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Oboe help for adult beginner

Oboe double reed

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#1 CrownedCrane

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Posted 24 August 2021 - 12:40

As a play for fun woodwind doubler (clarinet, alto sax and flute) I'd really like to try Oboe. I've always loved the sound and been intrigued by the instrument. Unfortunately it seems like very few people play it. Not many places hire out Oboes to try and they're very expensive so I'd like to get hold of a relatively cheap beginner Oboe to try (that I can resell if I don't get on with it, so at least I get some return on investment). Also so that I have more time to work with it without worrying about returning it

Lots of people recommend Howarth S10s and new beginner Yamaha's but £800+ is a lot to drop on an instrument that I'm looking to try out and isn't my primary (at least to begin with). If I found I loved it I could always upgrade. I have found very few secondhand student Howarths and Yamahas for sale and they're still pretty pricey so I have come here for advice as unfortunately I don't know anyone who plays Oboe who I can ask.


So my question is, which of these cheap second-hand beginner Oboes is the best of the bad bunch?

Bundy plastic Closed hole Thumbplate (likely about 40 years old with the B and F keys). I've heard that the conservatoire Bundy's aren't good but the Thumbplates are better and that closed hole and plastic is good for beginners but is this any good?

Various Buffets (wood and plastic I think, thumbplate, b and f keys but mostly open holed). I've seen mixed reviews on Buffets especially negative reviews of the Evettes so I'm thinking of steering clear of those however is an open hole Buffet better than the closed hole Bundy?

Rudall Carte. My research suggested these are really old and are mostly open holed. Is this any better than the aforementioned instruments?

Various Boosey and Hawkes, open holed with f and b keys. Again mixed reviews, mostly older and open holed.

Any other suggestions I have missed that I should look out for?

Is it better to compromise on the closed holes and get a better make? I understand that plastic is recommended for beginners but is wood a good compromise for a better make? Is an open holed old Howarth (e.g. Howarth B) infinitely better than all of the above? A lot of the older instruments available seem to be open holed. Is is it better to go for whatever is newer to avoid issues or to focus on the make? Is it best to go for a better make such as a JP or Howarth and forgo the extra keywork to get a newer model?

Any suggestions or thoughts the above are welcome, especially what points to focus on. I know none of the aforementioned Oboes are going to be groundbreaking but I'm trying to work out which aspects are most important for compromising with a beginner Oboe.
The price difference between these and some of the fancier models is the difference between trying Oboe or not for me currently. As mentioned before if I loved it I could upgrade.

Thanks!
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#2 Clovis

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Posted 25 August 2021 - 09:22

I took up the oboe as an adult beginner just under a year ago (I also play flute), and began with regular lessons from the start. My teacher was able to lend me a Howarth S10 English thumbplate system, which I played for about four months before becoming frustrated with the tuning (it was mostly the instrument, not me). At that point I had decided to take the instrument seriously, so had a look for second-hand intermediate oboes and now have a semi-automatic Yamaha YOB43, which is great and will see me through. It wasn't cheap.

 

I can't advise on the models you mention (other than that Howarth and Yamaha are good), as I don't know enough, but even student oboes are not that great. Is there are good woodwind shop near you that could give you advice and have a selection of second-hand instruments you could try? I also know someone who bought a cheap new oboe online from China and was quite satisfied with that (also a flautist, but self-taught on the oboe).

 

Oboes and accessories are ridiculously expensive.


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#3 old_and_grumpy

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Posted 25 August 2021 - 09:22

I'm not an oboe player and know nothing about any of the models you mention, so apologies that this doesn't really answer your question - it's just a thought to add to the mix.  I once started learning and I had some lessons (I gave up because of one of those big life events that come along, though I have always wished I had been able to continue).  Anyway, I just bought a cheap Chinese oboe.  They always get terrible reviews nowadays but this all happened in pre-internet days so all I considered was that, though it probably wasn't going to be as good as a respectably branded instrument, it was a lot cheaper. 

 

I was fortunate enough to have a very good teacher, and he reckoned that although my oboe was not an instrument he'd be taking to work (day job was playing in an orchestra) it was good enough to learn on, for two main reasons.  The first was that, in his opinion, one of the most important aspects of learning was making reeds, and you could work on that so long as you had any old oboe to test them on.  The second was that, although my instrument was nowhere near as good as a new higher quality one, it might have been better than an ancient one - everything worked, it wasn't grotty in any way, etc. 

