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A member of the woodwind family of orchestral instruments, most oboes are about 25.5 inches long (65 centimeters). Like a flute, the cylindrical body is lined with holes. Those holes are covered with metal keys. The mouthpiece features a double reed that’s blown through to create sound, which is modified with both hands pressing the keys.

Oboe is heard in a large variety of music, including concertos and chamber music. They were first used in 17th-century France and spread through Germany and the rest of Europe for the next 200 years.

What should a beginner look for in an oboe?

Oboes will require regular maintenance, so newcomers may need the help of an expert to pick the right instrument for them. Yamaha, Schiller, and Selmer are respected brands. For a good new student oboe, budget at least $1,000, although more affordable models and starter kits are available.

An oboe with a semi-automatic system is recommended for novice musicians, because precision is more difficult with the fully-automatic system, which also adds weight to the oboe.

What types of oboes are available?

The cor anglais, or English Horn, is a tenor oboe usually tuned lower to F. The oboe d’amore, is also tuned a few steps lower than a standard oboe. The bass or baritone oboe is a whole octave lower than the common oboe. The rare heckelphone is similar to the bass oboe. There is also a contrabass oboe for even lower tones.

The oboe musette, or piccolo oboe, is tuned higher than the oboe. Less common variations of the oboe can be found throughout Europe.

How does the oboe compare to other woodwinds?

The larger bassoon and English Horn are the instruments most similar to oboes, since all three use double-reeded mouthpieces. Although similar in appearance, the clarinet has a single reed. Flutes do not use reeds.

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