How to Avoid and Fix Common Bad Habits on the Oboe Common
How to Avoid and Fix Common Bad Habits on the Oboe
Presented by Heather Winters
[email protected] @MrsWintersMusic
Common Embouchure Issues
The ideal embouchure is an inverted pucker; lips rolled over the teeth, corners
pulled in not straight, teeth far apart with lips sealing around the reed, not biting down
and closing off the reed. Things to remember: keep your chin and mouth flat and equal,
not bunched up, jaw “dropped” and open, lips should be flat and the same shape, not
one sticking out farther than the other.
Reed should always be pushed in all the way, no matter what intonation issues
exist! Only the tip should be in the mouth with the lips on the heart, never down near
the back or the threads. See next page for a diagram of the reed sections.
Tonguing and Tongue Placement
Tip of the tongue, tip of the reed. Tongue should be like a release valve for the
air - lightly release and flick the reed with the tongue.
Should always be at a 45 degree angle for correct intonation and sound. If the
angle is too low, the sound will be weak and could go sharp, and low notes might have
problems speaking properly. If the angle is too high, the pitch can be flat, and high
notes might have problems speaking.
Incorrect or Inappropriate Fingerings
Forked F vs. Regular F
Forked F is taught too soon and too often and should only be used as an
alternate fingering for D-natural, D-flat, and E-flat passages only. Forked F should NOT
use the E-flat right pinky key. The regular F fingering should always be the default F
Alternate left pinky F key
Located above the left pinky keys, not usually standard on most student level
instruments (wah, wah). Can be used instead of Forked F for the previous examples.
D-flat to E-flat and Low C to E-flat Passages
Should always use the left pinky Eb key, NEVER slide. For low C to Eflat, use the alternate low C “banana key” fingering, next to right hand ring
finger key, or left hand E-flat key.
Side Octave Key vs. Thumb Octave Key
Use thumb (first) octave key for middle E-natural to high A-flat.
Use side (second) octave for high A-natural to high C-natural.
Conservative or professional level instruments might have a third octave
key, which can be used for high D-natural and above.
Right hand side A-flat key
Can be used instead of regular pinky A-flat key for passages with the left hand
pinky E-flat key. Located on other side of left hand pinky keys, see diagram from
Other fingering tricks, tips, and issues
No low B-flat key/the dreaded low B-flat hole? Avoid those instruments if at all
possible! C to D trill keys are between first and second keys on both hands. Trill
fingerings or other fingering questions? Email me!
Hand-made reeds are going to be significantly better
in quality, sound, intonation and will last longer. Machine made
reeds are inconsistent, can be unbalanced or not centered. Also
the tips are usually not thin enough because they will break
easier, but that will negatively affect the sound production. Good
quality reeds will have three clearly defined sections: the tip, heart
and back. The heart is going to be the thickest section and where
the lips should be placed. The heart is the most important section
because it is going to be what determines the sound - too thin of a
heart and the reed will be nasal and kazoo-like. Too thick and it
will be too hard to blow and flat. The tip is the thinnest section,
(which is why it breaks so darn easily!) and is going to vibrate the
most. The back contains two sides, called windows. To help keep the tip opened and
to give it a darker sound, reeds should have some bark left on the sides and a slightly
thicker section in the middle called a spine.
Easy reed adjustments and fixes
Extremely flat reeds can be clipped at the tip, but be very careful! You can’t put
it back, so only clip a tiny little sliver at a time. Sharp reeds are much harder to fix. You
can try thinning the tip more, or lengthening the tip or back. Doing that will compromise
the sound quality and give it a more nasal sound. Reeds with a small opening or not
responsive can be clipped slightly or have the windows thinned. Leaks can be fixed
with fishskin, wax, or plumber’s silicone tape.
Reed tools anyone can use
Reed knife - $30-80+
Single beveled, double beveled, contoured, wedge, vitry, double hollow ground. .
.what does that all mean??? Basically it’s just the cut of the knife blade, which is mostly
personal preference. Get the cheapest student model, they are all basically the same.
Plaque - $2-10
Small piece of metal you slide between the blades of the reed before you scrape
so you don’t break the reed. You can get rounded or pointed, again personal
preference. Contoured are more expensive and unnecessary - I actually think they
make it easier to break the reeds! Not worth the extra money to get the more expensive
Scissors or Cutting Block - varies $7-16
I use scrapbooking scissors because they are super sharp, but come with a
cover so I don’t accidentally stab myself! The brand I use is Cutter Bee, and can be
found at craft stores. I don’t recommend cutting blocks, unless you like missing the
reed, not cutting it all the way through, or making your knife dull for no reason.
Plumber’s silicone tape, fishskin, wax, etc. $2-5
Fishskin smells terrible, rips easily and is hard to use. I’ve never tried wax, but
that seems unnecessarily complicated and difficult. Silicone tape is easy to use, works
well and very cheap and easy to find at any hardware store.
Reeds, Reed Making Tools and Oboe Accessories
● Edmund-Nielsen Double Reeds www.nielsen-woodwinds.com
● Charles Double Reed www.charlesmusic.com
● North Texas Oboe Reeds www.oboereedstore.com
● Forrests Double Reed www.forrestsmusic.com
● Singin’ Dog Double Reed Supplies www.singindog.com
● “The Oboe Reed Book” by Jay Light
Preferred Method Books
● Gekeler Method for Oboe Book I & II - complete beginners up to high
● Ferling 48 Famous Studies - upper high school and college
● Barret Oboe Method - upper middle school to college
● Vade Mecum Technical & Orchestral Studies - upper high school to
Recommended Solo Repertoire
● Oboe Solos by Jay Arnold
● Master Solos Hal Leonard
● Alfred Classic Festival Solos - good for beginners
● Oboe Chicago www.oboechicago.com
● Woodwind & Brasswind www.wwbw.com
● Forrests Double Reed www.forrestsmusic.com
● Nora Post, Inc. www.norapost.com