So, you want to purchase an oboe…
Purchasing an instrument is a big step, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Oboes are expensive instruments, and owning one is a responsibility. If you’re thinking about purchasing an oboe, consider the following:
- Are you more comfortable with the idea of renting an instrument or owning an instrument? Purchasing an instrument generally means a large expense upfront, while renting becomes more expensive over time. Consider your budget and goals.
- Consider the rental cost over a two-year period be in comparison to purchasing a used instrument of similar quality. Most young people who purchase oboes keep them for at least 2 years. Make sure to learn about the brands of rental oboes available to you – often, companies do not rent the top brands and models of instruments.
- Take some time to learn a bit about the different oboe brands on the market. Understanding the quality of materials and expertise of a particular oboe manufacturer is important. A particular company might make a great oboe, but not as high quality of saxophone – the reverse logic applies, too!
- Many manufacturers have different models that carry different features (such as alternate keys, trill keys, and tone hole undercutting for improved intonation). However, not every player needs every bell & whistle. In fact, very young players with small hands might be better off with a student line instrument instead of a heavier, top-notch professional instrument. Also, the quality of various student-model oboes varies significantly. Be aware of all of the options, then consider the oboists age and how long you’d like to keep this instrument.
- Does the brand and specific model of oboe that you’re considering have a good resale value This can be an important factor in deciding which brand is the best investment. Some brands and models retain their value and are easy to re-sell. Keep in mind that at some point, you’ll likely want to sell this instrument.
- Don’t assume that if an oboe is made of wood, it must be good. A wood oboe is not always automatically better than any plastic oboe! There are well-crafted wood and plastic oboes available, and there are some not-so-great instruments made of either material, too.
Things to consider when deciding between a wood or plastic instrument:
- How often will this instrument be played? Daily, weekly, or only occasionally? If you won’t play the instrument frequently, you might consider an instrument made of plastic or one with a plastic-top joint.
- Wood oboes require a careful break-in period. You shouldn’t play a brand new wood oboe for hours every day when you first purchase it! Get expert advice on how to break it in properly. (Also keep this advice in mind if you’re purchasing a used wood oboe that has not been played in years.)
- Wood instruments require extra maintenance in comparison to plastic instruments. While they are sometimes (not always) of higher quality than many plastic oboes, they require extra care. It’s easy to keep a wood instrument properly humidified by putting a tiny humidifier in the case. Make sure to never play on a cold wood oboe – if the exterior wood is cold to the touch, don’t play on it until the instrument has come to an adequate temperature.
- A crack in a wood oboe does not ruin it! New oboes have a 50% chance of cracking in the first year, but with careful breaking in and maintenance, cracks are not nearly as frequent. Instrument cracks should be examined and repaired by an oboe specialist. An expert repair job returns an oboe back to it’s terrific sound.
I urge shoppers to work with a professional oboist who is very familliar with the different brands of instruments. Many professional oboists make a point play-testing the different brands and models of oboes on the market. In addition to providing expert opinions tailored to your needs, professionals can recommend reputable instrument dealers. We also keep a close eye on the used/resale market, staying on top of pricing trends and available instruments.
Finding expert, unbiased opinions will help you find the right instrument for your specific needs.
A note: frequently in the music business, some vendors or companies offer commissions or bonuses to professionals to endorse their businesses or refer buyers. Personally, I take no commissions or kickbacks from companies when helping my private students purchase instruments or materials. I consider this to be part of the service I provide to members of my studio, free of charge.