Dr. John W. Goodall

Return to Tips for Oboe

Fundamental Guidelines
for the Oboe Student

by Dr. John W. Goodall
Professor of Music
Oboe & Theory
SFA School of Music
[email protected]


Hand Position
Fingers curved.  Thumbs always on the instrument, never in the air. 
Little fingers (pinkies) should easily reach the (left) E-flat and the (right) D-flat keys.

Sit up straight, bring the oboe to your mouth, do not "bow" or bend your head to the instrument.

Play with an open mouth.  Teeth apart, lips rolled in, mouth in a "whistle" or "pucker" formation.  "Focus" towards the upper lip.

Breathing and Blowing
Breath from the stomach, but a "full tank'' is not needed.  Do not "over blow" the reed; quality (a fast air stream) not quantity is the most important aspect of blowing on the oboe.  Keep the air at the tip of the reed.

Tongue with the tip of the tongue on the tip of the reed.  Tongue only with the tongue; do not tongue with the jaw (chew) or tongue with the wind.

There are three requirements for a good reed:

  1. Stability - the reed should "crow" a C free of rattle and show the lower octave when pushed.  It should play in tune in all registers with very little movement of the embouchure.
  2. Response - the reed should respond in all registers at all dynamic levels with little effort.
  3. Tone - the reed should produce a dark tone quality without having to cover with the lips, thereby restricting stability and response.

To make reeds last longer and play more consistently: always soak reeds in water a few minutes before playing and store them in a reed case that allows them to dry out completely.  Never try to play on a dry or partially soaked reed, this will cause them to crack and/or leak.


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