The Oboe is a beautiful instrument that is adored in the classical world. It requires regular practice and a set of craftsman skills for creating reeds. Unlike most woodwinds, the Oboe is a double reed instrument that comes chalked full of unique problems and challenges. In today’s post we will summarize Mr. Charles West’s book, “Woodwind Methods, An Essential Resource for Educators, Conductors and Students” about Common Problems of the Oboe. I have found this book to be invaluable and recommend this book to be in your library of must haves.
Problem number two deals with the reed angle from the mouth. Remember that the oboe needs to be held up and blown more directly into the instrument. Often players assume the 45 degree angle, much like a clarinet, brass instrument, saxophone or bassoon. When a oboist holds up the instrument it allows the lower lip to participate in the control of the lower reed. As a result, the sound will be more characteristic than the 45 degree angle.
Problem number 5 involves not truly understanding the different fingerings for “F.” The regular common “Fs” provide a solid pitch and characteristic sound however should be avoided if the right hand, third finger has to slide laterally.
West recommends that in the absence of the left-hand F key, you should use the “forked F key.” However note that this fingering has a less than ideal sound. If the pitch is sounding flat then consider bringing it up by opening the E-flat key with the fourth right finger.
Higher quality oboes also provide an other option for correcting intonation and improving sound quality by playing a left handed “F” key with the fourth finger.
Biting is today’s problem number six. The lips are designed to hold the oboe reed and as a result they should stand up by their own strength. The lips are not supposed to be devoid of energy or remain static. Rather the oboist’s lips should be strong and dynamic in order to make on the fly adjustments.
Problem number seven is that the oboe is out of adjustment. Being that the oboe is a relatively complex piece of equipment in comparison to many of it’s fellow ensemble instruments it would be wise to have a professional instrumental repair technician make the appropriate adjustments.
And finally, oboe common problem number eight is that the upper octave notes, especially the ones from E-natural upwards have a “split” sound. It feels as if the note in the upper register is not entirely settled and wants to reside in the lower octave.
One reason for this is that there may be water in the octave key. If the E through A-flat notes have this problem then there is water in the back octave key hole. If you are playing A through C then the water build up will be in the second octave key.
To resolve this remove the upper joint and swab it dry. Next, use some tissue between the octave key pad and the tone hole. Then close all of the oboe holes on the upper joint and plug the open end. Finally, blow into the reed receiver on the top end of the upper joint and open and close the octave key with paper under it. As a result of blowing you will see small drops of water on the paper from the small vent hole.