt Oboe and Sax concurrently when I was a kid, so I don't really see any great problems with the fingering system of the Oboe. Forked F can be difficult to adjust to, especially since you must read ahead to see if it is necessary: but there are a few fingerings I prefer on the Oboe, like middle and upper Bb and C (I use a thumbplate system here in the UK) and I am thankful that I do not have to ever touch a side key for Bb on the Oboe unless trilling. The separate octave keys can be useful when playing alternate fingerings, e.g., play a low D with the second octave key produces a beautiful upper A.
 

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I once read that the oboe is so acoustically complex that scientists aren't precisely sure what goes on inside it.
 

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I once read that the oboe is so acoustically complex that scientists aren't precisely sure what goes on inside it.
The oboe is a conical woodwind closed at one end. It is no more complex acoustically than the sax, although the narrow bore makes it more sensitive to small manufacturing variations. The aeroacoustics of the double reed are a bit more complex than those of the sax's single reed, though neither of them is completely understood. There exist oboes with saxophone keys that work fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It's coming along nicely. I just need to spend a weekend with a trill fingering chart to figure out all the little keys used for those awkward situations.
 

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It takes a while, for sure. Oboe is my second main instrument; I play it and practice it every bit as much as saxophone. Reading your post made me think back to when I first picked it up roughly seven years ago. At first, it was just "strange." Not just unfamiliar strange, but in a completely different way from any other instrument I've tried to play. It seemed to have nothing in common with the saxophone. While trying to learn, I often felt as if I was scraping a cheese grater against my forehead for a few hours per day, especially with the endurance aspect. Once you "get it," though, you REALLY "get it." It's a different animal entirely from the rest of the woodwind family, probably more so than all the other woodwinds. You need to be able to "feel it," and to "vibe with it." It's an extremely temperamental instrument. It's a lot like a woman. Very fickle, depending on the day, but if you devote enough time to her each day, after a while you start to zero in on her quirks and tendencies and learn to deal. Nowadays, I love playing the oboe, and I get a weird feeling that it loves it just as much when I play it.

As for the money-to-quality correlation, I almost completely agree. Some student model oboes are just flat-out disgraceful. On the other hand, several "professional" models out there right now are just as much a piece of garbage, even some made of wood. I'm currently on a Fox-330 Artist oboe, which is made of plastic. I prefer that to any Loree I've played. You just need to find an instrument that suits you. Just like saxophone.

Do you make your own reeds, A Greene? If you don't, I suggest you start. Fair warning, it's every bit as much a struggle as learning oboe is, but it's well worth it.

Craig
 

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Check out the current 400 series Yamaha oboes - a couple of my students play on the "duet" model and although they don't have all of the keywork, they punch WAY above their weight as far as tone, intonation, and ease of playing/making reeds for. Their pro (800) models used to be the best deal going but the price seems to have climbed quite a bit. The oboe is a genuinely hard instrument but very rewarding in the right musical situation. Get some lessons and ask your teacher to look at your reeds - they make a MUCH larger difference than on any other instrument.
 

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I started on the oboe in the 5th grade with a student Bundy. It only went down to low B and if you wanted low Bb you had to squeeze the bell with both knees to cover the open holes on either side of the bell. I later learned the saxophone for jazz in the 9th grade and it was a relatively easy transition for me. I was fortunate to have a oboist for a teacher in elementary and Jr. high school (same person) and he was not all that thrilled when I picked up the saxophone but I really liked jazz music and I knew I couldn't march with an oboe. When I went to college as an oboe major/saxophone minor I did occasionally get the fingerings of my scales mixed up during jurys. Between the two I would agree that playing the oboe is more challenging especially in dealing with reeds. I would say that getting used to the alternate fingerings is a matter of practice/repetition which is well worth the effort. The various levels of oboes makes a big difference. Like cabe777 I also played a Fox Renard 330 and I would highly recommend it to anyone at any level. I also had the opportunity to play some exquisite Loree's (one was made of rosewood and was incredible) but as a non-performance major the cost was simply too high. As for reeds we were not allowed to play on purchased reeds in college. In fact we had a practice room dedicated to making reeds from raw cane all the way to the finished reed (we purchased the tubes with cork or reused the ones we had). I know that kind investment might not make sense for doubling so finding a good source for reeds it vital to getting the sound you want. But learning to shape your reeds with an oboe reed kit (knife, mandrel, flat plaque and a cutting block) would be a good investment. I'll try to respond later with the oboe reed making book I have as it has great descriptions and pictures. Don't be discouraged by the difficulty the oboe seems to present. It is a wonderful instrument with a sound like no other and I'm sure you'll enjoy the results of your labor. Oh, and don't forget the english horn!
 

