The Parent’s Guide for How to Buy an Oboe

oboe guide

So, your child wants to play the oboe. Whether you’re familiar with the instrument or not, taking the time to understand its key features is key. At the end of the day, buying an oboe is kind of like buying a car. Not only is it an investment in your child’s future, but you’ll need to do lots of research before finding the right one. From understanding the key systems to deciding between a new or used oboe, our parent’s guide for how to buy an oboe is chock full of things to consider before going out and purchasing your child their first oboe.

Understand the Key Systems

When it comes to the oboe, there are three basic types of oboes on the market: student, intermediate, and professional. What separates them from each other is their key systems- or how many keys the oboe has. Beginner oboes are intended for small children or brand new oboe players, and only include the most necessary keys. Since they’re light and easy to hold, they’re ideal for brand new players. Unfortunately, they’re also missing two significant keys (the F key and the Bb key), meaning it’s highly likely that your child will need to upgrade to an intermediate oboe within one to two years of starting lessons or the school band.

Intermediate oboes have a “modified conservatory” key system, and are usually made of wood, resin, or a combination of the two. Generally speaking, intermediate oboes can fulfill the needs of most amaeteur players- even those who intend to major in music education. With this in mind, professional models are typically reserved exclusively for those who play the oboe professionally. They’re generally hand-tuned and finished with to high-quality specifications, making them more difficult and more expensive to maintain. For the sake of a first-time player, focus on purchasing them either a beginning or intermediate model.

Yamaha YOB-241 Series Student Oboe An economic ABS resin-body oboe that features a modified conservatory system, making it easier for beginners to play. The surprisingly precise intonation permits students to concentrate more on developing their own musical nuances. Learn More

Understand the Cost

As you browse for oboes online or in local music shops, you may notice that oboes come with a hefty price tag. Much higher than other common instruments, like guitars or flutes. Before you can understand the reasoning behind the high price, you should know a thing or two about production. In most cases, items that are mass produced and have high demand tend to come with lower price tags, while items that sell more slowly or are more rare in nature tend to cost a little bit more. Oboes are no different. When you spend more, you get more- but what exactly do you get? When purchasing an oboe, you’re paying for quality of construction, additional keywork, and refinement of tone. This is where you need to ask yourself the same question as above. If the instrument is a placeholder just for “right now”, an oboe with a smaller price tag is suitable. If you’re purchasing an intermediate oboe that your child will play for years (or decades) to come, pay less attention to the price.

Plastic vs. Wood

When it comes to deciding between plastic or wood, there is no easy answer, as they both have their own unique benefits. If you’re purchasing an intermediate oboe, wood is recommended for a variety of reasons: oboes manufactured from wood sound a little better and have a more complex personality. But, with the superior sound comes more maintenance. Since wood shrinks and expands, it wears out and cracks at a quicker rate than plastic oboes. For this reason, plastic is recommended for student models. Not only will your child not have to worry about the hassle of extra maintenance, but they won’t even notice the difference in sound quality until it’s time to upgrade to an intermediate model. Essentially, ask yourself this question: “Is this instrument a placeholder or will it be in my child’s life for the long haul?” If it’s the former, choosing a plastic oboe shouldn’t be an issue. If it’s the latter, opt for a wood oboe and encourage your child to learn how to properly maintain their oboe.

Fox Model 300 Professional Oboe Standard Key of C, pitch A-440. High-quality plastic resin, hand-reamed and finished. Full conservatory system, nickel silver keys with 18% nickel silver hinge tubing and heavy silver-plating. Teflon-tipped stainless steel adjusting screws. Silver-plated posts, bands, and bell ring. Learn More

New vs. Used Oboes

Once parents realize that oboes are rather expensive, they wonder how much money they can save by purchasing a used oboe instead. While a used oboe can be a great way to save some money, we recommend that all parents proceed with caution. If the seller says “final sale, no refunds or exchanges” and won’t let you try out the instrument first, buyer beware. Since there are no “used oboe salesman’s” the way there are with cars, you should only buy used oboes from reputable websites with return policies and buyer protections in place. If you do decide to buy used, try to avoid purchasing an oboe that’s older than ten years, as older oboes are more likely to have cracks and other issues. Since the oboe is unfamiliar territory for most parents, we recommend purchasing a new instrument. Not only will it be ready-to-play right out of the box, but many new instruments come with warranties and, in some cases, all manufacturer intended accessories, like cases and stands.

What About Renting?

If your child is new to the instrument and you aren’t sure about their commitment, renting an oboe may be your best bet. Additionally, if your child needs a beginner oboe and you’re concerned about financially investing in something they’ll only need for a couple years, you may consider renting the beginning instrument so you’ll have enough to invest in a quality intermediate instrument. Once your child’s commitment to the oboe is solidified, purchasing makes sense. Depending on the store of manufacturer, you may even be able to participate in a rent-to-own program. With rent-to-own programs, each of your rental payments goes towards the total price of the instrument and, once the oboe is “paid” in full, the oboe is yours to own.

Purchase an Oboe at Music & Arts

An oboe can be an expensive purchase, which is why finding an affordable and durable oboe is so important. That’s why many parents turn to Music & Arts. With over 130 stores across 23 states and over 50,000 products on our website, you’ll find one of the largest selections of gear, accessories, and instruments on our website. If you have questions about the specificities of a particular oboe, contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions. With one of the largest product offerings in the world, we offer educator-approved band instruments and accessories, including a variety of oboes, from some of the most-trusted brands in the industry.

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