Learning a musical instrument at a young age has a lot of benefits. It’s becoming increasingly more common for students to start oboe lessons in primary school and to be relatively advanced by the time they reach high school. But it’s important that younger players are comfortable holding and blowing their oboe otherwise they quickly lose interest.
The Rigoutat Delphine is my favourite beginner oboe and it's ideal for students with small hands. The Delphine is a lovely free-blowing instrument with a smooth, even tone and excellent tuning. It’s made in France from quality materials, and has a finish that sets it apart from other student oboes in it's price range.
But some very small children find the oboe is too long and this makes it difficult for them to hold while maintaining a good posture. If your child is very small, perhaps consider starting them on recorder first. They will learn to co-ordinate their fingers and to read music. This will help them to progress more quickly when they transfer to oboe.
If you're keen to get started there are now lightweight beginner instruments available and some children are successfully beginning the oboe as young as seven years old. The Howarth Junior oboe is ideal for small children. Designed with very young students in mind, it has simplified key work and a lightweight body that’s comfortable for small hands and arms to hold. Because it has less key work than other oboes, the Junior Oboe is suitable for playing beginner repertoire up to Grade 3 of the new Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB) Oboe syllabus.
At Grade 4 an upgrade to an oboe with more keys is the next step. Notes that can’t be played on the Junior oboe, such as low B, B flat, alternative E flat and a B – #C trill, will be needed to play the more advanced repertoire at Grade 4 and to fulfill the technical requirements of the higher levels. The Rigoutat Delphine has all the necessary keys and is ideal for younger students who have outgrown their basic beginner instruments.The Delphine is designed for smaller hands and has a covered D key that makes it easier to play. The KGe Hybrid Academy or the easy care KGe Lan Mei have similar key work to a professional oboe and are also suitable for students who have progressed to an Intermediate level.
Oboe for beginners at High School
Many students in Australia begin oboe at high school and play in school bands and other ensembles. School music programs are a wonderful introduction to learning and playing a musical instrument. Oboe students manage best when they are supported by private lessons with a specialist oboe teacher who can help them with reeds and with the specific technical issues they will come across when learning the oboe. Children in this age group generally progress faster through the lower grades and quickly outgrow beginner instruments. They are physically bigger and able to hold a heavier Intermediate oboe.
The Rigoutat Delphine is a good choice but there are other options that are worth considering. The KGE Lan Mei is a less expensive oboe that has the same key work as a professional instrument. The Lan Mei is made entirely from resin. It doesn’t have the resonance of a wooden oboe but it’s easy to look after and won’t crack if you have to play outdoors or forget to clean it out after playing. Another good option for high school students is KGE’s intermediate oboe, the Hybrid Academy. It has an easy care, synthetic top joint and a wooden lower half to give it a sweeter tone quality.
If you have a bit more money to spend you might consider an intermediate oboe such as the Rigoutat RIEC. The RIEC has a lovely resonant, flexible sound and undercut tone holes which gives it excellent tuning. The Rigoutat Delphine and the RIEC are usually made from wood but are also available as a hybrid instrument with a synthetic top joint and a wooden lower half. Hybrid oboes are growing in popularity with students and professional oboists because they have a reliable, synthetic top joint that won’t change, crack or split over time, and this is an advantage for many players.
Oboe for Adult students
If you’re someone who has always loved the plaintive, expressive sound of the oboe and would love to play, why not give it a go. With the guidance of a specialist oboe teacher, it’s possible to learn the oboe at any age. Adult students really enjoy making music and often become dedicated players in amateur orchestras, bands and chamber ensembles. Playing music with like minded people gives a wealth of enjoyment and can be very social. It can also be a service, helping to provide music for the local community. Good players can find themselves in high demand due to a shortage of amateur oboists.
The RIEC and the Hybrid Academy are intermediate oboes you may consider if you are looking for a reasonably priced instrument with good tuning, flexibility and a nice sound. But, at AMEB Grade 7, an upgrade to a professional oboe is a good idea. KGe offers professional oboes at a very competitive price and many adult students decide to skip the intermediate oboe altogether and avoid the need to upgrade. The superior intonation, sound and finish of a professional oboe, is a distinct advantage for students performing more advanced repertoire.
If your budget can stretch even further, a top of the range, French professional oboe from Rigoutat, Loree or Marigaux would be the oboe of choice. Made from seasoned African Black wood, these oboes have a resonance and tone quality that you can really enjoy. They are built to impress the most discerning professional players and they sound beautiful and feel wonderful to play.
The pleasure a musical instrument gives is very much tied in with the quality of sound that it produces, and the ease with which it plays. I encourage you to choose the best Oboe you can afford and wish you many hours of enjoyment making music.
Linda Jane Stacy BMus, GradDipMus, MTeach
Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and not the views of any of my employers.
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