You chose to play the oboe! Hurrah!!
In the past week or so you probably went to your first oboe lesson and came home full of all sorts of new information about how to put it together and what to do with your reed and all sorts of other things! Do you feel like you remember everything you were told? Don't worry, its difficult in that first lesson as there is so much to remember. So, todays blog is aimed at all those wonderful new oboists to try and make things easier for you. I also hope this may be helpful for any parents who have recently been handed an oboe or a reed!
Putting your oboe together
There is an easy way of doing this to make sure you don't put pressure on any keys that can get damaged, the trick is trying to remember it.
First, check the corks on the end of the top and middle joint. If they look very dry put a little bit of cork grease on them. If when putting the joints together they are quite stiff then again put a little bit of cork crease on the cork, never use much, just add a little bit at a time.
Pick up bell in right hand
If you have a key on the bell press it with your thumb. (If you play a junior oboe it won't have a key)
Pick up middle joint in your left hand. Hold it so that your hand sits under the instrument with your fingers curling round onto the keys on the top. Try not to press any of the keys that stick out as these don't like having too much pressure put on them.
Now put the two joints together, gently push and twist the two joints together until the link is in line and there is no gap between the two joints.
Well Done, first bit done! Now for the next joint.
Move your right hand to the joint between the bell and the middle joint and put your hand over and round this part of the instrument.
Pick up the top joint and hold it in the same way as you held the middle joint. Place your hand under the instrument so your fingers curl round and press the flat keys. Keep your hand away from the keys that stick out.
Push the top and middle joints together, make sure the long keys that stick out from each joint keep well away from each other as you don't want the keys to crunch together. Now push and twist the joints together and either make sure the link is in line if you have one or make sure that the two bobbles are in line with each other.
That's it, well done. Follow these rules and soon this will be second nature. Make sure you take it apart holding the oboe in exactly the same way as you did to put it together and just take it apart in reverse order. Top joint off middle joint first then take the bell off.
The main basic rules to avoid damage are:
Don't let the corks get too dry so you have to grip the oboe tightly to push the oboe together. GREASE IT!Always avoid putting pressure on any keys that stick out as these can bend quite easily if pressure is put on them in the wrong way.
Reeds are a vital part of the oboe as without them the oboe is totally useless, but they can be annoying and test our patience. Stay stubborn and don't let them get the better of you. You are the boss, make them do what you want them to.
Be very gentle and careful with your reeds, try not to bash them into your teeth. In the first few weeks you are more than likely to have a few reed accidents, don't worry we all do and occasionally still do! You are more than likely to bump your reed into your teeth, get it tangled in your hair (more likely for girls with long hair), bash it into your shoulder while you look at the keys to see where to put your fingers. Try and keep the reed a safe distance from everything and when putting it in your mouth to play be gentle and move it there slowly and carefully until you feel like you have more control over it.
Preparing to play
Before you try and blow your reed you must soak it. Either suck it in your mouth while putting your oboe together or put it tip side down in about 1cm of water in a small cup or egg cup. Once you have put your oboe together the reed will be ready to play.
Do check the size of the hole in the top of the reed, the centre of the blades of the reed should be about 2mm apart.
If the reed is wider open than that it will make it hard to blow it so very gently press the reed together (only do this after soaking). Squeeze the reed gently like in the picture on the left.
If the reed is too closed and the hole is tiny put your fingers on the edges of the reed as in the picture on the right and very gently squeeze them together, do this carefully and it will open up the reed.
Finally - ENJOY, HAVE FUN and practise as much as you can and listen to as much as you can!
Music clip for this blog post is of the National Youth Orchestra Inspire Orchestra. Look how much fun they are having!