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Oboe - Sound Production

The double reed is placed between the lips and blown which causes both reeds to vibrate against each other. They open and close very rapidly, sending bursts of energy into the air column inside the instrument and causing it to vibrate in sympathy.

A good oboist is one who can do this in a controlled and sensitive way.

As on all woodwind instruments it is primarily the keys which are used to produce the various pitches. The oboe overblows to the octave. The speaker keys make overblowing largely redundant. Six of the tone holes are closed directly by the fingers, all the others by keys.

Overblowing/the use of the speaker keys

French oboe:

  • Bb3 – B4: normal attack (from the fundamental)
  • C5 – G#5: 1st speaker key is used
  • A5 – C6: 2nd speaker key used
  • C#6, D6 and D#6: overblowing to the 3rd partial (no speaker key).
  • E6 and above: 3rd speaker key used

Viennese oboe:

  • (Bb3) B3 – C5: normal attack (from the fundamental)
  • C#5, D5, D#5: overblowing to the 2nd partial (1st degree overblowing)
  • E5 – Bb5: 1st speaker key is used
  • B5 – D#6: overblowing to the 3rd partial (no speaker key).
  • E6 and above: 2nd speaker key used

On the Viennese oboe the notes Bb5, B5 and C6 are produced using the traditional “long fingerings”, i.e., many tone holes are closed and the air column is correspondingly long. The special fingering gives these notes a full sound. On the French oboe these notes are produced with the aid of the 2nd speaker key and a short air column.

As on the flute, harmonics can also be played on the oboe. They sound like notes played piano.