I occasionally like to post about things to think about when beginning oboe. It’s not an easy instrument for many beginners. It is not cheap. If you purchase an oboe without consulting an oboist or reputable store that specializes in oboe you will probably wind up with a not-so-great instrument. Reeds are frustrating and cost a lot of money.

Sounds discouraging, doesn’t it?

I don’t like to be discouraging, and while I complain frequently about reeds, I do love the instrument, and I especially love teaching the younger students. It’s so much fun to watch them figure things out and finally get that great oboe sound!

But please, here are just a few bits of advice:

  • Find a teacher that actually plays the instrument. If your instructor isn’t ever playing for you and with you, you might be dealing with someone who doesn’t really play well. The teacher doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional musician; sometimes the top players aren’t even the best teachers (especially for beginners). But the teacher does need to be able to play the oboe. It’s rather important.
  • Get a good oboe. It doesn’t have to be a professional model. In fact, for the younger student, I recommend a resin (plastic) oboe at first. But it really should have the left F and low B flat keys. (I actually prefer that it also have the articulated C#, but I know I’m picky.) A Fox Renard 330 (better than a 333 even though the number is lower) is a good place to start. There are other good instruments as well, and I’m happy to help you with that.
  • Know that you will go through reeds quickly. Expect to spend money on reeds. Good reeds aren’t cheap, but cheap reeds aren’t good.
  • Oboe can be frustrating at times. There is a lot of back pressure and that takes some getting used to. We all have our bad days. Oboe requires patience and diligence.
  • If you are a beginner and you can practice for an hour, odds are you are doing something wrong; it takes time to build up those mouth muscles.
  • Practice regularly. (I do allow one day off each week, but I require my students to practice six days a week. They usually choose the lesson day as their day off, so they are actually playing every day.)

    I’m sure I could come up with other things, but that’s enough for now. After all, it’s nearly lunch time! :-)

10 Comments

  1. Yeah…I don’t think I’m going to take up the oboe now. :P

  2. Oh man … I was that discouraging? Sigh.

    I thought you were about to schedule lessons, too. Ah well.

  3. You weren’t that discouraging! If anybody gives up that easily, then it was the right thing to do. One suggestion about instruments; I played the Sierra oboe, I believe, by Chudnow and was really impressed with it. Better than all the Marigaux’s, Linton’s, Bundy’s and other beginning nightmares I put up with in the beginning. Marigaux was actually the best of that lot, but without a stable, decently in tune instrument, it’s a struggle.

  4. I was actually just teasing SongMonk, as I’m sure he wasn’t planning on studying oboe … but I did wonder if my entry was a wee bit discouraging to some. Still, I’d rather be honest!

    I’m going back up to Mark’s next Tuesday, and I’m hoping to try the MCW oboe … I’ve heard good things, and I have several students looking for oboes. I heard he only has one available … maybe they’ll have to arm wrestle for it! :-)

    I love my Marigaux oboes, but I’m sure I could get something better now if I had the $$. Oh well!

  5. If I did take up the oboe, I would take lessons from you! Seriously!

  6. On his website he has both a used modified conservatory MCW and a used Sierra, but that’s as of 10/1 – I guess I’ll find out more when I contact him.

    I don’t know if it would be quite fair for me to arm wrestle with your other students, though…:)

  7. Well, SongMonk, I think you should sign up. You could be my replacement in opera and symphony … k? ;-)

  8. Yeah, I guess arm wrestling might not be the answer, Tim. He also has a new MCW oboe, and that might be what one student buys. We’ll see.

  9. Hi Patty, I’m a beginning oboe player here in San Diego and I have been playing for about 5 months. I have played flute for six years and I’m intoxicated by the oboe sound. I’m at the point where I want to play with others, but I am an older player (51) and don’t know if there are beginning bands or ochestra for my age group in this area. Do you have any ideas?

    Your comments were wonderful, so I decided to respond to you. thank you for your time.

  10. Hi Mishel. I don’t know about San Diego, but here in my area there are community orchestras and wind ensembles for adults. There are also groups at community colleges that also include non-students. You might check things like that out.

    Welcome to the blog. Feel free to comment any time. :-)