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I seem to be doing far more oboe playing than anything else nowadays, so not sure whether I should be pleased about it to be honest what with the stress that comes with it - will my reeds work well today, will I get around playing in six flats, will I get that low Eb to speak cleanly at pp, will my top 8ve vent be clear of water so my high A and Bb don't sound all croaky, will that harmonic high A or Bb speak and be in tune, do I really feel up to it today and other questionable things we have to contend with.

I've spoken to well seasoned pros and former pros who all say it never gets any easier - it's always a challenge as there are too many factors that can change from day to day just to try us.

But the main reason I took up oboe was to play its far more forgiving bigger sibling - the cor anglais. Far less stressful as oboe as it has much lower breath resistance and it will let you get way with a less than perfect reed, as well as the fact it gets plenty of the big orchestral solos in a far more relaxed and far lonelier setting than oboe.
 

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I play the oboe and started withthe clarinet to play on my village's marching band, and the biggest issue i have is the embochure. I get accustomed to clarinet more free and easy embochure and then it makes me do it wrong when i play the oboe.
 

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The illegitimate child of Methusalah and Lizzie Borden; raised by Franz Kafka.

The instrument deserves to be met on it's own at its own terms, not compared to sax, clarinet or any other reed instrument. I play it in shows, where it may sit for 30 minutes or more, then require a solo entrance played dolce...yeah, right. If you weren't humble before you played the oboe...you definitely are after playing it.
 

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I play it in shows, where it may sit for 30 minutes or more, then require a solo entrance played dolce...yeah, right.
Invariably, these gems always start on low C...
 

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OP is now 1/5 of the way further along, so that could be good.
 

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I own a C soprano sax expressly so I do not have to play oboe. However there's no mouthpiece/reed setup that will get it anywhere near that slender tone quality.
 

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I own a nice student model Yamaha oboe. I'm absolutely terrible on it. But to be honest I haven't given it the time and effort it deserves. I intend to give it more attention, but I play a bunch of instruments that I also want to improve on. I have to say that oboe is one of the hardest and requires a great deal of time and diligence. The fingering is challenging, but not insurmountable. It's the reed and embouchure that I find really demanding. I have no intention of making my own oboe reeds. It wouldn't makes sense for me, since it will never be my first, second, or even third instrument.

In the past I've had good luck with reeds from Rose Reeds. She offers a variety of strengths and levels. I've purchased a few of her medium professionals, and they've been great (as far as I can tell). At least I feel confident that if I'm having trouble, it's probably not with the reed.

More recently, I have invested in a Légère medium synthetic oboe reed. I've only started to play on this, but so far it seems promising. It plays and sounds similar to a cane reed, but with no need to soak. There's something to be said for being able to pick up your instrument any time you want and simply start playing. That makes if far more likely to get played on regular basis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
I posted this nearly 6 years ago. Shortly after posting my 5th Grade Son decided he wanted to play Oboe in the school band. Now 5 year's later, he's in 10 Grade High playing Level 6 (Freakin' Impossible) stuff studying with a player in the local symphony. He picked up saxophone on his own to play in the Jazz Ensemble at school. Kids are amazing. So I no long play oboe as he took mine.
 
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