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 Old oboes
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2019-04-23 01:44

I would be interested to hear of the experiences of anyone that plays old oboes by choice. I have an 1891 Loree, a 1910 Robert d'amore (Couesnon), a 1930s Louis Cor Anglais and a 3030s Louis oboe. They are all thumbplate instruments and open ring system. I play them because they are lighter than modern instruments ( I have rheumatoid arthritis) and I like the sould of open holed instruments - they seem a little brighter and vibrant. The wood on all the instruments is superb, and overall, the keywork is ergonomic - actually enabling sliding from one key to another, a little more than on some contemporary instruments that have more fingering options. I have used some of them in chamber orchestra settings, and dont have any issue with projection - but have not tried them playing in a full symphony orchestra.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2019-04-24 20:35

I am no expert and have not played instruments of the vintage you are talking about. What I see is extreme difference of opinion out there about whether an oboe gets "blown out" or not. What I believe is that as long as the bore remains true, "blown out" is a myth. If the bore gets messed up, well, it's not "blown out" but damaged. Not being young either, I got a Bhob to take the weight and it helps a lot.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: oboist2 
Date:   2019-04-25 02:01

Personally, I am of the persuasion that instruments probably don't get blown out - but I am speaking from the perspective of having older instruments where the wood was aged much longer than it is today, and at that time, the makers could slect the very best wood. I did play on a Fossati for many years and that instrument was made in 1989. I played a lot on it, and was doing semi professional work at that time. When I sold the oboe a couple of years ago, I still believed it played as well as the day I bought it. Regular servicing and looking after the instrument well certainly does help.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2019-04-26 06:48

Oboes (and clarinets) played professionally by symphony players, say 5+ hours a day do get blown out, and are regularly replaced. Consider the constant change in the bore adjusting to breathe at 96 degrees and air at 68.

Players I know complain of subtle changes affecting intonation.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-04-26 21:31

My regular Oboe is now a Howarth S2 which is an open hole English Thumb Plate System. It was made in 1955 and is in excellent condition. Not only is the wood in good condition but it has solid sterling silver keywork.

Skyfacer

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2019-05-03 01:42

I have seen some old B&H Imperial, Louis and Howarth oboes doing excellent service by professional orchestral oboists well into the early 2000s.

Chris.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2019-05-03 02:06

Every older oboe is not blown out....however, there are oboes (and clarinets) played by professionals that are blown out.

My prior oboe was a 1986 Loree which had a lovely tone and had extremely very consistent intonation...better than the new Loree I replaced it with (due to improved keywork, not bore).

I know other players with 30 (or more) year old instruments that sound marvelous. However, I also know professional oboe and clarinet players who change instruments every few years, because the old gray mare ain't what it used to be.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-05-03 18:36

...and that is great for amateurs, because even though they think the old grey mares aren't what they used to be, they're still plenty good for the amateurs to pick up used....

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: Old oboes
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2019-05-03 18:47

Maybe....A star jockey may send a horse to pasture which is plenty fast enough for an amateur; or may have a broken leg. I would strongly advise double-checking intonation, which is what colleagues have reported as the biggest problem with blown instruments.

The local symphony oboe players just changed instruments (feeling theirs were blown out)...I should have reached out and tried them to confirm for myself how much life was left in them.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: KJC 
Date:   2019-05-20 00:37

I don't believe there is any significant change to the bore of an oboe over time--only if it's damaged through cracking, abuse or is a "lemon". What does wear out over time is the mechanisms: pads, keys, springs, rods, and screws. I think that rather than getting an overhaul to fix the mechanisms, oboes are often sold and and new ones bought because the mechanisms are starting to wear out with use and owners call it "blown" out. Also, when all professionals around you replace their oboes every 5 to 7 years, it probably also makes some insecure to still be using an old one and they may see differences they attribute to being "blown" out that just aren't there. Moreover, it keeps oboe companies in business to keep making new oboes, right? So, you're not going to get any voluble arguments from them against the "blown" out theory either which is why this argument will never go away.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2019-05-20 02:23

Only the other day I heard about someone who cut up a used Selmer USA wooden oboe and a relatively new one to compare the difference in the cellular structure of the wood on both new and 'blown out' ones under a microscope.

Only that's inconclusive as one piece of grenadilla is going to be different to another. And how can anyone tell if the cell structure changes when you can't exactly dissect the same oboe top joint when new and compare it to several years down the line when you've already destroyed it the first time round?

Chris.

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: Hotboy 
Date:   2019-05-20 23:54

In my experience, "blown-out" refers to three things:
- Change in scale intonation
- Change in note stability
- Change in blowing resistance

I have experienced several Lorees whose scales changed over a period of 10+ years so that they weren't as dependable to play in tune as they were when younger than five years. Also, an older oboe can suffer from notes that are variable in pitch depending on how hard one blows. For a professional who needs to depend on consistency of intonation, these are unacceptable faults.

