I am trying to envision and quantify the musical potential of being able to play the oboe versus the ability of being able to play the clarinet.
What instrument might offer a more versatile musical experience for a child? By versatile, I was thinking of an instrument that a child might desire to play throughout his/her life at home for relaxation and enjoyment rather than as a professional job in an orchestra. Thats why I love the piano and I am thankful my parents gave me piano lessons as a child. I'm not professional but I play every few days just for enjoyment outside of my professional life.
I can see the clarinet being a nice instrument a child might desire to play in the evenings after a long day at work for relaxation but I am not so sure about the oboe.
Can you see this with an oboe? or is the oboe too awkward of a sound for personal at-home use and more suitable to only ensemble or orchestral playing in a professional environment?
You see, I am not sure if my daughter will become a professional musician and I just want her to have the opportunity to be able to play a second instrument (she already plays the piano) for leisure and simply for the enjoyment of playing music.
If you were to choose between an oboe and a clarinet for such reasons what would you choose?
I can see an oboe being useful if as an adult you would like to join a community orchestra because there would likely be a greater need for an oboist because there are fewer oboists. But I was thinking of an instrument for enjoyment at home as well.
My wife and my other daughter already play the flute and piano and so I thought it would best for them all to have different instruments instead of all playing flutes - besides they all like their individuality and like having "their own" instrument.
Personally I love the oboe and so does my daughter but she also likes the clarinet and the clarinet is more affordable - although I do not want cost to be the reason for such an important decision as choosing an instrument that could potentially be for life. The reed issues of the oboe are a challenge and because of this I am not so sure it is a good instrument of choice as a second instrument because you likely should devote much time to reed production and practice whereas the clarinet seems to be an instrument that you could just open up the case and start playing for fun. Isn't that what music is all about anyways? She will be starting in a high school band (and she's really looking forward to band class) and if she takes to it and likes it we could offer oboe lessons but that may conflict with her current piano lessons. Personally I hope she chooses the oboe because everyone plays the clarinet and she likes to be unique but as a parent I don't want to steer her down a road that she cannot handle and simply may not be practical or sustainable if she already plays the piano. I will let her decide after we consider all the pros and cons. Before we go out an buy and oboe I need to be sure this is even a practical idea considering our reasons for learning music.
There is more music written for the clarinet isn't there? Thats probably an advantage if you play the clarinet.
I just had my Oboe lesson today.
Towards the end of it I got to meet a girl who just arrived. After some questioning I learned that she had been studying with my teacher for what may be now ten years! She is now a sophomore in College and naturally I asked her if she was an Oboe major.
I was surprised to learn she wasn't O.O. But she still comes regularly all the way from her home in Staten island, a 2 hour drive to my teacher's home, just to have lessons. She speaks fondly of her listening to orchestral recordings and still enjoys playing the oboe.
In my opinion, don't stress so much about if your daughter is making a right decision. I'm sure that no matter which instrument she picks it will work out if she truly wants to play and loves to make music.
These are the kinds of responses I have been reading about on how much people love to play the oboe. Its very encouraging considering that I would have never thought about the oboe earlier. Now my daughter is interested in it after I gave it some thought and wondered why there were not as many people considering the oboe. We listened to some recordings of verious instruments on the internet and heard many in real live performances and she and I both love the oboe sound. I asked her again yesterday to be sure it wasn't just my idea and sure enough she has more of a liking of the oboe. So we will give it a try and I am happy we are not choosing an instrument based on cost alone (oboes cost a little more than clarinets but I think we can make it work out). Nice story and thank you for sharing it with us!
I have no idea where you are from, but I have made this observation. It seems like every child either plays the clarinet or flute. Now that I have grown up, I am in an orchestra and the conductor made the observation that he has a lot of wind players enquiring about joining. The flute and oboe section is unchanged since I joined the orchestra 20 years ago. So those 4 players will be the best 4 players in the area. The clarinets have been playing for about 10 years and the same applies. So if you think you can be in the top 2 players in the area then a wind instrument is a good idea. On the other hand, they are taking just about any string player that can play to the appropriate standard. I also note that bassoons are hard to come by as well. The repertoire for strings is virtually limitless. I hope that you can see where this is going. Still, if you ignore the obvious then an oboe would be a better bet for your stated purpose (fewer players, wide range repertoire etc.) Hope that helps.
