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What Factors Affect Oboe Prices?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

Oboes are expensive instruments that routinely cost thousands of US Dollars. The exact cost of an oboe depends on factors like the number of oboes produced by the manufacturer, materials used, keywork and customization. Branding and the age of the oboe up for sale also changes final oboe prices. In general, the greater the degree of personalization and the higher the quality of materials, the more expensive the oboe ends up.

Oboes are among the more difficult instruments to learn and control, and they require a significant amount of extra commitment in terms of making and maintaining reeds. This, combined with the fact most ensembles only use one or two oboes, mean that there are fewer oboists compared to other instrumentalists. Subsequently, there is a lower demand for oboe manufacturing, meaning that manufacturers cannot mass produce oboes easily and therefore must charge more to cover production expenses.

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Another factor influencing oboe prices is the materials from which they are made. Oboes can be made from either plastic resin or wood. People recommend plastic resin oboes for beginning and intermediate players because they do not crack as readily or need as much maintenance as wood oboes do. Wood oboes usually are made from grenadilla wood and have an arguably better tone. Typically, plastic resin is cheaper to turn into an oboe than wood because people can manipulate it more easily via machine, so student-level instruments usually end up being less expensive than professional-level oboes.

Related to player-level, aside from wood versus plastic resin, keywork is another price factor. Beginning student oboes are the most basic oboes a player can buy and often are outgrown in a year or less. They usually lack the left F and low Bb keys. Intermediate oboes have all essential keywork but may not have some key options that allow for even greater facility and intonation fine tuning. Professional oboes are more expensive in part because manufacturers use more expensive metals in the keywork that are less prone to bending.

Customization usually increases oboe prices. One of the most common customizations is specially-made keys. This may be necessary when a player's hands are not an exact fit to the oboe desired. Players also can plate their keys in a different metal such as gold or request a different type of wood such as rosewood.

Oboe prices are not immune to the influences of branding. Branding is the experience a customer has with a product and its company, the overall concept the customer has of what the product or company is like. When people buy oboes, they tend to go to well-known companies and their licensed dealers, who are able to charge more for the reputation of quality. Oboe buyers tend not to purchase from lesser known companies, even though the instruments might be of equal caliber.

Lastly, oboe prices reflect the age and wear of the instrument. New oboes almost always cost more than a used instrument of the same model and year. In some instances, a used instrument may cost more than a new instrument, however. For example, a wooden, professional-level oboe used for just a year or two still can cost more than a new student model made from plastic resin.

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