There are certain essential things about oboe playing that I’ve come to realize not all people realize so here, in no particular order, are things you need to know!

  • In order to learn oboe you must have a working instrument! I can’t tell you how many students come in with instruments that are so awful I can’t manage to make them sound good. I’ve been playing for over 30 years and I can make a bad reed sound okay, but I can’t make a rotten instrument work properly.

  • Playing oboe can be expensive! You don’t buy an oboe and a reed and stop there. You will go through so many reeds you won’t believe it at first. Reeds do not last … they are made of cane so they break easily and even if they don’t they wear out.

  • Reeds are costly, and you have to use handmade reeds. To begin with you will purchase them. (I supply my students with the name of a very good reed maker.) Store bought reeds are not good, and you shouldn’t use them. Plastic reeds are even worse.

  • Playing any instrument isn’t easy if you want to excel. Playing oboe can be very frustrating. Hang in there! If you get too frustrated put the darn thing down and do something else for a while. There are times when continuing to practice only cases anxiety.

  • Still … if you don’t practice you will never be a decent oboe player. Trust me. So pick that instrument up later and get back to it!

  • Your metronome is your friend. Your tuner is your friend. Spend time with your friends.

  • You can’t have long nails and play oboe. Sorry, it’s true. Nails get in the way if your fingers are curved, as they should be. So clip them. You don’t have to have them ultra-short, but if I think they are too long after warning you once I’ll bring out my clippers and have you do them while I’m watching.

  • Hand position is important! Your right hand should be close to perpendicular to the instrument. The left hand is slightly angled, so the index finger hovers easily over the side octave hey. Most fingers are to be curved, although the fourth fingers will be a bit straighter, so you make sure those holes stay covered!

  • Brush your teeth before you play. Saliva is hard on reeds. Food particles are bad for reeds.
    Brush your teeth before you play.

  • Swab your oboe during practice and before you put your instrument away. A soft cotton swab is the best, as silk tends to get knotted and if you get your swab stuck you have to have it carefully removed. (Never force a stuck swab!) Drop the swab through the top joint and then put the instrument upright before pulling the swab through.

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