​​Oboe Suggestions and Resources

Stacey Berk

University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Here are resources and suggestions to help oboists and their band directors/teachers with oboe-related concepts and issues. Feel free to contact me with any questions! 

Demystifying Double Reeds -  WI Music Educators Conference, 10/27/16
Fingering chart - from the Woodwind Fingering Guide
How to make a reed case (coming soon)

And here are some basics to think about when playing the oboe:

Breathing 

  • Breathe deeply, nice and low, so that your belly expands
  • Your back and ribs should also be free to expand
  • Keep the shoulders and upper chest relaxed
  • Keep the back of the tongue down when inhaling, like a yawn
  • If there is breath noise while inhaling, the tongue is too high, restricting the air flow
  • Use lower abdominal muscles (by the belly button) to blow fast air!
  • Focus on exhaling at every breath opportunity, to expel the stale air before inhaling. 

Posture

  • Keep the head up  
  • Oboe about 45%
  • Arms relaxed, wrists straight
  • Fingers curved
  • Standing stance – knees slightly bent, avoid shifting weight

Relaxation

  • Shoulders/arms – be able to wiggle them independently while you play
  • Isolate abdominal muscles – keep everything else relaxed (neck/shoulders/hands)
  • Stretch your arms/fingers before and after you play

Embouchure

  • Corners In
  • Jaw open
  • Think of pulling the upper lip down to the reed 
  • Cushion the reed with lips – no biting!

Starting the sound

  • Inhale through mouth (relaxed – not forced)
  • Set embouchure
  • Place tongue on reed
  • Exhale (fast air!) to create pressurized air in the mouth
  • Release tongue to start the sound

Articulation

  • For a smooth, legato start to the tone, use continuous air and drop the tongue away from the reed slowly 
  • For normal articulations, release the tongue from the reed at a moderate speed
  • For accented or aggressive articulation, release the tongue very quickly from the reed
  • Tongue with the tip of the tongue just under the bottom blade of reed
  • Release of notes/phrases – Slow the air, don’t use tongue to stop notes

Scales/Exercises

  • Practice scales slowly and accurately, then work on speed
  • Scales help you sight read and play music much more accurately
  • Practice scales and exercises in a variety of rhythmic/articulation patterns

Intonation

  • Relax embouchure if sharp - pull the lower lip down, away from the reed
  • Blow faster air if flat
  • If still flat with fast air, engage more embouchure around the reed
  • If still flat, check the reed (see "Reeds")
  • Practice with a drone (tonic pitch) while you play scales and long tones, and get the sounds to be as pure (beat-free) as possible
  • Get to know the tuning of your instrument. "E"s tend to be sharp, and high A-C can be flat if unsupported, or sharp if the embouchure is pinched

Phrasing

  • Always aim your air and dynamics toward the important part of phrase 
  • Never let a line be stagnant – do something with it!
  • Bar lines are not stopping points - play through the bar line to the notes in the next measure 

Vibrato

  • Use abdominal muscles to slow & speed the air stream when first learning vibrato
  • Pulse 1, then 2, then 3, then 4 pulses per second 
  • Allow the pitch to smoothly go flat and sharp
  • Keep throat and embouchure relaxed to allow for pitch change
  • Practice pulsing with a metronome so you can do a variety of speeds
  • Eventually allow the throat/vocal chords to share in the pulsing until the vibrato becomes a natural part of the tone, but one for which you can control the speed and depth

Care of Instruments/Reeds

  • Always swab after playing
  • Soak reeds in water container – not your mouth
  • Warm up wooden oboes from the outside
  • Be very careful with reeds/keys
Stacey Berk

Stacey Berk

Professor - Oboe and Music Theory
Department of Music
Office: NFAC 304
Office Phone: (715) 346-3133
Fax: (715) 346-3163
E-mail: sberk@uwsp.edu