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Oboe/Tuning of beginner's oboe


My 10yo daughter has begun playing the oboe in the last six months.
She will be joining an ensemble this year and will be completing an exam accompanied by a piano.
When attempting to tune the oboe to concert pitch, it is always a semitone flat.
Her teacher says that this is true for all beginner oboe players and this can only be adjusted as she becomes more skilled. As a non reed playing musician, I have no way of ascertaining the veracity of, or reason for this.
Could you please shed some light on the situation.  
Clearly ensemble playing will be easier if she is closer to concert pitch.

Dear Jim

Is your daughter's teacher an oboist or a general wind player/teacher?

I would be very surprised if an oboist teacher would let the pitch be very low after 6 months. It is true that beginners can play rather flat until their embouchure (lips) develops more strength. I would compensate for that by giving the pupil shorter reeds which bring the pitch up.

The problem is that beginner  children are usually given very soft reeds which are flat even cut down a lot, because there is too much scraped out of them to get them to vibrate. A reed of about 68/69 mm length with a short scrape will usually be in tune. It is not necessary to over-scrape the reed for youngsters which will only add to the problem.

Student oboes are usually a little shorter to compensate for this possible pitch problem and then a normal length of reed - about 71/72mm - would work. What sort of oboe is she using?

Email me on if you want this "conversation" to go in private and I will pleased to help.

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

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