Very interesting observations especially about string instruments. We live in Metro Vancouver and with all the orchestras and community music groups in our area there likely are many opportunities for string players. Good point. However, my other youngest daughter already plays the violin (in grade 3) and although there is nothing wrong with having two violin players in the family, as parents we can only afford to pay for lessons on one major instrument for each of our three children and we are already paying for their piano lessons and violin for our youngest. My daughter who would like to play oboe, already majors in piano (will perform her grade 4 exam next week and move on to grade 5 in September 2010). In order to afford it, she could quit piano and take up the oboe instead but I don't think we would consider that at this point - she is such an amazing piano player. To play any instrument well requires lessons, but I think this is particularly true with the violin. We will send her to a few oboe lessons to have her start oboe as a second instrument and then monitor her need for oboe lessons during her participation in the grade 8 band. Basically she wants to join the grade 8 band and violin just isn't the right instrument for that (there is also no string orchestra in her high school). If violin was her only major instrument then yes we would do that but as she is already heavily involved in piano I think we will consider the oboe as a secondary instrument for her at this point. My wife is a music teacher and can guide her a little too. Violin likely wouldn't work as her second instrument because neither my wife nor myself could help her (we don't know enough about violin to teach her ourselves) and she would need continuous lesson which we couldn't afford because we are already paying for her piano lessons. She also majors in ballet - so time is an issue as well as the cost of the music and dance lessons.
But you never know what can happen, she is still young and there is that slight chance that one day her oboe playing might possibly eventually take over her piano but I will leave it to her to see what happens. I guess a parent can only do so much. Thanks for sharing your helpful insight PhilOShite.
But now that I write all this, I now have a second opinion...I think we need to hold a family meeting tonight and talk about considering violin as a second instrument just to see what she thinks. Its actually not a bad idea...Personally I think it is the ultimate combination of musical skills: piano plus violin - especially for someone majoring in composition later on. I agree. But I must let her decide. I think she will likely go for the oboe but the violin idea is worth consideration - at least mentioning it to her to see how she responds to the idea.
If only there was enough time and money to play them all!
I have played Oboe for about 16 months now. I have played percussion and piano for about... 3-ish years. I also have some clarinet experience from elementary school.
As we all know, a clarinet is one of the first choices for young woman starting a new instrument. Let's face it: it's cheap(er), more common, and more of a "group" instrument. It's a great instument to learn on. It teaches transposition (Bb instead of C). It'll also "teach" her to use a flat-mouthed embouchure. And, most likely, she'll be in a group, so she can learn from and with others like her.
I personally love clarinets -- they're beautiful (soundwise) and have a nice, long range (may I say ouch?), but an Oboe has many great factors, too.
Personally, I would choose Oboe. Why?
- It's a great "foundation" instrument. It'll teach your daughter "proper" embouchure (as in, she will learn to rely on her embouchure more than fixing her instrument (single-reeds, *ahem!*), which will become a HUGE problem in the years to come).
- Oboe is also in concert pitch (c), so there are no immediate problems there.
- The oboe will also, most likely, teach your daughter independence and individuality. (Because that's what the oboe is -- independent and very unique, and highly prized among all band, especially high-school and professional orchestra.)
- The oboe is a (mostly) solo instrument, and it has a very unique (and commonly called "ducklike") tone.
Now, the oboe isn't all fun and games. Here's why:
- Embouchure: She will need LOTS.... let me repeat... LOTS of air to control this instrument. The reed's opening is only about 7/10 by 1/10 of a centimeter. (Yep, that's a walk in the park.) The oboe (and double reeds and brass, in general) rely on embouchure more than anything else. No, she can't really "fix" her instrument by pulling from the barrel (clarinet) or the neck (bass clarinet, saxophone). She relies on her reed (which is also the mouthpiece).
- Rarity: The oboe is a relatively rare instrument. You'll have to go greater lengths to find what you're looking for. (So if you live here in the US, you MIGHT have to make some connections over in the UK.) This means reeds, and the oboe itself, as well and supplies. You WILL be totally going crazy over these reeds, like my mother does.
- Solo: She's probably the only oboe, so she'll have to learn to be on her own. (Independence, hmm?) The director might not be very knowledgable, either, so she'll have to be resourceful. Oboe is also a popular solo instrument, so watch out. (I myself am very shy and considered anti-social. I HATE being center of
- Other Students: Because of the oboe's unique and "ducklike" sound, kids will, naturally, be teasing her because of her musical choice. All oboe players have been a subject of this, and she will be no different.
So some advice for you as a parent:
- The oboe is a rare, delicate and high-maintenance instrument. Treat her instuments and supplies with great care.
- Reeds are EXTREMELY important to the oboe player. I cannot stress this enough. If you have bad/improper reeds, it's like cookies without flour -- it just doesn't work. So, if your daughter does choose oboe and becomes a bit picky when it comes to reeds, let her. She knows what she's doing and she knows what she needs to get the reed that's good for her.
- DO NOT become nasty with her or not agree to not buy her reeds because hers broke or don't play well. It's very common with beginner/factory made reeds, and it's pretty much out of her control.
One thing she should learn IF she chooses oboe:
- A tuning ( @ 440) [EXTREMELY important!]
I could go on and on, but here's where I stop. Hope this helps.
"Oboe is also a popular solo instrument, so watch out. (I myself am very shy and considered anti-social. I HATE being center of"... attention. She will become center of attention starting in high school. This does mean solos and independent playing.
