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Profile: the oboe


The oboe descends from an ancient instrument called the shawm. It is made from wood and has a metal key system covering the holes.

How is it made?

The oboe, like the bassoon, is played with a double reed. A double reed is essentially two pieces of bamboo tied together. The player forces air through the reed and a sound is made, a bit like blowing through a blade of grass. The oboe player can change the pitch to the notes by pressing different combinations of keys.

How do you play it?

The oboe has a beautifully expressive and distinctive sound. You may have heard it when an orchestra tunes. All the instruments take the note from the oboe to check they are in tune with each other.

What other instruments are in the oboe family?

Oboe players are sometimes asked to play the cor anglais. This is very similar to the oboe although slightly larger and has a lower sound.

Where can you hear it?

Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake

The oboe is most commonly found in the orchestra.

JS Bach, Brandenburg concerto

Although lots of composers have written pieces for the oboe and small groups...

Strauss, Oboe concerto

...and also as a solo instrument with an orchestra.

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