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Where do I start with learning the Oboe?

Name a woodwind instrument! What did you come up with? The clarinet? The saxophone? Did anyone pick the oboe? The oboe is a bona fide member of the woodwind family and yet so often it gets overlooked, but why? Perhaps it is their perceived fragility, after all they can be easily knocked out of tune and can be particularly sensitive to heat or cold. Furthermore, unlike the guitar or the saxophone, budding new musicians often feel it lacks something of a cool factor. For example, those learning to play the guitar can aspire towards someone like Hendrix or a violinist might have been inspired by the wonderful Nigel Kennedy. So who is trailblazing the way for the oboe?

Additionally, the oboe is a difficult instrument to master. Those brave enough to try have often likened practice sessions to the sounds of a “pregnant duck”! Yes, there is a lot of negativity and more don’t than do’s when it comes to the oboe, but those who dare to go where many others don’t , reap the benefits. The oboe has the ability to create a sound like no other instrument, deep and soulful, more swan like than duck. And if you are looking for an instrument to ensure you stand out in a crowd of mediocre flautists, the oboe is for you.

The first step on your oboe journey, is to find the correct teacher. Finding the correct teacher is important. The chemistry needs to be right. The internet is a great tool to help you find an oboe teacher in your area. The cost of lessons can vary between £25-£30 per hour. However if you are looking for lessons for a child, a shorter lesson of 30 minutes is probably more appropriate. It is also essential to ensure your child’s teacher has a valid CRB check.

Once you have found your correct teacher, they will be able to advise you on the type of instrument you should purchase. Alternatively, they may recommend renting your oboe to start with, just to ensure that it is the correct instrument for you. If you are looking to purchase your own oboe, it is best to opt for a student oboe. This oboe is slightly lighter than more advanced instruments and has less keys which makes it a little less complex.

As mentioned earlier, the oboe is possibly one of the least popular woodwind instruments, therefore it can be difficult to find comprehensive online resources to assist you. However there are a few sites which will enable you to get to grips with the basics such as fingering and embouchure. And of course, no matter how you practice, you will need to ensure you put your instrument together correctly. Your teacher should advise you on the assembly process but be sure to avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Never fail to grease the joints of the instruments so connections can be made easily.
  2. Careless assembly may cause bent bridge keys which may make playing more difficult
  3. Carefully handle the instrument to prevent damage
  4. Place the instrument properly in the case to prevent damage

When it comes to practicing the oboe, there is no right or wrong in terms of how long each session should be. It is best to think about the session in terms of goals and objectives. Always make a plan before you practice. And remember that playing the oboe does require a lot physically, so remember to take plenty of breaks.

We have looked at the negatives when it comes to learning the oboe, yes it can be a temperamental instrument and it’s difficult to learn, but what about the positives. An oboe has the ability to create a sound which is different from any other in the orchestra. It offers a feeling of exclusivity which other instruments just don’t have. And those who work hard and become a fully accomplished oboe player will be blessed with nerves of steel, lips of rubber and the diaphragm of a rhino!

Come on, give the oboe a try 🙂


Jennifer Paull

Eugene Izotov

Eugene Izotov

Lindsay Cooper

Lindsay Cooper

Mitch Miller

Mitch Miller

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