I have been playing the oboe for about 2 years now, and I really love the sound of it when I hear recordings of other people playing it. But the sound that I produce is very dull, it has no resonance and I can't seem to play it any louder than possibly mezzoforte. I thought it was because I haven't been playing long enough, but all of the juniors who have been playing for less than 6 months have better tone quality than I do. Please help me fix this problem.
Hi, Jessie. There are 3 major factors in tone quality: 1) the instrument itself. Different oboes have different tonal qualities: some darker, some crisper. The instrument's adjustment will affect tone quality either for better or worse. A poor instrument will obviously not be as vibrant as a well made one. It would be like trying to compare a Stradivarius with a cheap fiddle. 2) how the reed is made will affect tonal quality. There are too many variable here to go into great detail. Too much taken out will lead to an unstable reed while too little will restrict the reeds vibrations and therefore alter the tonal quality. Do you scrape your own reeds or do your purchase your reeds? If you scrape the reeds, then you might want to talk with your teacher (you do have one, don't you?). If you purchase your reeds, you might want to try a different brand. You could ask one of your fellow oboists where they get their reeds and try those. You should also learn how to adjust the reeds you buy to fit your embouchure. Speaking of embouchure, 3) that will also determine the tonal quality. It is not unusual for a beginning oboist to have a very flat embouchure. This in itself will restrict the reed vibrations and therefore affect the tone. My suggestions are first that you make sure that the instrument is adjusted so that you're not working against the instrument but with it. Next is to take a look at the reeds that you use as I suggested above. Finally, and I think most importantly, is to examine your embouchure. Play long tones in front of a mirror and take a hard look at your embouchure as you play. If it's flat (as I suspect) try dropping your jaw. That will help to round your embouchure and allow for greater, unrestricted vibration of the reed. To illustrate, I'm including a picture from Sprenkle and Ledet's book "The Art of Oboe Playing. Joel