This was a great response. Thank you! Now I must let you know its been about a year since I posted this but regardless your reply is very helpful as I become more familiar with the oboe which last year was an instrumental choice we made that was very unfamiliar to us. Based on all the helpful responses on this forum and other online forums too, my daughter (with some of our guidance) made the choice to play the oboe and its been one of the best decisions we ever made! She loves her oboe and has been playing in her high school band since September 2010. One of the most rewarding moments for my wife and I and our other children was attending her first big band concert, the Christmas concert. We were able to hear so many of her musical lines because the oboe has a more solo character than the other instruments. Now this is not to say that she stood out and did not blend - but rather the oboe carries a beautiful unique color over top the orchestra and adds to the full orchestral sound in such a beautiful manner. It is perhaps my most favourite of all the instruments. We were thrilled to hear her play to clearly. Now the facts are however its been a difficult learning curve and its taken a lot of hard work and dedication. She plays at least 2 hours per week and maybe more and we also found a professional oboe teacher who specializes in oboe and played in the symphony. If it were not for our professional teacher there is no way she could have progresses as quickly as she did. Her teacher knows all about the reeds and can build them herself although she now has another person custom build them for her and all her students. She makes it all easy for us and eventually we will learn this part of the craft too. It has not been intimidating and I would encourage anyone - if you have the positive attitude to not give up easily - to try the oboe. I could write for hours all the stories about this instrument and but there is not much time for all the stories - they are all good stories. Most importantly is the fact my daughter is not one to join the crowd - she likes to stand out and when we showed her the clarinet versus the oboe she went for the oboe first because everyone else chose the clarinet. So its been a good match for her character and myself, her dad, loves the sound of the oboe. Her teacher spends almost half the lesson time on embouchure formation. "Play like you are yawning in class but trying to hide the yawn to create that tight lip shape" are some of her many embouchure strategies amongst others. I sit in on the lessons and find it very fascinating - but I give them their distance too so as not to be in the way. And about the actual oboe itself, we ended up buying one of the most amazing brands of oboes you could find. Its an F. Loree Oboe. 30 years old. Grenadilla wood. Perfect straight bore. We were very lucky to find this oboe - very very lucky - it was second hand and the owner was very keen to sell it because it was on consignment for a while and by the time we were searching the owner lowered the price drastically to match the cost of another second hand oboe I was going to buy that I was going to drive about 300 km to inspect - and likely purchase (a wooden Rigoutaut professional model). We certainly never thought about buying a Loree but I am a believer in God's assistance when there is a need and that is the only explanation I have about how we acquired this instrument which normally we could simply not afford. We paid six times more than I originally thought I would pay for an oboe after about 6 months of oboe research on the internet including lots of time reading many posts on this amazingly helpful forum. I was also keen on a Fox 300 or Fox 330 at one point too which would have been a nice choice too. Before we made the purchase we had it professionally inspected to be certain it was in good condition. So all is well. Once you know you are on the right track its easy to work hard to progress. My daughter becomes bored easily and so she like to spend time doing something. Thats why music has been a good match for her. She plays piano and now oboe as well. I never push her to practice.
MidnightIsCalling, I certainly appreciated your advice you wrote to me in this post and sharing all your experiences and expertise which I can relate to very well - greatly appreciated!
As someone who has played the oboe since the 5th grade (I'm now 34 years old), I will tell you that later in life, being able to play the oboe, on an amateur level is a good thing. Perhaps when she is older she will join a local community band. If she lives in a small community like I do, you will be the only oboist, and the director will get that happy gleam in their eye. Having an oboe in the group definitely opens all sorts of doors that the group can perform.
Also, this is going to sound like an odd question, but how big are her hands. If she has really tiny hands, she will struggle greatly with the clarinet. I studied to be a band director, and as an adult I struggled being able to reach all the keys on a clarinet, and I would say that I have average sized hands for an adult woman. When I was student teaching, I had this 6th grader who could not reach all the holes/keys on her clarinet. I have no idea why the clarinet is pushed so much for beginning bands students, because it simply isn't a good match for small hands. Sure, even a beginning oboist will struggle reaching all the keys, but the oboe is more "consolidated" than a clarinet.
If you do end up going with the oboe, it does take a lot of family support. Everyone is going to have to deal with the "duck calls" for quite a while. Also, she's probably going to endure some teasing at school because of the sound. You will need to be her sounding board at home. To combat the teasing, simply encourage her to excel. Especially with the oboe, the old adage, "practice makes perfect" really holds true. I would also invest in getting her a good private teacher. My first year of the oboe was with my band director who was a sax player. My second year, we got a new band director who just happened to be an oboist. Within a WEEK, there was a huge improvement. I was fortunate to have her has my director for two years before she moved on. We found a new oboe teacher through my violin teacher (a Franciscan nun who taught at a local Catholic college). I has lessons with her until I left for college (and during my summer vacations in college).
Before worrying about what kind of oboe she plays, get a teacher. That teacher can help cure many bad habits, and direct you towards good reeds. Even good reeds need to be tweaked, and an oboist can do that.