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

Article written by:  Tanya Johnson – owner of Reedpros.com  Please use the contact me form to get in touch with me.

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.  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 repair person 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. If you are going to buy on Craigslist, Ebay, or Amazon, just read all the fine print to see what restocking fees there might be or any other penalties. However, I would really recommend buying an oboe from a Double Reed specialty store. They are truly knowledgeable about the instruments, the different models and their specifications, and can answer your questions. I have my favorite shops 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 and problems that may make that one particular instrument a poor choice. Your private oboe instructor is a great place to start. If you aren’t taking private oboe lessons with a qualified instructor, you should still have your prospective oboe checked out. 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. If you live in a rural area, you may have to drive a far distance to meet up with a qualified oboist. To search for a qualified oboist, contact the colleges and universities in your state and ask if they have an oboe instructor/professor. They may be able to play test the instrument and offer advice. If they aren’t able to offer assistance, ask them for other suggestions. You could also call your local professional symphony office and ask them for information about their oboists, then contact the oboe players directly. I have been stressing “qualified oboist” so let me explain. I have had several students over the years come to me to take lessons after having taken lessons at some retail giant music store. Upon asking my new student about their previous lessons, it turns out their private oboe teacher actually played a completely different instrument and didn’t even own an oboe! That is an example of an unqualified individual. I have also 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 one that could take you through college as an oboe major.

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. (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. In my 20 years of teaching experience, the Jupiter, Bundy, and Selmer beginner oboes have weak keywork and lots of adjustment problems, therefore I don’t recommend those 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 and there are oboe brands not mentioned here. That is because I have not tried many of the other brands enough to get a feel for how those instruments “tend” to be.

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?

A used oboe can be a great way to save some money on your costly investment. Find out if you are offered any warranty and what it might cover. Even used oboes may have a warranty! 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 (which could be very costly) or deal with a less than ideal instrument. If purchasing a used wooden oboe, ask if there have been any cracks and what repair person did the work.

With a new instrument comes a complete warranty, all manufacturer intended accessories (like reed case, plastic instrument stand, case cover, etc) but it also comes with a new instrument price tag. Being a brand new oboe, it hasn’t cracked yet, but you will have to break it in carefully.

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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