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Oboe/Student oboe pitch problem?

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Question
Hello Geoffrey

I'm a recent adult beginner (although an experienced clarinettist).

I've hired a JP081 just to get me started. I'm having problems playing up to pitch - I constantly seem to have to lip everything up. The instrument plays reasonably well in tune with itself, just seems happy at around A=435.

I know there are various things that could be causing this, including a soft reed and poor breath support, but I noted a review of the JP181, which is presumably virtually identical in construction, which suggested that early models had been flat overall. I think you also commented in a review of a tendency in modern instruments to be under pitch.

I'd be interested in your thoughts, and any way I can confirm the pitch of the instrument, other than comparing it with that of my teacher (which I've done and seemed to confirm my theory)

Many thanks, Chris
Chris Cartwright
Devon, UK

Answer
Chris

Thanks for this question. Yes there have been flatness problems with some of these Chinese origin oboes from Packers. It is only slight of course but annoying as it seems not overall the range. I have tried a number of other makes which have the same problem often those thicker walled designs currently in vogue.
The answer though in your case could definitely be associated with the soft reed and lack of embouchure perhaps - even though you are a clarinetist.
We who have thicker walled instruments tend to play on shorter reeds to compensate and the embouchure is then used to fine tune things where needed. Fine tuning is almost always needed on the oboe anyway so nothing new here. I myself find a reed length which tunes the bottom D well and that way you can relax into a decent scale when you become accustomed to the instrument.

Has your teacher tried your oboe with their reeds and found the same? And have you tried another make of oboe and found flatness as well?
Soft reeds should be made shorter, perhaps about 70-71mm on a 47 staple.  I don't want to encourage you to bite but try wrapping more lip around the Reed and placing it very slightly further into the mouth. Does this get sharper then? Try it and see. Breath support as you say needs to be constant. The embouchure needs to be persons just a tad firmer too something which will develop in time. The danger is that you end up always playing too sharp as you begin to be a biter!!

Let me know how it goes anyway but do take your teachers advice. Contact me if you want to follow up on geoffrey@geoffreybridgeoboe.com

Best of luck

Geoffrey  

Oboe

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Geoffrey Bridge

Expertise

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.

Experience

St Andrews University 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

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

Publications
Double Reed News/Australasian Double Reed Society magazine/International Double Reed Society

Education/Credentials
LRAM, Cert Ed

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