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The oboe: the sound

Multi-coloured oboes

The oboe is one of the most versatile instruments in terms of its tone and colour

Sound of the oboe

THE OBOE can sound harsh or sweet, and has a wide range of moods in between. Deciding which sound to aim for depends as much on the player's musical imagination and knowledge as on ability. The right sound is therefore a result of both technique and musical insight.

Getting the right sound on the oboe is an important part of an oboe-player's skill. It's not only getting the sound, it's knowing what kind of sound you want. To some extent this depends on what kind of music you are playing and whether you are a soloist or part of an ensemble. If you are playing one note in a chord being played by other wind instruments, maybe in an orchestral piece or a wind quintet, it is important to blend the sound with the other instruments as much as possible.


I like to be able to make different colours with the instrument... It might be a red sound, or a blue sound...

Emma Feilding

Obviously, an oboe will never sound the same as a flute or a clarinet, so the blend of wind instruments in an ensemble will never match the unity of a string quartet. But this contrast can be used by composers to advantage, because individual melodic strands can be picked out more clearly using wind instruments, something that is much harder to achieve between, say, first and second violins.

Emma Feilding talks about the sounds and moods she aims to produce.

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