The Oboe

he oboe is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. It is classified as a soprano-range, double-reed woodwind instrument of 2 foot length. The oboe was first referred to as an hautbois when it appeared in the 1600s.
The oboe is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. It is classified as a soprano-range, double-reed woodwind instrument of 2 foot length. The oboe was first referred to as an hautbois when it appeared in the 1600s. It spread quickly throughout Europe and was known by a variety of names including howboye, hautboit, hoboy, and hautboy. The oboe long black cylinder with metal keys covering its holes, and its mouthpiece uses a double reed, which vibrates when you blow through it. Traditionally, Oboe is made from African Blackwood, also called grenadilla, the instrument is made in three parts.



The three main parts of Oboe's body including the bell, lower joint, and upper joint. The top joint has 10 or 11 holes, most of which are manipulated by the player's left hand. The bottom joint also has 10 holes, for most of which the player uses the right hand. The bell section has two holes, covered with keys, which are not often used by the player.  Its wooden tube is distinguished by a conical bore expanding at the end into a flaring bell.

There are usually 2 to 4 oboes in an orchestra and they produce a wide range of pitches, from haunting sounds to warm, velvety smooth notes, which make the sound of the oboe very memorable. In addition to playing in the orchestra, the first oboist is also responsible for tuning the orchestra before each concert. Listen for the special note "A" that the oboe plays before the music begins.
The modern oboe's range extends from the B-flat below middle C (B3-flat) to the A nearly three octaves higher (A6). Sounding a fifth below the oboe is the English horn and the bass member of this family is the bassoon. The oboe is slightly lower in pitch than the flute and so occupies the alto register in the woodwind section. The cor anglais is a larger relative of the oboe, lowe in pitch and is often featured for its more resonant, melancholy tone. Until the clarinet was invented it was the military band's main instrument. From the 1800s on the oboe has served as the tuning note in an orchestra.



Oboes are still hand made by expert craftsmen who are very secretive about the dimensions, size of aperture, etc. used in the construction. A musician who plays the oboe can be referred to as an 'oboe player' or an 'oboist'.

Oboe History
The oboe shares some common ancient ancestry with others in the woodwind family, most especially the bassoon. Both instruments evolved from a family of Middle Age instruments known as shawms, which were themselves descendants of Greek and Roman double-reed instruments known as "aulos" that saw use primarily in military settings.

Shawms were popular early wind instruments made with either single or double reeds and were a common sight in Middle Age Europe. One family of shawms called "bombarde" or "pommer" shawms had a cylindrical tube with seven sound holes capped with a flared end and were played with a double reed. The highest ranged of these, the treble shawm, later evolved into the oboe while the lowest, the contraoctave, greatly influenced the bassoon in later centuries.

During the 17th century, a later version of treble shawm known as the "hautbois" evolved which allowed the player to place their lips on the double reed directly. This provided the player with more freedom of expression on the instrument. The hautbois also came apart into three sections and had more keys than the shawm.

The regular oboe first appeared in the mid-17th century, when it was called a hautbois. This name was also used for its predecessor, the shawm, from which the basic form of the hautbois was derived. The oboe was developed in France from various older double-reed instruments, which the oboe, with its greater expressive and dynamic range, largely displaced by the 18th cent. It was soon used in the orchestra, possibly as early as 1657, and was the principal orchestral woodwind throughout most of the 18th cent., the flute and clarinet gaining an equal footing only late in the century. It was also a favorite solo instrument, and it has an extensive solo and chamber-music literature from the baroque and early classical periods.

In the 19th century, although retaining its importance in the orchestra, it was rarely employed for solo purposes. In the 20th century its solo use has increased.
In the 19th century, although retaining its importance in the orchestra, it was rarely employed for solo purposes. In the 20th century its solo use has increased. It was gradually improved mechanically, notably in the 19th cent., and the Conservatory model, developed in France, is most used now. The oboe d'amore, pitched a minor third lower than the oboe, was much used in the baroque era, especially by J. S. Bach. It fell into disuse thereafter, but has been revived in the 20th cent. Its tone is less brilliant than that of the oboe.

The oboe da caccia is an early version of the English horn, pitched a fifth lower than the oboe and therefore a transposing instrument. Oboes of this size were known by 1665, and Purcell scored for one in his Dioclesian (1691). A curved form, often with the present instrument's characteristic bulbous bell, appeared in the 18th century and was employed occasionally by Bach, Haydn, and Mozart.

Types of Oboe
There are four types of oboe: baroque, classical, Viennese and modern. Each instrument has a different tonality and/or range.

The Baroque Oboe

The Baroque oboe was generally made from boxwood and had three keys; a "great," and two side keys. The side key was often doubled to facilitate use of either the right or left hand on the bottom holes. In order to produce higher pitches, the player had to "overblow," or increase the air stream to reach the next harmonic. Notable oboe makers of the period were Denner and Eichentopf in Germany, and the father-and-son makers Stanesby Sr. and Jr., in England. The range for the Baroque oboe comfortably extends from C4 to D6. With the resurgence of interest in early music in the mid-twentieth century, a few makers began producing copies to specifications from surviving historical instruments.

The Classical Oboe

The Classical period brought an oboe whose bore was gradually narrowed, and the instrument became outfitted with several keys, among them were those for the notes D-sharp, F, and G-sharp.
The Classical period brought an oboe whose bore was gradually narrowed, and the instrument became outfitted with several keys, among them were those for the notes D-sharp, F, and G-sharp. A key similar to the modern octave key was also added, called the "slur key," though it was at first used more like the "flick" keys on the modern German bassoon. Only later did French instrument makers redesign the octave key to be held open for the upper register, closed for the lower. The narrower bore allowed the higher notes to be more easily played, and composers began to more often utilize the oboe's upper register in their works. Because of this, the oboe's tessitura in the Classical era was somewhat broader than that found in Baroque works. The range for the Classical oboe extends from C4 to F6 (according to piano note frequencies), though some German and Austrian oboes were capable of playing one half-step lower (B4).

The Viennese Oboe

In Vienna, a unique oboe has been preserved with its bore and tonal characteristics remaining relatively unchanged in use to the present day.
In Vienna, a unique oboe has been preserved with its bore and tonal characteristics remaining relatively unchanged in use to the present day. The Akademiemodel oboe, developed in the early twentieth century by Hermann Zuleger, is now made by a select few makers, notably Guntram Wolf and Yamaha. Apart from its use in the major Viennese orchestras, which continue to exploit the Akademiemodel's unique musical color, it is not used.

The Modern Oboe
The modern oboe is most commonly made from grenadilla wood (African Blackwood), though some manufacturers also make oboes out of other members of the dalbergia family of woods, which includes cocobolo, rosewood, ebony, and violetwood. Student model oboes are often made from plastic resin, to avoid instrument cracking that wood instruments are prone to, but also to make the instrument more economical.


A modern oboe with the "full conservatory" ("conservatoire" outside the U.S.) or Gillet key system has 45 pieces of keywork, with the possible additions of a third octave key and alternate (left little finger) F or C-key. The keys are usually made of nickel silver, and are silver or occasionally gold-plated. Besides the full conservatoire system, oboes are also made using the English thumb plate system. Most have "semi-automatic" octave keys, in which the second octave action closes the first, and some have a fully automatic octave key system, as used on saxophones. Some full conservatory oboes have finger holes covered with rings rather than plates ("open-holed"), and most of the professional models have at least the right hand third key open-holed. Professional oboes used in the UK frequently feature conservatoire system combined with a thumb plate. With this type of mechanism the oboist has the best of both worlds as far as the convenience of fingerings is concerned.

Anatomy of Oboe

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