The French root word of oboe is "hautbois" meaning high or loud (haut) wind (bois), which is why this musical instrument plays in the treble or soprano range. While modern oboes are still usually made of wood, others are made of synthetic materials. Like the clarinet, which it closely resembles, oboes have metal keys and holes that are manipulated by both hands to produce sound by blowing air through two reeds (not a mouthpiece) tied together.

When played solo, oboes produce a melodic, haunting sound reminiscent of its pastoral roots. That's because the ancestor of the oboe was a type of reed instrument that has been used by shepherds all around the world for more than a thousand years.

Today, the oboe harmoniously blends with all instruments of the orchestra, occupying the alto register in the woodwind section (due to its slightly lower pitch than the flute). Because of its ability to play gentle, expressive passages, oboes are also used in film music, chamber music, and concert bands. Occasionally, it is played solo, and makes an appearance in some genres of folk, jazz, rock, and pop music.

Oboe divides into three parts. The top joint features 10 or 11 holes that are mostly manipulated by the left hand. The bottom joint has 10 holes mostly operated by the right hand. The third section - the bell - contains two holes that are not manipulated by the player.

Oboes are one of the most challenging musical instruments to master, but they occupy a place of pride in the orchestra: It is the one instrument that the rest of the orchestra tunes to. Not surprisingly, oboe attracts the responsible type, not only because they have to put up with the pressure of coming up with the standard tuning pitch in one go, but also because of the hard work that the instrument demands to achieve mastery.

To make it "talk," the oboist has to master not just the complicated keys, but also the embouchure, or how the player uses his or her facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to blow into the reed. Professionals usually start getting music lessons in grade school, and very few competitions down the line usually mean they can play regularly in concerts, amateur chamber orchestras, and other off-the-cuff big performances.

If you are approaching oboe for the first time, you may have difficulty finding music teachers in your own area. One solution is to enroll in online music lessons via Live Music Tutor where your instructors are likely to be masters who can train you to break into the professional stage.

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