The oboe is a fantastic addition to most bands and orchestras. Its unique sound, when played correctly, makes the oboe player a rare treat for most conductors. It is certainly a great instrument to play as a professional because of its high demand in symphonies, bands, and orchestras. But it is also, with the right circumstances, a great first instrument choice.
If you are going to play oboe as your first instrument, do not be frightened away by what people say about the oboe. You will be told that the sound is awful, that the instrument is incredibly temperamental, and that the fingerings are remarkably difficult. The oboe player that achieves the right level of stability can make a good sound on the oboe. It does take much longer to achieve a good tone on this instrument than on others, but with patience and practice this challenge can be overcome.
Beyond the oboe’s temperamental nature and the difficulty in achieving tone quality, its fingerings are seemingly unnatural. But do not let this frighten you away! Most instruments have unnatural fingerings that first-timers have difficulty reaching and just like tone quality, these fingerings become easier as practiced.
Now that the arguments against choosing the oboe are tempered, the good aspects of the oboe can come to light. Choosing the oboe as your first instrument means you have an advantage on most other oboe players. Oftentimes, oboe players are unwilling students who have switched from another instrument because their band or orchestral director told them to. Students who learn this way take even longer to achieve the appropriate tone quality of the instrument. Those who pick the instrument as their first get to experience all of the trials early in their music career and are able to rid themselves of poor habits and bad tone quality sooner.
Another good reason to pick up the oboe is that you will be unique. Most of your friends will not play this instrument. Instead, they will pick common instruments like trumpet, flute, and clarinet. Because your friends do not know or understand your instrument, your mistakes will be known only to you and your director. Instead of worrying about the opinions of your friends, you can quietly fix your own mistakes and likely avoid the knowledge of anyone else in the band or orchestra.
Choosing the oboe can also lead to a worthwhile, easy to access, and high-paying career. There are thousands of amazing trumpet players out in the world, but there are only a handful of amazing oboists. Because there is less competition, auditions are easier to make and jobs are easier to maintain. Making a living off of the oboe is much easier than most other instruments because the demand for good oboe players is so high. So students who choose oboe have a much higher chance of making a career out of their skills.
However good of a choice the oboe may be for your first instrument, do not be fooled! Hard work must still be put into practice on this instrument. But if you have dedication and determination, then the benefits may far outweigh the costs. If one is available to you, do consider the oboe as your first instrument.