The oboe is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family and an essential member of large ensembles such as orchestras, bands as well as smaller chamber ensembles. The oboes recommended here are all manufactured by reputable brand names, built from high quality materials to facilitate great sound production, accurate tuning and smooth key response. For more help selecting the right oboe for your needs, check out our buyer’s guide provided below.
Bulgheroni Opera Oboe
Fox Model 800 Oboe
Yamaha YOB-241 Series Student Oboe
Buffet Crampon BC4011 Simplified Student Oboe
Fox Model 300 Student Oboe
Bulgheroni’s Opera oboe is designed for a centered, dark sound, thanks to its special bore design. Key-covered tone holes are carefully placed to allow optimum intonation and tone color. The key system features a basic, full conservatory system ensuring players have all the keys needed at the professional level. An adjustable thumb rest allows the performer to custom fit the hold of the oboe to their hand for complete comfort and key facility.
Heavy silver plating is used on top of nickel silver keys for durability and also add more resonance to the instruments sound. Designed with professional oboists in mind, the Blugheroni Opera oboe provides a beautiful tone with flexibility for any performance situation. These oboes can also be special ordered with exotic woods to change the tone color of the instrument based on individual player preference.
Fox Model 800 Oboe
The Fox Model 800 features a wood body with metal-lined tenons where the pieces of the oboe fits together; these make for a durable design resistant to cracks or damage to the delicate wood between sections of the instrument. This oboe has a handmade, full conservatory key system including a split ring E-flat-E key, F-sharp key tab, low B-flat vent, alternate C, and articulated C-sharp keys for making trickier key passages easier to play based on player preference.
An adjustable thumb rests allows individual players to alter the oboe to fit their hand for optimum comfort and better key facility. The Fox Model 800 oboe is hand adjusted to ensure accurate intonation, great projection and exceptional resonance.
The YOB-241 takes Yamaha's professional level oboe and adapts it for beginning musicians to ensure every instrument is top of the line. This oboe uses a modified conservatory system which removes optional keys from the key system making it easier for young players to master. Like their professional level oboes, Yamaha has redesigned the bore to increase sound projection. The instrument's plastic resin body makes it more durable for beginners, reducing the possibility of the body cracking. With its accurate intonation and excellent sound, the Yamaha YOB-241 is the top pick instrument for the beginner oboist.
Buffet Crampon BC4011 Simplified Student Oboe
The Buffet Crampon BC4011 oboe features a wooden body for an exceptional tone. The bell of the instrument features a resonance tone hole to enhance the oboes sound while a simplified conservatory key system streamlines the key system for young students. The key placement has also been adjusted for smaller hands (especially in the plateau keys and spatulas) to fit hands naturally. Octave key vents are designed to be sturdy and damage resistant.
Double fish skin pads are used on the larger keys to ensure the keys seal completely and avoid any leaks. For added durability, the body of this wooden instrument is lined with a plastic resin for added strength and helps prevent cracking. With all the comfort and durability needed for student musicians, the Buffet Crampon BC4011 delivers a great sound while also being one of the most affordable instruments on this list.
Fox Model 300 Student Oboe
The Fox Model 300 oboe stands out thanks to a hand finished bore for rich sound projection as well as a handmade, full conservatory key system, usually reserved for higher level instruments. Keys included on this instrument are a third octave key, split ring E-flat-E key, F-sharp key tab, low B-flat vent, alternate C, and articulated C-sharp keys for making trickier key passages easier to play. While most of these keys are often omitted from student-level instruments, their inclusion means this oboe will be suitable for students beyond in initial learning phases.
Like its higher grade counterparts, this Fox oboe is hand adjusted to ensure accurate intonation and great projection and resonance. The instrument body itself is constructed of a plastic resin to ensure a durable instrument for beginners. It’s a great choice for the student musician and can be purchased with an adjustable thumb rest allowing each individual player to adjust the oboe to fit their hand for comfort and better key facility.
Oboe Buyer's Guide
The oboe is a fun and rewarding double-reed instrument. However, there are various instruments to choose from and finding the right one can often feel like a daunting process. Therefore, testing out a variety of oboes to find one which fits a player’s personal preferences is essential. In choosing an oboe, especially at the professional level, the final decision often comes down to personal preference in terms of tone and feel to the player.
Oboes are manufactured for a variety of ability levels, including student, intermediate,
Oboes for students focus on affordability, reliability, and ease of play. They’re typically constructed with a plastic body since this material requires less maintenance. Additionally, these instruments may use a modified conservatory system which removes optional keys, such as a low B-flat, to make playing less stressful for new players.
A transitional instrument, intermediate-level oboes provide some upgrades from the student models such as a wooden body and low B-flat key to extend the pitch range. However, for those seeking a long term investment, avoid the intermediate category and invest in a professional oboe.
These are the highest quality instruments, having all the extra features standard for upper level performance such as a wooden body for excellent tone quality. Professional oboes use a full conservatory key system which includes the low B-flat key to extend the lower range of the instrument which is necessary at higher levels of performance.
Manufacturing at this level focuses on optimal sound, response, accurate tuning, and swift key action. If well-maintained, an oboe from a reputable manufacturer can last a musician their entire career and passed down to future generations of musicians.
Oboes can be constructed from several different materials, based on the level of the instrument and desire of the oboist.
All-plastic construction is typically reserved for student instruments since it’s more durable and affordable. Since plastic requires less care than wood, beginners don’t need to worry about their instrument cracking due to weather changes unlike real wood.
Grenadilla wood or a similar dense wood like violetwood or rosewood, produces a dark, desirable sound which is standard on instruments above the student level. These clarinets require extra care because their wooden body swells or shrinks with changing temperatures and humidity. Without proper care and attention the wood will crack, completely ruining the instrument.
At the professional level, oboes will usually have a full conservatory system with all the keys needed for advanced performance. You’ll want to test several key set-ups to determine which extra keys will work for your playing style.
This especially useful key allows oboists to play the F-key with either the right hand (standard) or the left hand, making tricky note passages easier to play.
B-flat and/or F Resonance Keys
These keys can be used to manipulate the tone and tuning on certain pitches for a better sound.
Additional auxiliary options may come standard or optional on many oboes such as left-hand C/D trill, split ring D-sharp trill, G-sharp trill, articulated B to C-sharp mechanism, and B-flat trill keys.
The oboe is played by blowing into a double reed, two thin pieces of wood tied together. When air passes between these reeds, they vibrate against one another which creates the oboe’s signature sound. Oboists will want to make sure their reeds soak in water several minutes before attempting to play them as reeds produce a better response when properly hydrated. Because of their delicate construction, double reeds are fragile and need to be replaced regularly; in fact, a dedicated oboist should always have several on hand.
While pre-made reeds are fine for beginners, players generally learn to handcraft their own reeds using specialized tools and reed blanks cut in the proper size/shape; double-reed players typically report better tonal quality using handmade reeds. There are also specialized reed makers who sell high-quality, handmade oboe reeds for those still learning the craft of reed making or individuals without the time to make their own.
In general, the quality of an oboe is reflected through how much it’s priced. Be wary of instruments which are significantly less expensive than their peers, as cheaply crafted oboes may have poor tone quality and faulty tuning requiring costly repairs or even premature replacement. Sticking with a reputable oboe manufacturer or consulting with music educators and professional oboists will ensure you a solid, long-term investment.