Friday Reeds | History of the Oboe

On today’s #FridayReed we discuss the history of the oboe!

The oboe was the first woodwind instrument to be included in the orchestras of the 17th century. It has a distinct high pitched or “nasal” quality that is very unique to the instrument. The name comes from 'hautbois,' which is its French name. 'Haut' meaning “high-toned”, and 'bois' meaning “wood”. It was soon after translated to Italian, and later to the English “oboe”.

The oboe is primary used in classical music, but can also be found in some jazz and pop. Fun trivia: Did you know the instrument has a cameo in the iconic song “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher?

The oboe was originally made from boxwood, but later began being constructed out of Grenadilla wood, the same one used to create the modern clarinet!

The oboe key work is steeped in mystery, and many have changed over the years as keys have come and gone to augment the diatonic nature of the instrument. By the 1800's the oboe became closer to the current form, it was modeled after Theobald Boehm's flute model.

Fun fact: professional oboe key work has 45 pieces that make up all the needed notes, trills, ornaments, and vents!

Although there are many members of the oboe family, they are much rarer than the classical oboe. These include the Heckelphone, Bass oboe, oboe d'amore and oboe de caccia. However, the English Horn (Cor Anglais) is the most common double instrument for an oboist. It is well known for its rich, and deep characteristic sounds. We know many Légère players have requested an English horn reed, and we are happy to say it is in the design stage of development, so to be released to BETA testers!

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