Oboe Instrument; Origin, Types and Usage



1 What is an oboe

2 Device

3 Origin story

4 Varieties

4.1 English horn

4.2 Oboe d’amore

4.3 Heckelphone

4.4 Baroque family

4.5 Vienna oboe

4.6 Modern family

5 Related instruments

6 Use

Many people are not even aware of the existence of the oboe – a great sounding instrument. Despite its technical shortcomings, it greatly surpasses other spiritual instruments in its sonic expressiveness. In terms of aesthetics and depth of tonality, it occupies a leading position.

What is an oboe?

The word “oboe” is translated from French as “tall tree”. It is a woodwind musical instrument with an unsurpassed melodic, warm, slightly “nasty” timbre.


The instrument consists of a 65 cm hollow tube, has three parts: a lower and an upper bend, a bell. Due to this prefabricated structure, there are no problems with transporting the tool. The side vents allow you to change the pitch, and the valve system provides the opportunity to improve this. Both reeds, which look like two thin plates fastened together, made of reed, give the timbre some characteristic vileness. Its unrivaled value justifies the complexity of its production.

The mechanics of the oboe is the most difficult among the brothers, as it requires the manufacture of 22-23 cupronickel valves. Usually they are made of African ebony, less often purple.

Origin story

The instrument was first mentioned in 3000 BC, but its earliest “brother” is considered to be a silver pipe found in the tomb of a Sumerian king about 4600 years ago. Later, our ancestors used the simplest reed tools ( bagpipes, zurna ) – they were found in Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome. They already had two pipes for direct melody and accompaniment performance. From the 12th century, the oboe acquired a more perfect form and began to be used at balls, in orchestras by the musicians of Louis XIV – King of France.


There are several types of this wind instrument.

English horn

This term originated in the 17th century due to an accidental distortion of the French word angle (angle). The English horn is quite larger than the oboe instrument. It includes: a bell, a bent metal tube. The fingering completely coincides, but its technical equipment is worse than its counterparts, so a certain roughness of sound is noticeable with a soft sound.

Read also: English Horn: Descriptions And History

Oboe d’amore

By its structure, it resembles an English horn, but is inferior to it in size and capabilities. D’amour sounds more tender, does not have a pronounced timbre, or vileness, which is why it is often used by composers in lyric works. It first appeared in Germany in the middle of the 18th century.


This instrument appeared in Germany at the beginning of 1900. Technically, it resembles an oboe, although there are some differences: the large width of the scale, the bell; the cane is put on a straight tube; there is an eight note lower sound. Compared to analogs, Haeckelfon has a more melodious, expressive sound, but at the same time it is rarely used by orchestras. And yet he had a chance to participate in such operas as “Salome” and “Electra”.

Baroque family

This era brought colossal changes to the instrument. The first improvements began in the 17th century in France, when the instrument was divided into three parts. Further, the cane was improved (the sound became clearer), new valves appeared, the location of the holes was recalculated. These innovations were made by the court musicians Otteter and Philidor, and Jean Bagist continued their work, creating a march for the orchestra at the court, which supplanted the viola recorder.

The oboe became popular with the military, and also gained fame among the noble public of Europe at balls, operas, in ensembles. Many leading composers, such as Bach, began to include some varieties of this musical instrument in their productions. From this moment began the time of its heyday, or “the golden age of the oboe”. In 1600, the following were popular:

  • baroque oboe;
  • classic oboe;
  • baroque oboe d’amore;
  • musette;
  • daccache;
  • double bass oboe.

Viennese oboe

This model appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was created by Hermann Zuleger, and since then it has hardly changed. The Viennese oboe is now traditionally used in the Vienna Orchestra. Only two firms are engaged in its manufacture: Guntram Wolf and Yamaha.

Modern family

The 19th century was revolutionary for wind instruments, because ring valves had already been created, which made it possible to close a couple of holes at the same time and adapt them to different finger lengths. For the first time this innovation was applied by Theobald Boehm on a flute. Several decades later, Guillaume Tribert adapted the innovation for the oboe, improving the mechanism and improving the design. The innovation has expanded the sonic range and clarified the instrument’s tonality.

Nowadays, the sound of the oboe is heard more and more often in the chamber hall. It is often used in solo performances and sometimes in orchestral performances. The most popular, in addition to the types listed above, are: musette, a classic oboe with a tapered bell.

Related instruments

The related instruments of the oboe are the wind pipe-shaped instruments. This was due to the similarity of their mechanism and sound. These include both academic and folk samples. The most popular among musicians are the flute and clarinet .


To play something on the instrument, you need to do a number of operations:

  • Moisten the cane in water to remove saliva, do not overexpose.
  • Dry it from the remaining water, it will be enough to blow several times. Insert the cane into the main section of the instrument.
  • Place the tip of the instrument on the center of the lower lip, remembering to stand in the correct, stable position.
  • Place your tongue against the opening of the tip, then blow. If you hear a high-pitched sound, then everything is done correctly.
  • Place the cane in the upper section where the left hand is. Squeeze the first valves with your index and middle fingers, while the first should grip the tube from the back.

After playing, you should disassemble, clean the entire structure, and then put it in a case.

The modern oboe has not yet reached the peak of its fame due to the complexity of its use. But the development of this musical instrument continues. There is a hope that he will soon be able to outshine all his other brethren with his sound.

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