Oboe/Loree oboe


Hello Geoffrey,

For over forty years I have played a Howarth S2, and loved it. Some months ago, I was given a Loree Gillet system oboe, plateaux keywork, dating from 1929. It had been recently overhauled before it came to me.

Apart from the conservatoire system being new to me, I'd never played a closed hole oboe before, and I am finding it remarkably hard work! Have I been spoilt by my Howarth all these years, or should I have expected this Loree to be more difficult to blow? When I say that, I mean it is what I would term unresponsive; the keys seem to move freely enough, but it is exhausting to play.

I appreciate that as it has been overhauled, and I believe re-padded, that I must make allowances for the pads to settle - but I've had it over three months now, and I still find it remarkably hard going, and difficult to blow. Am I just getting old and past it??

Best wishes,


Dear Jenny

You say that you have played a Howarth S2 for over 40 years and I suspect that it has become quite easy to blow as the bore increases in size with age - as they do if they are played and cleaned out regularly. Obviously the increase in bore size is almost undetectable but tolerances are very tight on oboe bores and the differences are not usually visible.

Having had long experience of the open holed and an easier blowing instrument the Loree could feel entirely different quite apart from the plateau key-work.

If the instrument has been re-padded just do a suction test on the top joint and see if it holds well enough. You do this by blocking off the end of the joint with a finger of one hand and close the keys with the fingers of the other. Suck hard on the reed well end and see if you can slide down to the inside of the lower lip to hold the vacuum you have created. There should be a distinct time lapse before the vacuum is destroyed if everything is air tight. The resistance will increase if there any pad leaks or cracking anywhere. Another factor could be that the bore of the old Loree has shrunk - top joint in particular - and this will create a more resistant oboe.

Could also be that the reeds you are using to tame the old Howarth S2 are too hard for the Loree closed holes. I make a different and slightly more resistant reed for an S2 than for a modern oboe. It still feels about the same to play but my closed-hole oboe reeds sound very shrieky on an S2!
In fact I have found that there is not a great deal of difference in resistance between the open holed and the closed holes in blowing terms.
It varies from instrument to instrument. I have several oboes and I know that the Rigoutat of mine is the least resistant oboe of my collection. I have a very old S2 which is strangely quite resistant. Much depends on the bore and the undercutting of the tone holes.

So try first of all making your reeds vibrate more easily and see how they work in the old Loree. Make sure the tips are thin but leave something in the back. Take a bit more of the sides of the scrape to balance things.

If you feel that you need the bore checking then send the Loree oboe to Ian Crowther in Canterbury (Loree agent for UK) who might be persuaded to take it to Paris and have the bore checked and reamed out if that is necessary. He goes to the factory on quite a regular basis. It would cost you money but I am absolutely sure that the only people who can judge the bore are Loree themselves. On the other hand they may not feel inclined to touch it with a reamer as it is an old historic model. Worth a gamble perhaps for an inspection at least.

As for your being too old. NEVER! I am in my 70s and still blowing away and occasionally getting paid for it! I have found that my reeds need to be a little less resistant though but it is the lip that needs constant exercise and can go a bit weak on me if I don't do that. I have some Bach things coming up with obbligatos and still just manage to hold my own - so don't give up.

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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