Purchasing an Oboe – where to buy, brands, types and more questions answered

There are so many things to consider before going out and purchasing an oboe: What grade are you in school? Is this instrument your step up because you are going to college? Will you be majoring in music? Is this your primary instrument of study? Should you get a new instrument or used? What brand should you buy? Should you buy a student, modified conservatory or full conservatory model? Should you buy from Ebay, Craigslist or Amazon? I hope to help you answer all these questions and more, so read on!

1. Where should I buy my next oboe? The best place is an Oboe / Double Reed Specialist shop. The people working at these shops are small business owners who are likely active professional oboists in their local community (not always, but much more likely). If the company isn’t in the state you are in, don’t worry! You can still try out the oboe (or even a few oboes). They will ship the horns to you carefully packaged and give you specific details on what to do if you choose to keep the horn or not. Whether you are purchasing a new or used oboe, as a general rule, I would NOT recommend purchasing an instrument on Ebay, Craigslist or Amazon. Why do I say this? Generally speaking, someone selling an oboe on Ebay or Craigslist is going to be a private owner who has one horn they no longer need and might not know very much about it. My biggest concern is that you as the buyer don’t know if it was looked over buy a qualified repairman and it is often a final sale. So you are purchasing as is. If you have the ability to return the instrument should you be unhappy then that is reasonable. Just read all the fine print to see what restocking fees there might be or any other penalties. I have my favorites and know several of the company owners personally. I would be happy to send you a few recommendations via email or phone.

2. Have a qualified instructor play the oboes you are considering and inspect them for problems! This is very important. It is crucial for a used oboe but also important for a brand new instrument. A new instrument can have defects as well and problems that may make that one particular instrument a poor choice. Not sure if the instructor is qualified? Ask where they went to school, what they received their degree in, is oboe their primary instrument, do they currently play? It can be hard to find an instructor who is very proficient on the oboe, depending on the area you live in. For instance, I have come across many “Find-A-Teacher” websites listing instructors. Many of the teachers will list guitar, piano, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet, oboe and many other instruments all taught by the same person! Now that doesn’t mean that individual can’t play those instruments but that also doesn’t mean they are the right person to test your instrument to determine if it is something that could take you through college as an oboe major. If you aren’t already taking lessons from a qualified oboe professional, call a few universities near you and ask them for recommendations of someone in your area or if they might be willing to try the horns for you and make suggestions. You could also call your local professional symphony office and ask them for information about their oboists.

3. What brand and type of oboe should you buy? Here are some brands and model selections based on level.

For beginners: approximately 0-2 maybe 3 years of playing

  • FOX Renard Protege Model 333 Oboe Plastic (beginner) Modified Conservatory System
  • FOX Renard Artist Model 330 Oboe Plastic (slight upgrade) Modified Conservatory System
  • YAMAHA YOB-441A Plastic Simplified Conservatoire (semi-automatic octave system)
  • *BUFFET Model 4052 Intermediate Oboe Standard WOOD (ask about breaking in)
  • *BULGHERONI Model FB-091 WOOD Modified Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • *BULGHERONI Model FB-101 WOOD Modified Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • If possible, I don’t recommend ANY Jupiter, Bundy or Selmer beginner oboes.

For Intermediate: approximately 3-5 years of playing

  • *FOX Artist Model 335 Modified Conservatory System WOOD (ask about breaking in)
  • FOX Professional Model 300 Oboe (PLASTIC) Full conservatory system
  • *FOX Professional Model 400 but the 400 is WOOD Full conservatory system (ask about breaking in)
  • *BULGHERONI Model FB-101 WOOD Modified Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • *BULGHERONI Model FB-095 and FB-105 WOOD Full conservatory system (ask about breaking in)
  • *PATRICOLA SB1 Model WOOD Modified Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • *PATRICOLA PT.SC1 Model WOOD Modified Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)

For Advanced: college bound and beyond

  • *PATRICOLA PT.1 Model WOOD Full Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • *LOREE all models are full conservatory. The differences will mainly be in the bore design for sound production. (ask about breaking in)
  • *FOX Professional Model 400 or 800 WOOD Full Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)
  • * YAMAHA YOB-841 Model WOOD Full Conservatory System (ask about breaking in)

This list is not comprehensive. There are oboe brands not mentioned here. That is because I have not tried some of the other brands to get a feel for how those instruments “tend” to be. I have once come across a beginner Jupiter oboe that seemed to play alright. But that was one out of the many I have tried that have lots of constant adjustment problems! This is why I don’t recommend ANY of the Jupiter, Bundy or Selmer horns.

4. Should I buy wooden or plastic? Plastic instruments are generally marketed toward beginners and it gets harder to find professional level instruments that aren’t wooden. Plastic will be cheaper than wood and easier to take care of. But wooden oboes usually have a warmer sound and are preferred if possible. Because wooden oboes require extra care they usually aren’t recommended for beginners. Wooden oboes require breaking in. A brand new horn needs to be played for only 5 minutes each day for the first week, then 10 minutes a day for the following week, then 15 minutes, etc. If the oboe has remained unplayed for an extended period of time, the break in procedure has to be repeated to stave off cracks. If getting a brand new wooden oboe, don’t sell or get rid of your old plastic oboe until the break in procedure is complete! I would probably still recommend breaking in a used wooden oboe just to be on the safe side. While no one can guarantee you won’t end up with a crack in your oboe, this article can help prevent cracks from forming  https://reedpros.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/how-to-prevent-cracks-in-your-oboe/

5. Should I buy a new or used oboe? This is a bit of personal preference. A used oboe can be a great way to save some money on your costly investment. If the seller says it is a “final sale, no refunds or exchanges” – beware. Should there be anything wrong with the instrument, you either have to pay to hopefully repair the issue or deal with a less than ideal instrument. Find out if you are offered any type of warranty and what it might cover if you are purchasing used. There may not be any, but it can’t hurt to ask! Whether buying a used wooden or plastic oboe, have a qualified teacher check out the horn. With a new instrument, you get a complete warranty, all manufacturer intended accessories (like reed case, plastic instrument stand, case cover, etc) which is a nice perk.

Hopefully this article will help you in your adventures in purchasing an oboe! Happy Practicing!

Need to buy oboe reeds, reed cases, swabs, music stands or other items for your oboe habit? Please visit www.reedpros.com

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