Newest Review: ... it also gives the most unrewarding noise as a beginner (I was referred to as The Duck by my sister for quite a long time!). But with... more
Why chose to be a duck among songbirds?
Member Name: silverbird44
Advantages: Beautful tone, beautiful choice of music
Disadvantages: Difficult instrument to start with
I have played the oboe for eleven years, since I was in junior school, and although I'll never be a professional musician (lacking in sufficient determination, dedication, talent - useful things like that) I have noticed that there is very limited information about the oboe on sites such as Dooyoo. I'm hoping to remedy that, and persuade any budding musicians to take up this awesome instrument.
A brief description
To look at the oboe bears most resemblance to a clarinet, and any prospective player must be prepared to spend their life being confused with said instrument. Along with the Bassoon and such relatives as the Cor Anglais, Oboe d'amore and Contrabassoon it forms the family known as the double reeds. This is because they have a reed based mouthpiece which is replaceable every few months, unlike the single reeds used by clarinets and saxophones. This mouthpiece is the feature which gives the oboe its distinctive 'reedy' tone.
It should be said near the beginning of this review that the oboe is not an easy instrument to learn. Of all the wind instruments, it requires the best breath control: it also gives the most unrewarding noise as a beginner (I was referred to as The Duck by my sister for quite a long time!). But with time and perseverance, melodic does eventually replace mallard and you begin to get the sombre, mellow tone that makes the oboe such a special instrument. For better or worse, at no point in your learning will you sound like anything but an oboe!
Once you get past the merganser stage, there are real musical advantages to being an oboist. For one thing you have real musical dexterity, with a range of more than two octaves (less than a flute or clarinet, but tone changes between high and low notes make the contrast more extreme). For another, the oboe is brilliant at expressing changes of mood, from cheeky playfulness filled with grace notes through to some of the saddest, most heart rending of tunes. On a more practical note, it is a very portable instrument, much easy to carry around on buses and trains or even on the back of a bicycle than an instrument like a French horn (horns and bicycles don't mix...we tried). Also, because the oboe is currently counted as an endangered instrument, it is easier to get subsidies from local authorities, and to find positions in orchestras than if you were to play one of the more common instrument.
I love being an oboist, but I will acknowledge that there are difficulties. The reeds are probably top of the list - because they are wooden and often hand made, every reed is different, and so a make of reed that is brilliant one time may be terrible the next. The range of reeds available is staggering, and it takes a lot of effort to find the one that suits you. This means that oboists often have variations in sound quality that frustratingly are nothing to do with their skill as a player.
The other disadvantages are the costs of the reeds and instrument, and of course the early Scoter phase for which you may be exiled to a sound proof room. Younger players may also find, as I did, that it takes a while to master the breath control and that reaching the keys is difficult when you first start, because the stretch of your fingers is too small. And there is the practising...and practising...and practising...but this is the same with any instrument. No pain, no gain!
Place in orchestral repertoire
Because the oboe is such an individual instrument it holds a key place in much orchestral repertoire. I thought I would suggest a few pieces that anyone considering the oboe should listen too - as something to aspire to, if you will.
The Theme from Swan Lake - Tchaikovsky - a dreamlike, heartbreaking piece of music.
Gabriel's Oboe - from the film the Mission, score by Morricone
Scheherezade - any of the oboe segments - Rimsky-Korsokov
Overall I would recommend anyone considering taking up the oboe to give it a go, and anyone not considering it to start considering. Despite sounding like Disney's Donald for a while, it slowly develops into one of the most rewarding things you could possibly do with your time. I now spend a lot of my time in orchestras and socialising with other musicians, and the teamwork skills and friendships you gain are priceless. Plus there are few greater feelings of euphoria than being part of an orchestra at full crescendo.
Although you may never quite shake off your oboist beginnings - as is shown by the last piece I suggest listening to:
Peter and the Wolf - Prokofiev
Believe it or not, the oboe plays the duck.
Summary: More than worth the effort!