 

I actually bought my oboe 2nd hand from an instrument shop so it had been checked over and there was some chance of taking it back if I had any problems, but I never did.  I kept it for quite a long time after I stopped playing but in the end I sold it and, not allowing for inflation, got about what I had paid for it.  All in all, it was a cheap and cheerful way of getting started; if I had continued I would have bought something better - I played for about a year and was starting to look around for something at that point.

 

After this, you'll probably get other replies that all say "don't buy a Chinese oboe" and maybe they will be right.  There was a much smaller choice of 2nd hand instruments then (the pre-internet thing) and maybe the same principal of buying one and selling it on for roughly what you paid would now apply to something better.  Still, it was a fairly inexpensive way of trying it out.


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#4 Norway

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Posted 25 August 2021 - 09:50

I started on a plastic B and H Regent and actually did grade 8 on it because I couldn't afford a more expensive one. It cost £200 in about 1988.


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#5 Arundodonuts

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Posted 25 August 2021 - 10:17

I initially picked up a cheap secondhand Bundy (very basic no bottom B or Bb, conservatoire not thumbplate) just to see if I liked the experience of playing oboe but before I started lessons I found a secondhand Buffet (1492 model I think) for £450 which seemed OK but within a year of starting a secondhand Howarth S40 popped up for £1450. That difference was chalk and cheese. Better keywork, better tone, more even intonation across the range. I played that up to Grade 8 then splashed out on a Howarth XL (again secondhand at £3000) to reward myself. Note though that these were all private sales and cheaper the the equivalent bought in a shop.

 

I still have them all, the only ones I think I would get a good return on selling are the Howarths. That's often the point with expensive, good quality instruments. They cost a lot but if you sell you get a decent return. 

 

I have sat with players of Yamaha student oboes and they sound pretty decent and the quality is good, as you would expect from Yamaha.


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#6 luke43

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Posted 27 August 2021 - 12:26

I initially started on a student wooden Buffet oboe which I bought from Howarths which was recommended by my oboe teacher. I started the oboe when I was 13 when it was suggested I should look to play a second orchestral instrument. It just happened at the time my piano teacher was also a professional oboist so made sense to take it up. Also you are more likely to get into an orchestra as oboists tend to be more of a rarity compared to clarinet and flute players.

 

A student Buffet or a Howarths oboes probably can't go wrong they seem to be well made. Make sure what key system you want as the English made ones normally come with a thumbplate which does require sometimes different fingerings compared to he ones made without a thumbplate (conservatoire system).  I would say keep away from plastic oboes they do look and feel cheap when I've seen them in orchestras. Most french makes like Marigaux and Loree are well made. There is a french semi-professional make that sometimes comes up second hand Cabart that I believe is part of the Loree arm.

 

Oboes are expensive instruments and you have to maintain i.e. serviced regularly and then you have the added cost of reeds. Quite often require scrapping down to make them playable for your liking. Initially my oboe teacher did this for me in the early days and later when I reached grade 6-8 I did this myself with a reed knife.

 

I would say might be a good idea to pop to your local oboe shop or Howarths in London who can probably advise you better. Here is a link to their second oboe listings: https://www.howarthl...dHandInsts.aspx


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#7 CrownedCrane

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Posted 27 August 2021 - 21:12

Thanks for your help everyone!


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#8 Minstrel

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Posted 03 September 2021 - 21:15

Do a search on this board for old oboe threads, there used to be a really good and active one for all things oboe. Im sorry, I can’t remember the name, can any other long standing forum items help ? 


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#9 Arundodonuts

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Posted 04 September 2021 - 10:44

I think that would be "Where are all the Oboists..".


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#10 Gordon Shumway

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 18:14

I started on a plastic B and H Regent and actually did grade 8 on it because I couldn't afford a more expensive one. It cost £200 in about 1988.

Ditto, except that it cost £99 in 1973-ish, and I insured it for £300 in 1978!

 

Plastic/"bakelite" is possibly less temperamental than wood - I played a friend's Lorée and it seemed surprisingly stifled after the B&H. Whereas I always imagined a Rigoutat would be freer, to judge from Heinz Holliger's playing. Possibly you should find out on a plastic oboe what your preferred style is going to be before splashing out on wood?


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