Home / Music / Things you need to know about learning the oboe as an adult

Things you need to know about learning the oboe as an adult

Adult learners bring with them maturity, high self-motivation, lots of independence and prior experience that can make learning easy and successful. Even challenging woodwind instruments like the oboe can be mastered; however, there are a few things to consider for adults who are learning the oboe.

The oboe is hard to play

Its double reed makes it harder to play than the clarinet, although its sound is more penetrating and louder. It is of a similar weight and size to the clarinet and most adults should find that they can comfortably hold and carry the instrument, although healthy lungs and good general fitness will be required to sustain playing. Getting physically fit can certainly help playing this instrument.

Lots of practice will be required

The adult should be prepared to practice a lot and have a suitable place to practice. It will take lots of time to get a good sound. Often it is more effective to have several short practice times during the week rather than one long practice at a weekend. While the reed will need to be warmed up each time you play, it is still more effective to practice morning and evening rather than just once a day.

Finding a teacher can be hard

Finding a teacher can be harder than for more common instruments and the adult learner may especially be left to their own resources. While this may not be an issue for a mature independent learner, it may affect some. However, there are freely available Internet resources – like video teaching clips (e.g. InstrumentMania)- which can assist the adult learner as they craft together materials for the lessons they need to learn. Also joining an on-line forum for the chosen instrument, like 8notes, can help with specific questions and troubles.

Find some fun music

Keeping motivated is important and adults can draw upon their musical tastes to find music that will help motivate playing. The oboe’s repertoire is a little limited, emphasizing classical music, with less jazz and contemporary, but the adult learner should still be able to find a range of musical choices that interest them. Often simple arrangements can be found for beginners and fun music books with accompanying CDs can also make playing interesting.

Rotate the reeds

While oboe reeds are up to ten times more expensive than the clarinet’s, it is still a good idea to have a couple of reeds spare and rotate between the ones that are actually used for playing. Having spares that are being worked in can also prevent disappointments when one unexpectedly breaks. Soaking the reed before playing can also help warm it up, while removing it from the instrument afterwards ensures proper care.

Hire or purchase an instrument

The oboe is more expensive to purchase than other woodwind instruments and the beginners may want to hire one until confident that they are happy with the instrument choice, or perhaps purchase a cheaper second hand instrument that will allow frequent practising before purchasing a quality new instrument.