Clear, bright, penetrating, acerbic, keen, biting, rasping, reedy, powerful, robust, full, insistent.
The sound quality of the oboe is very versatile and ranges from the thick notes in the low register to the thin and piercing high notes. The break between one register and the next covers roughly a minor third.
The middle register is the region most often used.
The oboe’s acerbic timbre can lend even a tutti passage special color. The French oboe has a sound which is more conspicuously audible in the overall orchestral sound, whereas the Viennese oboe tends to blend in more easily.
Viennese oboe: Bb3 – A4
French oboe: Bb3 – F4
The oboe’s low notes sound thick, heavy and melancholy, the lowest develop very powerfully. Pianissimo notes sound flute-like.
Viennese oboe: Bb4 – A5
French oboe: F#4 – Bb5
Bright, forceful, reedy – it is here that the characteristically expressive oboe sound develops best. Many oboe solos make use of this area and its manifold means of expression: cheerful rural scenes, idyllic pastoral romance, light-footed exuberance, tranquility, grief, lamentation, loneliness and yearning.
Viennese oboe: Bb5 – G6 (A6)
French oboe: B5 – G6 (A6)
The higher they go the less volume, substance and expressiveness the oboe’s notes have. From D6 they sound shrill and narrow and have not been called for in orchestral literature until recent times. The highest notes (G6 and A6) are biting and shrill.