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> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > WOODWINDS > Oboe > Brief Description

Brief Description

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Oboe
German: Oboe
French: hautbois
Italian: oboe

The oboe is a woodwind instrument in the soprano register.

The blowing end of the oboe’s slim conical tube (head) turns into a small metal pipe to which two reeds are affixed. These lie so close together that there is barely room for a piece of paper between and react to the slightest changes in lip pressure and the air stream. Because of its mouthpiece the oboe is classified as a double-reed instrument.

The tube – or body – consists of three parts, one inserted inside the other: upper joint, lower joint and bell. The connecting pieces between the individual parts are called tenons.

The majority of the keywork is mounted on the upper and lower joints: six of the sound holes are closed by the fingers, the other sixteen by keys. The oboe’s keywork is extremely complicated (more complicated than that of the flute). Today the French conservatoire system, developed by Frédéric Triébert in Paris in 1875, is the most common.

The conservatoire oboe – better known as the French oboe – became internationally accepted as standard in the 20th century. The Viennese oboe, which is played exclusively in Vienna, has retained its particular sound and form since the time of Viennese Classicism and developed independently of the French oboe.

The bell of the French oboe is gently flared, while that of the Viennese oboe is bell-shaped.

Modern woodwind sections usually use three oboists (two oboes, one English horn). Since the 19th century the oboe in the orchestra has had a very special role: it plays the tuning note.

Classification
Aerophone, double-reed instrument, woodwind instrument

Material
Wood: Grenadilla, Brazilian rosewood, cocus, vulcanite or boxwood

Mouthpiece
Double reed; two reeds lying close together (material: arundo donax), concussion reeds

Tubing
Length 64.5–66.5 cm, conical

Bore
Narrow, inner diameter 4.1 mm (French oboe), 4.4–4.9 mm (Viennese oboe)

Keys
Conservatoire system (French oboe); Viennese mechanism (Viennese oboe)

Bell
Gently flared (French oboe); bell-shaped (Viennese oboe)