Oboe and health risks?

Oboe and health risks?

Oboe and health risks?    16:55 on Friday, September 11, 2009          

(21 points)
Posted by michael88

I know this might sound a little odd at first consideration, however, as a parent of a child who expressed interest in learning the oboe, I was wondering if there are any known health risks associated with the high pressure required to play the oboe in terms of the unique blowing method the oboe demands from a player. I have read many comments on various music discussion forums about stories of oboe players fainting due to blowing too hard. This can't be good for a child's health wouldn't you say? And so I didn't want to take this subject lightly and thought I would pose this question for some open-minded opinions about this topic. Of course oboe players will probably be subjective toward their choice of instrument and this I understand however if it is a general problem with the oboe - even if played correctly - I would rather she learn another instrument such as the clarinet or flute. Could someone help us out with this decision?

My question is, is the blowing problem with the oboe due to improper blowing technique or because it is simply the nature of the oboe - in which case perhaps playing the oboe could lead to future problems especially in concentration. I wouldn't want to subject her to any health risks for the sake of music.

My daughter already plays the piano and is also a ballet dancer and I didn't want her to take up the oboe if it will affect her overall health as well as her physical and mental ability in these other areas.

As well, if this is the case, I would like to ask any oboe players if they actually enjoy the experience of playing their oboe or is it simply hard work - unlike the way playing music should be?

Perhaps this instrument is simply not a good choice - due to, as one could say, this small, yet significant, ergonomic flaw.

Please help to convince me otherwise or I will feel ethically obliged to suggest another instrument.

Thank you for any opinions,



My daughter is 13 yrs old (grade 7 in school)

Re: Oboe and health risks?    13:31 on Saturday, September 12, 2009          

(352 points)
Posted by oboegirl

I haven't ever heard of any health risks of playing the oboe (other than things like carpal tunnel, which could affect any woodwind or string player, but you would only get it if you practiced for hours and hours every day.) If she wants to play it for band, I don't think it would pose any problem, because it is unlikely she would practice for enough hours a day to cause a problem, and usually, the oboe's part in band music isn't too intense (especially only in junior high.) I started the oboe when I was 11 and still play it in band and a youth symphony (I'm a junior now) and I haven't had any problems with it, and I even usually practice an hour or more a day. I also take ballet classes, and playing the oboe hasn't affected that at all. I would say that if she wants to try it, then she should go for it! If you are worried about her blowing to hard, have her use softer reeds, or have her take lessons to get her started out right.

Hope this helps!


Re: Oboe and health risks?    01:04 on Sunday, September 13, 2009          

(1279 points)
Posted by JOhnlovemusic

Your daughter has more risk of acquiring a serious injury in ballet class than anything happening to her while playing the oboe. Yes, there are stories about oboe back pressure but unless your daughter goes on to become a professional oboe player for a living there is little if anythign to worry about. More ballet dancers receiveing permanent injuries than oboe players (I have done both).

In my opinion any student taking French Horn, Oboe, or Bassoon should absolutely have pricate lessons from the get go; a good teacher. Start with the closest good symphony and then get referrals from there.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    01:43 on Sunday, September 13, 2009          

(21 points)
Posted by michael88

Thank you Abigail and JOhnlovemusic.

Your insite and experience into this issue was certainly appreciated and helpful. I'm just trying to play it safe before we jump into learning a new instrument that we do not know much about. I'm glad I discovered this forum. As you both mentioned you have assured me a little more that the risks are probably not that critical but regardless I will still keep these ideas in the back of my mind and be sure she is learning to breathe correctly - which, as you say seems to require professional instruction. Thank you for sharing these very good points.

I've posted this question in a similar form on another online forum and I will await some more opinions but I am starting to lean more toward supporting her in playing the oboe now. Just don't want her hurting herself blowing too hard, that's all. I suppose what you are saying is that good technique is the key to avoiding these problems. Thank you once again!


Re: Oboe and health risks?    11:01 on Sunday, September 13, 2009          

(1279 points)
Posted by JOhnlovemusic

She really can't 'blow too hard' and if she does she will find it very difficult to make a sound. The key secret is blowing in a relaxed manner to allow the reed to do what it needs to do. The back pressure so many people talk about is technically there as there is som eresistance from the small aperture of the reed. Relaxed playing and exhaling more often solves that issue.

As said before, she probably doesn't have the strength to blow too hard; certainly not at her young age.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    12:51 on Sunday, September 13, 2009          

(121 points)
Posted by OboeLover4Life

Mike, honestly you can have problems playing ANY instrument. Not just the Oboe.

In my opinion any student taking French Horn, Oboe, or Bassoon should absolutely have pricate lessons from the get go

All students SHOULD have private lessons from the get go......It's a shame when kids give up on an instrument because of things like "It's too hard" or they don't know how to fix an issue....And this way you'll almost never have any bad habits.

