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Students Guide on Beginning the Oboe


Oboes are a treble (high) instruments in the double reed family. The oboes large range, over 2.5 octaves, allows the oboe to play long singing melodies as well as hunting tunes!

The precursor to the oboe is thought to be the shawm, which was used from the ~1100's. The jointed oboe, which could be manufactured more accurately, came into use in the late 1600's and has been continually developed into today's 'modern' oboe which is made from grenadilla wood. The Oboe family includes its larger and lower relatives, the cor anglais & oboe d'amore.

  • Only 65cm long
  • Uses a double reed (two pieces of cane attached to each other - an oboe reed)
  • It has a conical bore (the hole in the middle of the oboe gradually gets bigger and bigger as you move to the one end)


Here are a few examples where you can hear the oboe!

Strauss oboe concerto played by the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra & Selcuk Akyol (oboe)

A Beethoven oboe trio played by the oboists of the Royal Danish Orchestra

Gonzalo Ruiz playing his baroque oboe in one of Couperin: Sixième Concert for oboe

Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony's oboe solo played by Jonathan Kelly

Oboe Reeds

Student Oboe ReedThe oboe uses a double reed, which means that there are two pieces of cane (looks a bit like bamboo) that are attached together. These pieces of cane vibrate when air is blown through the lips which produces the noise to play the oboe. If you are just starting or are relatively new to the oboe we recommend that you initially use student oboe reeds which are free blowing, easy and cheap. A beginner oboist requires a free blowing reed to help with the formation of their embouchure (mouth shape). Beginner oboists may accidently break their reeds, as they are fragile, and so the cheapness of these reeds makes the cost more reasonable. We recommend always having three oboe reeds at all timesl; if one breaks you always have another to play.

When you become a more advanced oboist you will have developed a good embouchure and will be very unlikely to break reeds. This means that you can move onto warmer sounding oboe reeds.

How do I Assemble an Oboe?

View our printable guide about assembling oboes here! (coming soon!)

Oboe Accessories You'll Need

Reed Case

A reed case helps ensure that your oboe reeds last as long as possible which saves you money in the long run! The reed case chosen should allow air to circulate freely so that the reeds can dry fully when put in the case - this helps the reeds to last longer. We suggest that a beginner has a case which holds 3 - 6 oboe reeds. This means that if one gets broken you have a 2 - 3 more ready to play so you never end up without a reed!

Swabs / Cleaning Cloths

You only need one oboe swab - this is dropped down the oboe after playing and soaks up all of the moisture. Usually, it is best to purchase a microfiber swab as these are better at absorbing the moisture.

Water Pot

Soaking reeds for 30 seconds before playing your oboe means that the reed will be nearly ready to play well once it is taken out the pot and will help the reed to last as long as possible. Here you can find water pots that magnetically attach to your music stand which helps to avoid water spillages!.

Cork Grease

When parts of your instrument become stiff / hard to remove you need to apply cork grease to the cork (don't put too much though as you don't want the instrument to slide apart!)



A pencil is vital to write down points in your lesson or to mark items into your music during an orchestral / band rehearsal. There should always be one in your case! We sell perfectly sized pencils with rubbers that easily fit in oboe cases here: Small Music Pencil with Rubber


Instruments - Rental & Buying


If you wish to rent an instrument the first port of call is to talk to your local music service or 'music hub'. This is often the cheapest way to obtain a rented oboe. For other oboe rental sources please pop an email to and we will email the sources from which you can obtain one.

New Oboes

Buying an instrument for a beginner oboist is initially an unwise choice as the student my in the future may not want to continue to with the oboe. We advise you get to about grade 4 standard before considering buying an oboe. It is often wise to consult your teacher before choosing an oboe as they will have valuable advice to ensure you find a good & well-priced instrument.

2nd Hand Oboes

New oboes are quite expensive so buying a 2nd hand oboe can be a cheaper alternative. You need to be careful when purchasing 2nd hand oboes, always take the instrument to your teacher or another very experienced oboist to have the instrument checked over. Any instruments sold by us, Crook and Staple, are always checked over thorughly before they are sold so you can be sure you'll leave with a great instrument!

Oboe Teachers

At Crook and Staple, we hold a list of oboe teachers from all over the UK. If you would like details of teachers in your area please pop us an email with what area you live in to

Oboe Maintenance

If is important to keep your oboe in good working order. To find out more about how to keep your oboe working well click here to view daily, fortnightly and less regular maintenance routines.

Oboe Accessories for When You're More Advanced


This is not vital for the beginner oboist however for the intermediate oboist it is essential. Practising with a metronome can be tedious, but it pays off, as it helps to build up your sense of rhythm and increases the accuracy of your fingers. We recommend that you practice scales with a metronome.


When you are more advanced, a tuner will be useful for your long note practice (which is very important for building stamina and tone quality) as it allows you to ensure your tuning it secure at different dynamics / air pressures. The use of a tuner will build any instrumentalists sense of pitch which is vital when playing either a solo or with other musicians. Oboists tune the whole orchestra, so it is vital that your sense of tuning becomes very good!

Reed Adjusting Tools

As you become more advanced you are likely to gain an interest in how oboe reeds are made. The first step, when wanting to learn how to make oboe reeds, is to learn how to make adjustments to your oboe reeds. For more information about this and the tools you need, have a look at our guide on how to make adjustments to oboe reeds.

Oboe Stand

An oboe stand is very useful for the intermediate oboist. When playing in a concert you may have a lot of rests and it is often beneficial to put the oboe down for a few minutes. The use of an oboe stand also encourages younger oboists to practice more often as they won't have to put the instrument away, as often, between playings, although we would suggest cleaning the instrument with a swab to remove the moisture from the instrument after each playing session.


if you have any questions about learning the oboe, don't hesitate to get in touch with us: Contact Us


This Article Was Written / Collated By

Matthew Petrie


Double Reed Expert at Crook and Staple