Undoubtedly, Oboe players stand out in a huge crowd of woodwind enthusiasts and professionals. It's distinct high and reedy tone adds a unique dimension and character to any orchestra, and can be a lot of fun to play! Before the fun begins, though, you'll have to go through the process of finding an oboe that suits your needs. However, you're not alone in your search, and hopefully this guide helps you find what you're looking for.
How an oboe works
How much will this cost me - and where do I get mine?
It's important to consider the level of the player you're buying for before you make a purchase. Remember, a beginner will have no use for a $7,000 professional oboe. Instead, a brand new beginner oboe will be in the neighborhood of $1,500, whereas a good used one will cost anywhere between $300-$400. A beginner oboe is a stripped down instruments, typically lacking keywork found on higher level oboes and usually made of plastic or wood. Usually, students outgrow their first oboe within the first year, so prepare yourself to be in the market for a new oboe soon after you've bought your first one.
The next upgrade for a player would be an intermediate oboe. These are made for serious students and developing players, and come with all of the essential keywork - left F, low Bb, B natural-C# articulation, and F resonance. However, these may lack some of the less essential keywork that professionals demand. For a new intermediate oboe, you'll be looking at a $2,500-$4,000 price tag, while a used one will be in the neighborhood of $1,800-$3,000.
If you or your child decide to turn your oboe playing into a profession, the next obvious upgrade would be to a professional oboe, which includes full keywork. These have excellent acoustic qualities, and will cost anywhere between $5,000-$7,000 for a standard grenadilla wood oboe with silver-plated keys.
Buying Used - What to look for
Buying used is a great way of finding a quality instrument at a fraction of the price, but it's important to know what you're looking at before you convince yourself that you've found a deal. Here are a few suggestions for buying a used oboe.
* '''Check the history of the oboe''' - ask the seller where and when the instrument was cracked, if at all. Also, check the serial number for the age of the instrument. Generally, you'll want to subtract $100 from the price for every year the instrument has existed. Prices may be negotiable, but it's also contingent on the condition of the instrument. Obviously, an oboe that has been used and taken good care of for 4 years is a better option than one that's been sitting in someone's closet for 4 years.
* '''Play the instrument''' - This will help you determine if all of the notes speak. If something doesn't feel right, but you like what you've seen otherwise, chances are that the problem can be solved quickly by someone who knows oboes well.
** If you've been playing an intermediate oboe and are playing a professional model for the first time, it will feel a little different. Don't automatically decide that there is something wrong with the instrument. It will take some time to get used to playing a higher quality oboe.
* '''Get a teacher's opinion before you buy''' - If you're taking private lessons, it's a good idea to bring your teacher along and get his/her opinion on an instrument you're looking at, as well as the asking price. Although they may have chosen a different oboe for themselves, teachers will be able to determine if there are any major problems with the instrument you're looking at and whether or not it will suit your needs.
Here are a few accessories you'll need to make good use of your oboe.