I’ve rarely seen a first oboist undertake a terrorist act while performing- perhaps their ego precludes it, but they will sometimes do it during tuning. My favorite terror tuning technique is the oboist who intentionally gives different A’s to the woodwinds and strings because the wind keep going sharp. In their mind, the solution is to tune the strings sharper than the wind. This is like treating Grandma’s gout by putting her out of her misery. In many ways, the 2nd oboe chair offers untold opportunities for the committed terrorist- from this position you can undermine the tuning of the entire wind section, and probably disrupt the counting of the first oboist, who is often the busiest solo player in the band. All of this without ever being heard, or at least notice by the audience. If you want your 2nd oboe martyrdom to be celebrated, though, there is always the “duck with emphysema” sound that some 2nd oboists have mastered, a tone that can penetrate any texture and ruin any concert. This sound alone can inspire the most profound despair in audiences, players and conductors alike.

This is from a conductor’s blog, found here. I’ve not worked with him. Now I think I’d be rather fearful to, you know?


  1. he’s actually got a good point–a bad 2nd oboist can spoil everything. 2nd oboe is SO HARD and SO IMPORTANT, good second players should get way more respect than they do!

  2. He has a point, but as a professional musician I would be awfully cautious about making blanket statements. I attempt to only mock myself. That’s a bit safer. Especially if I want gigs. 🙂

    I’m going to guess, though, that he was being humorous … he just touched on some things that hit this oboe player. (We are accused of having huge egos. Our A is often questioned. And of course a conductor can totally destroy an oboist; I know someone who, after dealing with a conductor who despised him, sold all his instruments and went into the wine & cheese biz. He’s probably much wealthier for it!)

  3. Hi Patty-

    Not to worry- I’m a gentle soul on the podium. Gabrielle is right- good 2nd players should get more respect than they do. I think any good performance of the Dvorak Cello Concerto deserves bows for the cellist, the concert master and the 2nd oboist.

    I was certainly trying to be humorous, and most of the descriptions of various archetypes were coined by my friends in various orchestras (they suffer far more at the hands of terrorists than I do), but you can bet I’ll be extra nice to my oboe section this week.

    Love the blog, as always


  4. We played some killer (for 2nd oboe) Dvorak a few years back. Joseph Silverstein was conducting. I managed to have the perfect reed for the 2nd oboe part, and he not only complimented me at the first rehearsal, but told the orchestra how darn hard that part is. I was honored! I will also be happy to never play it again. 😉