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The oboe is a woodwind instrument that plays in the treble ranges and uses a double reed to produce sound. The first oboe-like instruments appear in ancient drawings about 2800 B.C. A double-reed instrument called an ottu was used in India during the 12th to 7th centuries B.C., and the shawm, a double-reed instrument from the Middle Ages, was a direct ancestor of the oboe. The first true oboe was produced in the mid 1600s and debuted in an orchestra in France in 1657.

The modern oboe has a narrow body and multiple keys that allow for a wider range. The double reed is often mounted on a bocal, a metal piece that slides into the top of the body. Professional-grade oboes are made of wood, usually granadilla wood, while student-model oboes may be made of plastic. Producers of vintage oboes include Loree, Gordet, and Robert. Loree continues to produce oboes today. Other modern manufacturers of oboes include Laubin, Howarth, and Yamaha.

Musicians often prefer to play vintage oboes over newer models due to the tight grain of the wood used. Oboes made before the '70s tend to be of higher quality with less cracking. High-quality oboes from the '20s and '30s continue to play well despite their age.

Quick Facts

  • Mitch Miller, who became famous for his "Sing Along With Mitch" record album series in the late '50s, began his musical career as an accomplished oboist. Miller passed away in 2010 at the age of 99
  • An oboe made by Scripsky of Budapest in 1855 is valued at $4,672. The oboe is made of boxwood and ivory and comes from the collection of prominent oboist Ian Wilson
  • In 2014, an oboe made by Cabart of Paris was found by Transport of London on one of the city's mass transit systems. The oboe went unclaimed and was sold at auction for $861.27

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