The oboe is member of the woodwind family and has a double reed. It is a soprano-range instrument with a length of sixty-two centimeters. It has a conical bore that widens into a flaring bell at the end. The origin of its name could be traced back to the English instrument hautbois or hoboy before 1770. Haut means loud or high and bois means wood.

The oboe player called oboist controls the air pressure and embouchure to meticulously present the proper dynamics and timbre. The range of the modern oboe is from the B-flat under middle C up to the A which is around 3 octaves higher.

Voice of the oboe

Compared to other contemporary woodwind musical instrument, this instrument has a lucid and piercing voice. It is described as stately and majestical by an instruction book entitle The Sprightly Companion. The timbre comes from the conical bore which is in contrast to the cylindrical bore of clarinets and flutes. This makes the oboe audible among other instruments in ensembles.

This stately instrument has a pitch that is in concert C but orchestras usually use a concert A pitch. The League of American Orchestras state that this makes the oboe’s pitch secure and the piercing sound makes it suitable for tuning.

The construction of the reed greatly affects the pitch of the oboe through the differences in its material, variations in length and scrape, and age of reed. Other than the reed, humidity and temperature will also have effects on the pitch. The embouchure could be adjusted to cover for these aspects.

Oboe family

The oboe family under the woodwind family is considerably large. The most popular brother of the oboe is the cor anglais, more commonly known as English horn, which has the tenor role in the family. This is a transposing instrument pitched in F. The alto role is done by the oboe d’amore which is pitched in A. A less popular member of the oboe family is the bass oboe or baritone oboe which is one octave lower compared to the oboe. Similar to this instrument is the heckelphone which is measured as more powerful and has a wider bore.

The most uncommon are the piccolo oboe or musette which is the sopranino in the family and the contrabass oboe which is pitched two octaves lower.

Oboe’s structure

Traditionally, oboes are made of granadilla or African Blackwood and have three sections – top joint, bottom joint, and bell section. The left hand controls the 10 holes on the top joint while the right hand is used for the also 10 holes on the bottom joint. Covered with keys are two holes in the bell section.

Some craftsmen still manufacture hand made oboes. The double reed is made of cane which is dried and aged from the south of France or Spain’s east coast. The scrupulous approach to making double reeds is a huge factor in producing quality musical sound.

Popular culture

The sound of a duck is frequently compared to that of the oboe in popular culture. It has been used to play the character of a duck in Peter and the Wolf of Sergei Prokofiev.

Based on research, the oboe, clarinet, and flute are viewed as instruments that are on the feminine side. In contrast to that, it has been observed though not proven that boys prefer the sound of the bassoon, oboe, and English horn than of others’. Some oboists have remarked that these stereotypical views of the oboe might pilot to inconsistency in instrumentation in the future.

 

The saxophone, more casually referred to as sax, is another member of the large woodwind family. It consists of a cone-shaped tube made of thin metal which is usually brass and at times plated with nickel, silver, or gold. It is played with a mouthpiece that is single-reed just like that of the clarinet.

History

This magnificent instrument was invented by Adolphe Sax from Belgium. Akin to his father, Charles Joseph Sax, he was an instrument maker. His first successful creation was the saxhorn which was made public some time after he transferred to France. Before focusing on the saxophone, Adolphe sax completed several developments to the bass clarinet.

The saxophone was created around 1846. Sax’s primary key work was very basic which made wide intervals quite hard to finger. Because of this, many developers and instrument makers added alternate fingerings and more keys to make playing less difficult. One of the most significant advancements in its key work was that both tone holes can be controlled by the left thumb using one octave key. This is now common to all modern sax.

A closer look

Learning to play the sax requires to things: knowing how to control the reed and how to properly and smoothly finger the instrument.

The portion where you blow into is the mouthpiece which is usually constructed from metal, hard rubber, or styrene plastic. The part that creates the sound is the reed. It is made of cane that serves as a membrane to the mouthpiece opening. While the sax is being played, the reed is caught in between the mouthpiece and the saxophone player’s lip.

The ligature, a rubber-like fabric or band of metal, clamps the reed in place which keeps it from going into the mouthpiece. The neck is the tube that holds the mouthpiece through a layer of cork. The other end of the neck is attached to the body of the saxophone.

Saxophones are expected to have a lacquer finish which means that it appears to be polished brass. Some are made in silver which gives it a sound that is brighter.

Saxophone maintenance

The usual sax consists of brass and leather. This indicates that it requires extreme care because brass can easily be dented and leather deteriorates fast if in the wrong environment. Moisture tends to build up in the horn when playing the sax. This will make the leather pads rot and the brass to rust. Make sure that you remove as much moisture as you can every after playing.

After playing, you should dismantle the different parts of the saxophone – the mouthpiece and the neck. Use a neck swab to clean the neck. Then, use a cleaning swab, which is chamois leather or silk with foam, for the body of the sax.

As for the mouthpiece and reed, wash these in warm running water and rub a mouthpiece brush in the mouthpiece. There are a lot more specific ways to care for your sax but just make sure you store, clean, and play it properly and with care.

Common uses

The very first popular use of the sax was in military bands. Recently, it was used in big band and concert band music. Even more recent was its participation in symphony orchestra where it drastically boosted its popularity. Besides these, it was associated with blues, rock and roll, and especially jazz.