Oboe/Third Octave


QUESTION: Hey Geoffrey,

Whenever I play past high D, the response of the notes are always poor, but strangely when they do play, they're in tune (with the only exception being F, being sharp). Every other note on the oboe plays in tune and warmly, and I'm fingering the notes as to the book (with the exception being D, where I place my middle and ring finger on my right hand down on the E and D plates to help flatten the note).

I particularly have response issues with E flat, F and high G. Have you got any tips on how to fix this?

Thank you very much. =]

ANSWER: Dear James

Do you have a third octave key? If you have then many of your problems will be helped if not solved. What is your make of oboe?

I have found makes of oboes that I own differ quite widely in the ease of production in this region but having said that, all oboes will produce the notes but some might need persuasion!  
Of the oboes I have the Marigaux 901 and the Loree Royal are very easy in this register but I do use the third octave key for top E and above. I don't use the short fingerings either except for trills. The long fingerings are well worth learning to be fluent in.

Your fingering for top D is standard enough. Often you do need those extra fingers on to bring the pitch down. However having said that your needing them on to flatten the pitch leads me to wonder if the adjustment on the first finger plate left hand is correct and also if the hole in the plate is too big. I had this problem with a Buffet Greenline and a friend of minbe who is an excellent player/repairer solved this for me by making this hole smaller. It also had the effect of making the middle E flat stable whereas before this treatment,  this note was awful! The high E flat and E/F were also much more secure. Top F sharp and G with the hole covered were always easy so pointing to this being a possible problem with  your oboe.

Do you play the first finger LH rolling or lifting? If you lift make sure that the gap is very tiny - just enough to not grip a cigarette paper under it. This gap is crucial. Make it bigger and the top C sharp (always a problem note!) will be easier but everything else sharp or prone to cracking into harmonics.

Let me know answers to some of these points and we'll then explore which fingerings you are using.

Best wishes


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Geoffrey,

Yes, my oboe has a third octave key, it's a Howarth S40C. While this key helps incredibly, it doesn't eliminate all of the problems.

The issue with the notes is more response rather than correct pitch and sound - when the notes eventually sound, they're fine (except F). It's just the response is very poor, especially in faster passages such as scales.

I'm actually going to try some professional oboes! I'm trying the Mariguax 2001, 901 and M2, the Howarth S50 and XL, Yamaha professional oboes and the Buffet Orfeo and Greenline. Unfortunately, Loree is quite unpopular in Australia - only really Loree oboe d'amores and cor anglais' are imported. I hope these help when I try them out.

The half hole is in its correct position, and the C key is pressing down the E plate all the way, as it should!(I recently adjusted these. When my C sharp was awfully sharp, I knew there was a half hole problem) I don't know if he hole is too big - it would be great if you could send me a close up photograph of the correct opening so I can check and see if it needs servicing (I'm getting it serviced this Sunday, so it would be really good to see if the half hole needs servicing).

The only times I take my first LH finger off is when I'm playing high C sharp or am slurring a note, so say middle D to second octave B (with the side octave key), so I don't get that bump. I half hole everything else, or cover the half hole where needed. Is it better to do this? Surprisingly, my high C sharp is fine - might be a little too sharp still, even with the correct plate adjustments, but response and intonation is fine.

My fingerings for the third octave notes are as follows;

C sharp - First LH, Third LH, First RH, C key.

D - First LH Half hole, Second LH, Third LH, Second RH, Third RH, C key.

E flat - First LH Half hole, Second LH, Third LH, Second RH, Third RH. (If the note is flat I press down the low B key) (a very pesky note for me)

E - First LH Half hole, Second LH, Third LH, RH G# key, Second RH, Third RH, E flat key, Third octave key.

F - First LH Half hole, Second LH, RH G# key, Second RH, Third RH, E flat key, Third octave key. (this is the hardest note for me. Any alternate fingerings would be great - the response of this note is just very bad)

F sharp - First LH, Second LH, First RH, Second RH, C key, Third octave key. (this works very well for me)

G - First LH, Third LH, First RH, C key, Third octave key. (I find the C key very necessary.)

I'm really looking forward to your response! And thank you very much! :)



What a comprehensive list of fingerings for me to look at!! Well done you.
A couple of things to check. You say you have the E plate well screwed down - make sure that it is not over done as then the fork F vent will stay open and things get tough below E and spoil the response up top.
A high note response factor to consider is the reed shape width. If you are using a wide-ish shape this will make life difficult for you above top C.
So try a narrower shape - something like an RC12 or the old Michel 7.2 which is well tapered helpd top notes enormously. There is always a trade off with reed width - lovely easy warm bottom notes lousy top notes to great top notes (talking response terms) with weedy difficult bottom notes. Somewhere in the middle is the ideal for you, your embouchure, your oboe and the way you blow. Also if you tend to go for softer reeds  - either in over scraping or soft cane - this will make life harder at the the top.

I would try an experiment with the 1st finger LH plate hole. If you wax up the hole and use a pin to make a tiny perforation see how that affects the top notes' response. You always easily take out the wax you have put in to restore things. Also try screwing down the plate so that there is just a small amount of lift - a couple of fag papers thick -  and see how that affects things with that little extra venting.

Having looked at your fingerings there are one or two which I find a bit non standard!

Your C sharp looks identical to the top G but minus the 3rd octave key. The top G is standard. As you say the C key is needed.
But the C sharp fingering of which there are quite a few!!! doesn't look right to me.
Try from left to right the following: 1/2, x,x | x o x Csharp key
Also try : o,x,x | x o o C key ? That is the standard French top C sharp with the 1st finger LH off and the plate more open or completely open.
I use this with the plate slightly open and it works well for me on Marigaux and Buffet and Howarth S5. Loree seems to like the longer fork fingering I gave you!! even being French!!!

For top E flat try: 1/2 x x | G# o x x Ckey (or C#key)  Really an E flat/D trill. Can work well.
OR the French one: 1/2 x x |B key o x x (make sure there is no link closing the C key with your B key as some Howarths are set up to do this.

Top F the fingering you give is good. This may be a vent problem in the LH 1st finger plate. Over venting will make it crack. So a smaller hole might help. You could try the shortest fingering which is: 1/2 x o | G# o o o 3rd octave and first octave together.

The F sharp fingering you give is what I use on all my oboes BUT without the second RH finger but with 3rd octave again.

I would look seriously though at a Marigaux 901. The latest ones are very very good indeed - some will be better than others but that is always the way of it. So try a good range of oboes and examples of the model IF you can find a dealer to accommodate you.
AND Don't forget a narrower reed shape can make a big difference to those high notes. Get the warmth you want from the instrument. Modern oboes are great from most makers.

Best wishes



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Geoffrey Bridge


Professional oboist with many years experience. Former pupil of Leon Goossens. Solo artist for Arts Council of Great Britain. Freelance recitalist/broadcasting/orchestras. Former Head of woodwind teaching in Hampshire, England. Questions on repertoire, playing styles, reeds, cane selection and processing.


Royal College of Music, Aberdeen College of Education Licenciate of the Royal Academy of Music General Teaching Council certificate Broadcast solo recitals/performed with major symphony orchestras/Music Club recitals/writings on double reed matters

Treasurer/Advertising Manager and Trustee of the British Double Reed Society International Double Reed Society Association Hautbois Francais Southern Pro Musica Orchestra/Aberdeen Sinfonietta

Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine

LRAM, Cert Ed

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