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What Are the Best Tips for Buying a New Oboe?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

Buying a new oboe involves considerable investment, so it's worthwhile to use a few tips to improve the result. In general, buyers should purchase from professionals, discussing their preferences in advance. They should buy only full-conservatory oboes that have been tested and, if necessary, customized. The break-in period also is a consideration for new wood oboes, as is the time to consider each oboe available.

One of the best tips for buying a new oboe is to work directly with an oboe dealer rather than a general salesperson at a music store, particularly if the buyer is in the market for a specific model of oboe. Those who work in music stores may know the basics of the inventory they have in stock or can order, but they don't always have the expertise of oboe dealers. Oboe dealers often are oboists themselves and are more familiar with the subtle differences between each model. They usually have a better network for getting an oboe that is customized for the buyer.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Secondly, those who want to buy a new oboe should have a sense of the type of oboe they want, as well as the environment in which the oboe will be played, before they approach dealers. For example, a buyer should know whether he prefers wood or plastic, a bright or dark tone and whether the oboe is destined for the concert hall or band room. Oboe dealers know their merchandise and can hand-pick oboes that meet a buyer's specifications.

Not all oboes are full-conservatory, meaning they do not have keywork considered standard by intermediate to advanced players. Stay away from new oboes that don't have the full-conservatory system. The difficulty of having to relearn new fingerings when the player gets a better oboe is not worth the savings often offered on non-conservatory oboes, and the lack of facility the lack of keywork causes is also frustrating to players. Buyers should always look for the top-of-the-line, full-conservatory system that fits their price range, regardless of whether they select a plastic or wood oboe.

Another tip for buying a new oboe is always to test the oboe before purchase, even if the buyer has heard the oboe being considered played by someone else. The reason for this is that every player has a slightly different physique and embouchure. Players sometimes find that the oboe with the sound they love has keywork that is all wrong for the shape of their hands. Buyers never should purchase a new oboe that doesn't feel good to play physically, no matter how much the buyer adores the tone of the instrument. This is especially true for the serious musician, who commonly must practice or rehearse several hours a day.

Related to the idea of physical comfort is to consider customized keywork. Some oboe makers will create extensions for particular keys. This prevents the player from straining to reach mechanisms. If the overall feel of the oboe is good, the tone is superb but just one or two keys are an issue, see if someone can measure the buyer's hand and make a new key.

Additionally, if the buyer is considering a wood oboe, there is a break-in period for these instruments of six months to one year. New oboes of wood that never have been owned or routinely played often sound tighter than broken-in oboes because the wood is still tense from lack of exposure to moisture. When a buyer tests these oboes, he may have to blow a little harder to get a full, rich sound. For this reason, a buyer should make a purchase based on his understanding of the tonal potential the new oboe has, using the initial play test only as a rough guide.

Lastly, resist buying an oboe on the spot. Many dealers will hold oboes that buyers are considering if the buyer just asks. Buyers should take the time to let the first initial reaction to the oboe settle and to logically go over the pros and cons of each oboe they've tried.

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