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Oboe - Two Worlds of Sound


The appearance of the two instruments differs in that the French oboe has a long, thin tube of plain design with a gently flaring bell whereas the Viennese oboe still possesses the characteristics of the classical oboe: the shorter, thick-walled tube; the baluster on the upper joint; the widening at the tenon joints and the bell-shaped bell.

Comparison Viennese/French oboe

1 test english
2 upper joint
3 lower joint
4 tenon
5 bell


The French oboe has a narrow bore, 4.1 mm at its narrowest. The Viennese oboe’s bore is wider (4.4–4.9 mm) and progresses in two steps. The Viennese model also has a contraction rim in the bell.


Viennese oboists use a special fingering from B5 to C6, the so-called “long fingerings”, i.e. the notes are produced with a long air column (many tone holes closed). On the French oboe the same notes are produced with the aid of a speaker key and “short fingerings”, i.e., a short air column.

The fully automatic Viennese oboe offers short fingerings as an alternative to the traditional long fingerings (the notes sound a little thinner).


The French oboe has a very assertive sound which can be heard distinctly in the orchestra, whereas the Viennese oboe tends to blend more with the overall sound. Vibrato, one of the desirable techniques on the French oboe, is not usual in the Viennese style.

The French oboe has a slower response in the lower register than the Viennese oboe. The sound of the French oboe from Bb5–C6 is found by many oboists to be slightly unsatisfactory.