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How To Tune an Oboe

How To Tune an Oboe

The key to tuning an Oboe is to slightly alter the reed. An oboe reed consists of two pieces of cane that are bound together at the base with a cork tube. It is possible to take an oboe reed yourself but it takes time and special equipment. The easiest and most convenient thing to do is to buy a reed. This doesn’t mean however that you won’t have to do any oboe tuning. Even a professionally made oboe reed may need some adjustment. This article guides you through the process of oboe tuning and adjusting an oboe reed.
 

Oboe Tuning


  • First of all you need to ascertain whether or not your oboe reed is playing flat or sharp. Flat means it is playing below the pitch and sharp means it’s above. The process of oboe tuning differs depending on whether the oboe reed is flat or sharp.

  • If the oboe reed is sharp then soak it in water for roughly 20-25mins to see if the opening in the reed gets any larger, thus bringing the pitch down. Alternatively, a reed knife can be used to scrape the top and the bottom of a reed to bring the pitch down and into tune.

  • Start oboe tuning by scraping along the centre (thickest) bit of the reed and play it to test it. If this doesn’t work, try thinning it at the tip by scraping it very gently. It is important not to take off too much at a time so check it after every scrape.

  • If an oboe reed is flat, it can be rectified by soaking it in water again for the same amount as outlined above and the squeezing it, first at the arch and then at the centre and finally near the string. It is important to do this very carefully as you don’t want to crack or split the oboe reed. Repeat this process as necessary until the oboe reed holds it shape.

  • A flat oboe reed can be cut at the tip using a special reed cutter. Cut minimal amounts off and then test it again. This may be time consuming but it is the only way to go about oboe tuning. Remember that if you go too far, you will need to buy a new reed. If it gets to the point when you have taken more than 0.25” off an oboe reed, it’s likely that you need a new one.

Tips & Advice


  • If you are unsure of how to tune an oboe or not confident in doing it correctly, many music shops will be able to do it for you.
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