On to the Oboe though...I've been playing playing for almost two years now and I find the Oboe very satisfying to play. It's also the easiest instrument I play on, compared to singing and the flute anyways.......
Playing the Oboe....hmm, I have fun and......I mean it's never going to become effortless, just like an athlete is never going to have an easy time running track, playing football etc. To play an instrument takes hard physical work! But again, this isn't true for just Oboe but ALL wind & string instruments.

I know you mean well Mike but like John said, your daughter is more likely to run into physical issues doing ballet then playing a musical instrument. Toes always come to mind when I think of ballet *cringes*.

Let your daughter give it a try. You never know, she may become the next Heinz Holliger xD.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    15:25 on Monday, September 14, 2009          

(771 points)
Posted by contra448

As others have said the risk of actual damage is remote provided your daughter is taught by a competent teacher who will ensure she uses a suitable reed & techniques.
I have only come across one person who could not stand the pressure & she changed to bassoon & loved it.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    13:21 on Tuesday, September 15, 2009          

(1 point)
Posted by peanutbuderjj

health risks???

Re: Oboe and health risks?    13:33 on Tuesday, September 15, 2009          

(21 points)
Posted by michael88

Thank you everyone once again for all these words of advice and support. Really appreciated!

I wanted to rate your replies all for "best answer" but I could only choose one unfortunately. But they are all good points and have helped us out. Thanks!

We decided to support her with her decision. We are going to go the the music store to talk about oboes and try a few out. Because of all the support everyone gave me on this forum, I feel I can now support her with her decision if she chooses the oboe without any worry. Personally, its one my favourite wind instrument - I love its sound - and I hope this endeavour works out well.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    13:39 on Tuesday, September 15, 2009          

(21 points)
Posted by michael88

Mike wrote:
"I wanted to rate your replies all for "best answer" but I could only choose one unfortunately."

Sorry about that confusing comment. I was mixed up with the policy at "Yahoo answers", another forum I use sometimes. Yes, here, I was able to give everyone each a vote. Thank you once again.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    22:56 on Tuesday, September 15, 2009          

(157 points)
Posted by AK42

I've found that oboe players tend to develope social awkardness which is bad for social health : P I'm only kidding. This is just a general musician thing haha! Having played oboe before, I did hyperventilate once, but that was from breathing improperly (pushing myself WAY to far). Your daughter will be fine and maybe earn a scholarship

Re: Oboe and health risks?    19:13 on Wednesday, September 16, 2009          

(352 points)
Posted by oboegirl

Congrats! I'm sure she will love playing the oboe! Good luck!

Re: Oboe and health risks?    20:19 on Thursday, October 01, 2009          

(51 points)
Posted by cmwebert

Any good oboist will tell you that it is all a matter of having the right reed strength. A reed with more wood on it generally may sound better, but if it's too heavy you may need a compressor to play it! On the other hand, a thinner reed will take much less effort to play, but it might sound like a K-Mart toy. As an oboist becomes better conditioned over years of playing, they tend to use reeds that are somewhat heavier.

If a beginning oboist attempts to play on a professional strength reed, they will find themselves exhausted very quickly. For the beginner, it is extremely important that they are given reeds of appropriate strength. It's also important that they learn how to recognize when a read is beyond playable (cracks, leaks, etc.). That's where a few lessons with an experienced oboist can become invaluable. The teacher can help the student pick out appropriate reeds at the store, or show the student how to adjust their reeds to make them easier to play.

I've been playing the oboe for almost 40 years now, and I've never experienced any health problems related to my playing. As a matter of fact, I think my health is better for being an oboist. Last time I took a routine pulmonary function test, I tested WAY above average for my total lung capacity and peak expiratory flow. High blood pressure runs in my family, but I seem to have escaped that curse. Probably because I play the oboe!

Re: Oboe and health risks?    02:47 on Friday, October 02, 2009          

(3 points)
Posted by Mahamaja

When I play long tones, I have to be sitting. Because some days my blood pressure is lower than usually or there is a bad air pressure and I might faint (my friend fainted when playing oboe and he is 25-year-old healthy boy, fortunately the instrument survived without any accident.... and the boy too). That´s why I prefere playing in afternoon or better in evening.
Another thing is my right thumb. It hurts when I donˇt play every day. But I have weak hands generally.

Re: Oboe and health risks?    10:06 on Thursday, December 24, 2009          

(21 points)
Posted by michael88

Thank you cmwebert, Mahamaja and asc111.

cmwebert, that was a really helpful post you wrote. As the parent of a beginner, this is the kind of advice that I will need. We have now rented an oboe for our daughter and she likes it very much. Now we will need to find a good teacher. Thank you.


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