I’m often asked, “what tools and accessories do I need as an oboe player?” There are a myriad of tools and accessories – some are truly necessary, some are very helpful, and some are optional (depending on the skill level of the player). Below is a list of all of the tools I think most oboists need, and have included some notes on my favorite styles or brands of these products.
The best sources for these items are stores that specialize in supplying oboe and bassoon accessories. For a list of some terrific double reed specialty stores (which will ship your products by mail), visit this link: Resources for Oboists and Bassoonists.
Basic Supply List for Oboists: Every oboist, no matter the skill level, should have all of these tools and accessories!
- Water Container for Soaking Reeds: this is a must! It is absolutely necessary for oboists to soak their reed in water for at least 2-5 minutes before every practice session, rehearsal or concert. Soaking the blades of the reed in a small container will ensure the reed will vibrate properly. Soaking a reed in your mouth, or dipping it quickly in a water fountain, is not adequate. The reed will vibrate better, have less chance of cracking, and last longer if you soak it in a container! Many oboe supply stores sell this Tupperware Midget container with a clip attachement, allowing you to clip the soaking cup to your music stand.
- Oboe Reed Case: a good reed case will protect the delicate tips of your oboe reeds. I recommend “French style” (also often called “cigarette style”) cases. See this article with more details about styles and options for oboe reed cases.
- Swab: a silk oboe swab, such as this Gem double-ended silk swab, is important for keeping your instrument clean. Swab every time you finish playing your oboe! I personally swab my instrument several times during every playing session – approximately once every five to ten minutes! I recommend the double-ended pull-through style swabs, as they are less likely to get stuck if knotted.
- Cork Grease: An all-natural cork grease such as this Doctor Slick Cork Grease is less likely to dry out your tenon corks than petroleum-based cork grease. Grease your corks every couple of weeks, and whenever they feel dry or you have difficulty assembling or taking apart your instrument. This will keep the cork moisturized and less likely to tear.
- Cigarette Paper: Ungummed cigarette paper is extremely useful for cleaning the instrument. Use ungummed paper underneath pads to remove moisture. I always put a small piece under each of my octave keys every time I put my instrument away! Regular swabbing and use of cigarette paper keeps the “gurgles” away.
- Music stand: it’s impossible to practice with good posture without using a good music stand! See this article for some music stand recommendations.
- Metronome: every musician needs a metronome for practicing! Check out this article about metronomes and tuners.
- In-case humidifier (for wood instruments only): I really love the Humistat in-case humidifiers. Just fill it with water every few days, open the holes up, and stick it in your case (not inside the instrument bore itself!) Another option is the Dampit, which needs to be filled/soaked at least every other day. Despite the directions on the Dampit, NEVER put a Dampit into the bore of an oboe!
- Breath Builder: this is an optional, but highly recommended tool. The Breath Builder is a device which helps you breathe very deeply, expanding your lung capacity. I recommend this for wind instrument players of all skill levels!
Intermediate level-tools needed: all of the above plus:
- Tuner: a tuner is an essential tool for the intermediate and advanced-level player. Many good tuners also come with a metronome. For more detailed recommendations on what to look for in a tuner and/or metronome, click here.
- Screwdriver set: an oboe screwdriver set with different tips will give an oboist the ability to adjust all screws. Caution: make sure to get training on basic oboe adjustments before turning any screws! Oboe adjustments are very complicated, so proper training is very important.
- Key Oil: a needle-oiler like this makes key oil easy to apply on rods and joints. A few drops of oil in the right places every couple of months will keep your oboe’s mechanism working well.
- Case Cover or Oboe Bag: this is a terrific way to protect your instrument, carry your supplies and reeds, and sometimes even carry music. See this article about what to look for when considering oboe bags & case covers.
Helpful tools for the more advanced player:
- Instrument stands: many good quality instrument stands are available – just for oboe, just for English horn, or for both instruments. Look for a stand that is sturdy, but also easily portable.
- Spring Hook and Octave Vent Remover: these two tools are very useful for maintaining a good quality instrument. A spring hook is used to move springs during oboe repairs. An adjustable octave vent remover allows the oboist to remove vents for cleaning octave key holes. These tools should only be used by oboists who have been shown how to use them!
Special Accessories for English horn players include:
a neckstrap or English horn bell support peg – supports the weight of the instrument.
an accessory tray – hooks onto your stand for your water, reeds, cigarette paper, and swabs. This is especially useful when playing both oboe and English horn on the same concert!