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Oboe/Oboe Learning Curve

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Question
I've played classical piano practically all my life so I have a good knowledge of music.  When watching performances I've always loved the sound of an oboe.  After watching a Mozart performance last night I started to wonder how difficult it would be to learn how to play the oboe.  I'm in my early 70s so I'm not sure that is a factor or not but I would like to give this a try.  Am I being practical or not?  How long will it take to play easy music and to play it with a decent sound? What are some good solo music for the oboe? My father always said it was difficult to play the oboe.  

I also understand that making reeds properly can be a challenging process.  Can you purchase decent reeds that would at least be acceptable for my level of play.  Finally I always like to buy more expensive products at the start since that is usually where you end up anyway if you take something up seriously.  Given this what would be the cost of a new oboe of fairly good quality and sound.  Thanks for your help.

Answer
Dear Bob

You have got the message that the oboe is difficult to learn and in part this is true. But where there is a will there is a way so do not be deterred.
You need a good teacher though, one who will help you to develop your embouchure having made sure that your lips are suitable! I mean that seriously because if you have a short upper lip particularly, you will find wrapping your lip under your upper teeth tricky. There should be a cushion of lip available to hold the reed. People with short upper lips find this a problem and get sore inside of the lip very quickly.

Physically I think you will benefit from the breathing exercise that you get from playing. As we get older we can take longer to recover from practice so patience will also be needed in some quantity. Worth it though!

My advice is to find a sympathetic teacher who will guide you towards a suitable oboe and reeds for you as a beginner.

As far as oboes are concerned a broad outline of makes for you to consider are any of the big names who make an intermediate oboe. The best oboes money can buy in my opinion are made by oboe specialists. They make cheaper alternatives to their professional models but they are all good. Consider for example the Cabart oboe made by Loree, the Howarth S45, the Strasser made by Marigaux, the Rigoutat RIEC, Fossati Tiery, and last but not least the Fox Renard 330 plastic but excellent. The price if you can find used of any of these in good condition would be about $3000. Try searching Carlos Coehlo Oboes, or RDG Woodwinds for prices.

As for reeds I do think you are best to find a teacher to assist as reeds need handling by an expert and buying them is an expensive and frustrating experience. Or at least it can be. If you were in the UK I could advise you where to buy and which reed makers. I can recommend KGE reeds but even they can be not quite right for you and need adjusting.

I reckon it would take you a few weeks and you will be playing some great music. Even for example the vocal line of Handel Largo from Xerxes or possibly a simple pieces from Bach. There are many books of simple tunes to buy but again it is more difficult as I am not as familiar with American collection publication as European. Having said that there are some that may be available. 35 Melodic Studies for Oboe by Graham Salter pub Emerson. Sounds Classical for Oboe Volume 1 arr. Sparke from Anglo Music AMP 361-400. This last has classical tunes in arrangement.

Best of luck with your project and get back to me if I can help further.

Geoffrey  

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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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