Due to visually imperceptable changes in the bore from heat, moisture, and swabbing, the blowing resistance changes over time. This is most noticeable between the time when an instrument is new and when it is broken in, about one to two years after manufacture. Then, over the following years, the resistance can change, which necessitates the player to adjust reeds to compensate, which is an unnecessary burden for a professional player.

Also, old oboes can be plagued by problems such as gathering water in vents due to microscopic bore wear and keywork shifting due to plating wear. I have not played on an oboe older than 20 years without one or more of these problems.

Amateurs who have difficulty playing in tune, getting good tone, and making reeds may not notice these subtle changes in an instrument, but advanced players certainly do.

I don't know about comparing the difference in the cellular structure of the wood...this seems like a red herring to me.

Dane
Bay Area, California

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-05-26 23:18

I need to learn how to make reeds from these pros. Their reeds must be amazingly consistent to sense the changes caused by plating wear!

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: Old oboes
Author: mberkowski 
Date:   2019-05-31 20:26

This just went up on Youtube and I remembered this thread - Nicholas Daniel demonstrates Léon Goossens' Loree, which apparently Goosens played for his entire career.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMgD6ezml7U

Michael

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: mschmidt 
Date:   2019-06-01 02:54

This thread prodded me to do something I've been meaning to do for a while--try out a bunch of oboes, both new and used. I drove up to RDG Woodwinds in Hollywood yesterday and tried out 4 "just arrived this week" new Loree Royal model oboes and 6 used models. I had my tuner ready and watched it intensely on scale after scale, oboe after oboe. I couldn't make out a clear difference in the intonation of the used oboes vs. the new ones--the typical Loree problem notes (E & F on top of the treble clef) were pretty consistently troublesome on all the oboes. Some of the oboes were a little less stable in pitch with change in air pressure than others, but this did not seem to correlate with age. But then, age probably doesn't correlate strongly with hours played. One of the used oboes definitely was more resistant, but many others were not. The used oboes had serial numbers ranging from PGXX to TMXX. The new oboes were all U_XX.

One could certainly make a case for the idea that the new oboes would have played better after being broken in, but for me, there was no clear advantage for the new oboes, and the one I took home with me (after paying for it, of course) was a used one. It was one of the younger used ones, so maybe there is something to be said for oboes deteriorating with age. As a scientist, however, I do not feel as though I have sufficient empirical evidence to conclude that old oboes are to be avoided.

One additional data point--I took my old (NYXX) AK c+3 with me to compare. It was a little bit wilder in pitch and sagged a bit in pitch in some of the short-pipe notes, but it sounded to my ears as a rival to many of the Royals I compared it to. I'm used to compensating for the pitch problems on that instrument, and I might have a little more freedom in reedmaking with the more evenly-pitched Royal that I bought. I don't, however, anticipate any director or quartet-mate hearing me on my new instrument and saying--My Gosh! Did you get a new instrument? That sounds wonderful! (I am keeping the old AK because I still love it, flaws and all. Every oboe I played yesterday, including the one I bought, has some weaknesses.)

Mike

Middle-Aged Amateur


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 Re: Old oboes
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2019-06-01 09:40

I have watched that Utube video and have typed in the comments "Putting the lie to the myth that all older wooden Oboes get or are 'blown out'

Skyfacer

Post Edited (2019-06-13 14:54)

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 Re: Old oboes
Author: cjwright 
Date:   2019-06-11 08:27

I'm a Professional oboist and have probably played 200 oboes which are 50 years or older.

In my experience, maybe 30 or 40 of them were "blown out" to the point that were not usable at a high level. This would mean that the interior has lost it's resistance or the left hand notes are too high due to time, age, and warpage. I think blown out is a legitimate situation. This is not saying that they can't be played, but you don't have the confidence in the instrument that you would a newer instrument.

Of those 200, I'd say 80-100 of them have physical issues that could be fixed, but would require some serious work. For example the toneholes might not be level or chipped and therefore will never be able to seal properly unless recut (which could change the acoustics of the instrument if not properly done correctly.) Most commonly the silver is just worn to the point that the instrument doesn't want to stay in adjustment, or the wood doesn't want to hold the silver consistently.

Currently I play on a B series de Lancie model which is probably 60 years old by now. It's a solid instrument without the defects mentioned previously. i love it for it's responsiveness and focus in sound that I haven't found in any other instrument before.

My two cents.

Blog, An Oboe In Paradise
Solo Oboe, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra

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