Oboe/first oboe


Hi Geoffrey
I am  looking to buy my first oboe as a mature student!Could you tell me which make is suitable for me to start with but at the same time allow me to progress to grade 6-8 without having to change it? Or is it best to start with a student oboe and buy a better one at a later date, bearing in mind the initial outlay?
What is the difference, apart from the obvious, between open and closed hole oboes and do I need to look out for an oboe that has a left hand F key? Can you also tell me what an English thumb plate system is?
Kind regards

Dear Murray

I am so pleased to answer a question from someone in my domiciliary Scotland! But on the East coast which has been dreadful this summer!!

As for an oboe why not go for something intermediate straight off then you can keep it for a longer time. I like several intermediate models.
The Howarth S40 or S45 or the Fossati Tiery range are easy blowing and fairly priced. Loree make a good medium priced oboe with the name Cabart.
These makers are oboe specialists and tend to do a good job. They all have all the trill keys - nearly - and are covered hole instruments.
The advantage of covered holes is that the trills are much more accurate in tuning and higher notes are easier as well very often. The modern oboes are best. There has been a mini revolution in the last 20 years in the design of the bore and wall thickness. Just modernised so much so that older instruments are not really recommendable any more. I am meaning more than 35 years or so. You might inherit a load of problems if you go for such a beast!! Open holed oboes are brighter and sing well but tend to be harder to control and the the sound is not as "covered" in my view. Sometimes we like to be bright and sometimes we like to have covered sound. The plate system does help to give us these options more easily.

The left hand F key is more or less a standard key nowadays and it is best to have one I feel. Again you have a better choice of keyed Fs rather than using the forked F fingering which can be a bit so so on some models. I have an expensive top of the range instrument where the forked F is really not fit for purpose but there is of course a left hand F to use instead. If all this is a bit of a mystery you will soon find out when you try fingering from D to F in a slurred passage!

The last point you make about the thumb plate system. In essence you take off the left thumb to convert fingered A to B flat and convert B into C instead of putting down the first finger plate of the right hand.
I would recommend having a thumb plate system as the tone quality from the middle C and B flat is better. I use the thumb plate for the middle C and the conservatoire system for the B flat as the sounds match better. The dual system as that it what it is called, is very convenient also for some fingerings where using one or the other can be a finger juggling act in some passage work. A few bars near the end of the last movement of the Mozart Oboe quartet is a  case in point.

I hope I have clarified things for you.

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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