ResourcesAdvice and Recommendations for Oboists
First, a disclaimer. I am not telling you to buy anything, or insisting on any one method book, oboe model, or piece of reed-making equipment. I do get questions all the time, though, about these things, and on this page I will lay out many of the things I have found to work. Based on your individual needs you might gravitate to one specific thing or another – or use something completely different. If you have questions, feel free to reach out!
Books to Read
Who doesn’t love to LEARN, and keep learning? This book, on the art and craft of expression in music, puts into words an approach to artistry that is achievable for everyone. McGill explains why you have to be intentional in music, not merely intuitive, and spells out how. I found this a FASCINATING read.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in your own head and unable to achieve the greatness you seek? The Inner Game of Tennis is full of fantastic mindset tweaks, easily applicable to music. Barry Green’s Inner Game of Music takes the same concepts and spells them out for musicians. Both books are great – I tend to prefer the original Tennis version because drawing mental connections is a treat for me, but I read the Music version first as a student and loved it instantly.
I have found Oboemotions extremely valuable – both in my playing and in my teaching. It’s helpful to understand what is happening inside the body as we play, and useful to have words to help students to find ease and physical freedom as they play. I reread this one every couple of years.
For beginners and intermediate students I love the Rubank Method. (Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced 1, Advanced 2) Many school systems start with Essential Elements or Standard of Excellence – I find that these books are designed for the convenience of the band and don’t treat the oboe very intelligently. As we work in Rubank we will quickly outpace the band program.
With more advanced students I usually work in Barret for phrasing and articulation, and later the Ferling Etudes. These are advanced, but beautiful pieces that require – and build – real skills to get through.
For my own warmups, I love Marcel Moyse’s De la Sonorité – it’s built so many good fundamentals for me despite being a flute book. Similarly, the Taffanel-Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises is full of value for oboists.
This is not a method book, but it is the first solo book I usually advise my students to buy. It’s got a lovely selection of middle-school appropriate solos that are real classical music and present good challenges. AND it has the three Handel Sonatas, accessible multi-movement works for intermediate students, AND the Schumann Romances and the Mozart Quartet for advancing players. This book keeps oboists happy for years.
I have many of these items here on my own site. Other links here are affiliate links to Amazon.com – it’s convenient for everyone and Amazon pays me a tiny commission when you buy. But the remainder go to Nielsen Woodwinds, or to Hodge Products – because sometimes you really need a dedicated double reed shop to get what you need.
The most important item is the knife, and I like a double hollow ground blade like this Chiarugi knife. The knife is nicely balanced and easy to use, and it is soft enough to sharpen easily and hard enough to hold its edge. It’s also extremely affordable compared to other professional knives. I also like this version of it at Nielsen’s, because of the comfortable handle.
Cutting Block, Plaque, Mandrel, Thread and Ruler
You’ll need a cutting block and a plaque (get several, because they get lost easily). A mandrel and a spool of FF thread should be all the items you need to get started. Well, and a ruler with millimeters and a pencil, but you don’t have to shop at an expensive double reed store for those.
Sharpening Stone and Shapers
My long-time favorite sharpening stone is by Spyderco, and I’ve recently become enamored of this diamond stone as well. Of course, as your reed-making becomes more advanced, you will want to experiment with shapes and with gougers. My current favorite shapers are from Adam Shaper Tips – the Caleb-1, Joshua +2, and also the RDG-1N. I use an Innoledy gouging machine, and a Ross gouger for English horn.
I would recommend having at least three reeds in your case at all times, and using them in rotation so that you always have something that works. As they wear out, you should replace them.
For a young beginner, there is no need to start out with expensive hand-made reeds. Lesher reeds and Eastman reeds, available at your local music store as well as at Amazon, should be fine. As those machine-made choices become limiting – WHICH THEY WILL – we can talk about stepping up to my reeds or someone else’s, or learning to make your own.
Additionally, you will want a good quality case to keep them in. The mailing tubes that they arrive in do not allow ventilation or protect the reeds well. I have a variety available on my site or you might check out Amazon’s offerings.
If you’re just getting started with reeds, buy CHEAP cane, so you can ruin your first bunch without ruining your pocketbook. The practice cane from Midwest Musical Imports is great, or whatever is cheapest from wherever you are ordering. Something gouged and shaped. After you’re comfortable winding and scraping, get better cane. I haven’t fallen totally in love with any commercially available cane yet, but we’ve been having success with Midwest’s choices. Go with 10.5-11 diameter and Gilbert -1 shape, and any kind of cane and gouge will do. Or, of course, check out my Order Cane page, and try mine.
It is perfectly normal and OK to start out playing on a Selmer or Yamaha beginner oboe handed to you by your school or music store. I do not recommend buying one of these instruments, as even a young student will find the poorly designed keywork and pitch layout limiting after a year or less. There are several good intermediate oboes on the market, but I particularly recommend the Fox 330, Yamaha 441, and Howarth S20C as step-up instruments. These will keep most students happy through their high-school years, at least, and are affordable choices. A further option for the serious student is to look into a new or used professional oboe by Loree, Howarth, Marigaux, Bulgheroni, Yamaha, or… Many pros enjoy the tightness and “new-oboe” feel of a brand new instrument, and frequently sell their used oboes after only a few years. These professional “hand-me-downs” are wonderful oboes for a student with the maturity to care for them – like buying a used Mercedes or Volvo instead of a brand new Dodge Neon.