Oboe/Cane selection


Hi Geoffrey,
Would you like to give me some guidelines for selecting good cane? Especially the hardness.. I don't shape my own cane, so I just usually buy the shaped one. Thanks.

Best regards,

Dear Billy

I presume that as you don't shape your own cane that you need a way of selecting from the gouged and shaped canes that you buy. Meaning that you reject some as not being worth tying on and wasting time over!!

There are one or two rough guidelines to follow but these are not absolutely foolproof. Hardness though can be spotted with some accuracy. Most accurate of course is to invest in a hardness measuring device and through a process of trial and error decide which hardness number suits you best. I use a tester and reject all cane under 10-11 and over 17-18. If it is softer (17/18) then I might tie on and scrape less off the tip and back. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Usually rather on the flat side in pitch.
I would look for smooth outer bark, smooth inner surface. Try a pencil drawing a figure 8 on the inside surface and you will feel resistance to the pencil as you make the figure. If the cane is soft often you will detect the ridges in the construction of the cane. This usually means SOFT. If the pencil feels smooth as you write that could be very nice. I would reject any cane with brown makings in the bark although some blue/grey marks often mean the cane is good!
As the cane is shaped and folded you can't try the flexibility test to see how the gouged cane feels, holding between the finger and thumb of your hands, twisting to the right in one hand and to the left in the other and letting it spring back to its former shape - you hope. If it does not do this it would be too soft.

So two things perhaps buy a hardness tester and a shaper and gouged only cane from a good source. Bit expensive in outlay but your cane destiny more easily controlled. Or buy from a dealer who will test hardness for you first such as oboecane.com.

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.


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

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

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

LRAM, Cert Ed

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