If you've been renting an oboe for a while and have decided it's time to invest in one of your own, you've come to the right place. This guide can help you decide what oboe is best for you and what key options are available. It also talks about how material can affect the sound of an oboe as that's something you'll have to take into consideration when making your decision.
First and foremost, in choosing an oboe, the musician's age and skill level should be the very first factor that needs to be addressed. What kind of use the instrument will be put through is also important. If the oboe is for a school, consulting with the band teacher is a good idea. And if it's for professional playing or personal use, asking for suggestions from a mentor or reputable music store is a great route to take.
Children at the beginning of their music education should start with a student oboe. These instruments are designed to be more durable and are usually made out of grenadilla wood or plastic. Plastic is an ideal material for younger students, while Grenadilla is great for a beginning player who started on another instrument, like a clarinet. Student oboes also have fewer keys than intermediate or professional instruments.
Intermediate oboes are made from higher quality materials, feature more keys and allow for more hand refinement. This level of instrument is ideal for students who are established and learning the fundamentals of good playing. In order for musical growth to continue, it's important that students move up to the next stage of instrument as needed.
Mostly sought after by professional musicians, these oboes are also a top favorite among more serious students. The majority of professional oboes are made of all grenadilla wood, while some are designed with a crack-proof upper joint made of plastic with a grenadilla lower joint and bell. You'll also find a system of keys referred to as a full conservatory, as this aids players in accessing certain keys, delivers an even dynamic range and is a necessary feature for advanced pieces of music.
Grenadilla wood or high quality plastics, generally known as resonate, are the materials used to make oboes. While professional oboists worldwide prefer the warm, rich tone provided by a Grenadilla oboe, the high quality of non-wood instruments being manufactured has made plastic oboes just as popular with both students and professionals. Plastic oboes are also highly stable and durable, require less maintenance and are not prone to cracking.
Nowadays, professional oboe models are being offered in plastic or with a plastic upper joint in place of traditional grenadilla wood. This is a beneficial feature as the upper joint on the oboe is the part most likely to crack due to variations in temperature and humidity.
Basic student models usually only play to low B natural but this key extends the range to low Bb. If there are open holes in the bell without a mechanism or key to cover them, then the oboe does not feature a low Bb key.
Left Hand F Key
Advanced players will find the left hand F key beneficial when performing certain passages and choosing the desired tone color. It allows the player an alternative fingering for playing F. Depending on player preference, a forked-F is another option.
Forked F and Bb Resonance Keys
These keys improve the quality and pitch of their respective notes. It's important to note that some basic student models, as well as professional Tabuteau oboes, do not have these resonance keys, so if these are keys you would like or need on your oboe, make sure the model you've selected includes these features.
Ab-Bb Trill Mechanism
Without this mechanism, creating a true trill between these two notes isn't possible, as it greatly simplifies the fingering.
G#-A Trill Key
Depression of this key simplifies the trill and improves the intonation of the A.
Double Ring D#-E
This mechanism allows an easy fingering for the trill and improves the intonation of the E.
Left Hand C-D Trill
Provides an alternative to the right hand C-D trill lever.
Auxiliary Low C
This key facilitates the low C to C# transition and simplifies the trill.
Low B-C# Trill Mechanism
Allows for a seamless transition in executing this trill.