Note: This was written a number of hours ago. I just forgot to post it.

I’m watching the end of Solti: A Celebration. I just happened across it while there’s a break in the Sharks’ game. No, I’m not really an ice hockey fan but, well, they ARE in the playoffs and they are from here and I start to get more interested when it’s a playoff game.

But back to what I planned on writing about here … it’s interesting to watch the oboists; they take more reed than I do. Of course some folks in the States take in more reed than I do as well, but I don’t think anyone here has the reed in their mouth all the way to the wrapping. (Why do I feel as if I have written all this exact same stuff before? Have I? Hmmm.) Of course they probably play on different reeds than we do here too. We have “long scrape” (or “American scrape”) reeds that, if I know what I’m talking about, Marcel Tabuteau originated. Funny, the “American scrape” was developed by a French man. Of course he was here, playing in the Philadelphia Orchestra (thus, some also call the scrape the “Philadelphia scrape” … how confusing all of this can be!). My understanding is that the oboes in the UK are somewhat different as well. I’d like to see their oboes someday. Maybe I’ll make it to an IDRS convention some year and get a chance to view them then. Time will tell.

But this whole reed thing. I’m constantly telling my students, “Corners forward! Less reed! Think “oooh” not “eeee”.” And then I see these players and I wonder what my students would think. They just might decide that I’m nuts!

And yes, I’m nuts, I suppose. But I will continue to harp on them for the embouchures. Because with our reeds I think I do know what is best. Really.

What a silly ramble. See what an opera can do to the brain? Or perhaps it’s the reeds. Or the oboe. Or everything.

Oh. And the Sharks just won. They move on. Not bad.

3 Comments


  1. My understanding is that
    the oboes in the UK are somewhat different as well.

    Our
    oboes are different – the “thumbplate” system is common over here,
    although most intermediate and professional instruments have both
    systems, which leads to some nice options for fingering. The mech on a
    thumbplate oboe is a bit simpler than a conservatoire, so the
    instruments are cheaper and harder to kill, which is good for
    students.
    Basically, the thumbplate is under the instrument,
    by the first octave key. Most of the time, you keep it held down (or
    up, I suppose) against the body of the instrument, but you release it
    for C and Bb, instead of pressing R1, as you would on a conservatoire
    instrument. It’s all good fun :-)
    Other than the fingering,
    the instruments are the same. One tends to find a few Howarth
    instruments which I believe are rare in the states, but
    Lorée and Marigaux are also popular here.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    Thanks, Max!

    Someday I have to get my hands on one of these oboes! I have heard of the thumbplate system, but I’ve never seen the oboe.

    I was watching an oboist in a Les Mis video; when she plays oboe middle D she lifted her finger completely off of the half hole key. Here we play that with the half hold uncovered, but our finger remains on the key (the only note for which I lift the finger entirely is high C#). Is this typical with the thumbplate system oboes, or is this something else entirely?

    Tell me about your reed scrape there, if you don’t mind. Do you use the short scrape? Just curious about all of this!

    A former student of mine purchased a Howarth English horn (cor Anglais there, yes?). I was impressed with it. I’ve not seen anyone playing a Howarth oboe, but I’ve heard good things about them.


  3. I was watching an oboist in a Les Mis video; when she plays oboe middle
    D she lifted her finger completely off of the half hole key. Here we
    play that with the half hold uncovered, but our finger remains on the
    key (the only note for which I lift the finger entirely is high C#). Is
    this typical with the thumbplate system oboes, or is this something
    else entirely?

    CP@2006-05-04_002No, that’s not typical at all. I know some people lift the half-hole key if they want to really “focus” (i.e. sharpen up) the note, but I’ve never had call to do that. Some instruments like to have that key totally lifted in the top register, but since there are about a billion fingerings for all those notes that’s no major surprise :-)

    I’ve only just started learning to make my own reeds, so I’d describe my scrape as “arbitrary” :-) But the reeds that I play with have the scrape which I’ve most commonly seen; it’s not exactly a classic French scrape, it’s a bit like a hybrid of the French and American styles – the picture here is of a reed made by Nick Winfield. It’s a short scrape, but with a heart in the style of the american scrape, the base is almost flat (I suppose you could call it a very wide U), whereas the French reeds that I’ve seen have a more pronounced U base.

    Our reeds are almost always wired, and not often slipped.

    Have you seen the Ledet book “oboe reed styles: theory and practice”? It looks interesting, I haven’t gotten hold of a copy yet…