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The Oboe


Fun Facts about the Oboe

Oboe
Double Reed
English Horn
  • The oboe is a member of the woodwind family.
  • The oboe is a long, slender wooden tube, widening out into a bell shape at the end. Attached to the wood are metal keys which are operated by the musician’s fingers to open and close holes along the length of the tube. 
  • A standard oboe is 2 feet long.
  • The oboe uses a double reed, two pieces of wood that look like a flattened straw. The two pieces of wood are tied together with string around a small metal tube. This forms the oboe’s mouthpiece, which is inserted into the top end of the instrument.
  • An oboist plays the instrument by blowing air into the double reed, which causes the two reeds to vibrate against each other, creating a sound. 
  • Professional oboists make their own reeds by hand. The wood comes from a type of cane, a relative of the bamboo family. The cane wood is whittled, shaped, and scraped down to a fine, thin layer on one end. 
  • There are 2-4 oboes in an orchestra.
  • The oboe was probably invented in the French court in the 17th century, where it was called an hautbois, which means “high wood” or “loud wood.”
  • The oboe’s ancestor, the shawm, dates back to about 2,800 BC in the Middle East. Because the shawm produced loud tones, during the Medieval period it was generally restricted to outdoor performances.
  • The oboe plays a special role in symphony orchestras. When the concertmaster (first violinist) comes on stage before the concert, a signal is given for the oboe to play the note “A.” Each musician in the orchestra will adjust his or her instrument to the oboe. This “A” note is vibrating at about 440 times per second. Orchestras all over the world tune to the oboe’s “A” note.
  • The oboe has a uniquely varied voice. It can produce a wistful, sweet sound, and it can also create powerfully high and distinct tones. In Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, the oboe plays the part of the duck.
  • A close relative of the oboe is the English horn. The English horn is six inches longer than the oboe and has an egg-shaped bell at the end of the tube. It plays lower notes than the oboe. The English horn produces deep, rich tones and is often used to portray moods of sadness and melancholy. 


About the Woodwind Family

All members of the woodwind family:  

  • have a similar shape—long tubes into which air (breath) is blown. 
  • were originally all made of wood. Today, the modern flute is made of metal and other woodwinds have some metal parts.
  • make different sounds by covering and uncovering the holes along the tube with the fingers, or by pressing the keys.



Where do you find the oboe and English horn in an orchestra?
 


    • The woodwind section is located in the center of the orchestra.


Listen to the Oboe 


Here are two wonderful music selections featuring the oboe!


Franz Schubert – Music from Symphony in C major, The Great


Play

Franz Schubert – Music from Symphony in C major, The Great (1:29)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.


Franz Schubert enjoyed writing music for his friends to hear. In this piece, we might imagine the oboe inviting everyone to come along for a nice hike in the country. The other instruments join in, and they play games together as they stroll through the meadow.



After you listen, make up a fun story about the music and write it down. Play the music as many times 
as you like while you create your story. Send it to us using the button below. 


Richard Strauss – Don Juan


Play

Richard Strauss – Don Juan (1:44)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.


Richard Strauss wrote this music as part of a love scene. Doesn’t the oboe sound romantic? 


After you listen, make up a fun story about the music and write it down. Play the music as many times
as you like while you create your story. Send it to us using the button below.



Click the button below to send us your drawing and story!

 

CLICK HERE TO SEND


Be an Artist!


Color in the oboe and add a fun background, or draw your own oboe. You are the artist and can use whatever colors or designs you like to make it special!

Click the photo to print and draw

 



Click the button below to send us your art! We will add it to our online KIDS’ GALLERY, 
along with these other fine examples of kids’ art:  

CLICK HERE TO SEND


Lesson Plan for Teachers


More Music Featuring the English Horn


Hector Berlioz – Scene in the Countryside from Symphonie fantastique

Play

Hector Berlioz – Scene in the Countryside from Symphonie fantastique (1:00)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.


Imagine you are in a countryside of green fields and rolling hills. You’re on one hill, and your friend is far away on another one, on the other side of the field. It’s too far to speak with words, so instead you have a conversation with music. Hear the English horn and the oboe call out to each other in their musical conversation. What do you think they’re saying?


Antonín Dvořák – Largo from Symphony No. 9

Play

Antonín Dvořák – Largo from Symphony No. 9 (1:17)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.

  • In this beautiful music, the English horn is like a singer singing a soulful song.