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3 Quick ways to improve oboe tone

Oboists are always searching for that optimal tone with the least amount of effort, right?! 

Before I share the 3 quick ways to improve your tone, let’s agree on the characteristics of “good tone”. They are: 

  • Consistent

  • Open

  • Round

  • Supported by air 

These descriptors point towards the mechanisms of getting a nice tone: use consistent air support and a gentle embouchure pressure with a round front of mouth shape. Now that you know what you’re looking for, let's get into the tips! 

1. Use slightly more air 

Do this: When playing, try blowing with just slightly more air. Sometimes our tone suffers when our air support drops off a little bit, so using slightly more air to support the sound will help open the tone up. 

Why it works: Over time we often get complacent, and use just enough air to make sound but not enough air to fully support the sound. For some students slightly more air transforms into slightly faster air. Faster air helps to make playing feel easier and sound better.

2. Separate your teeth a bit 

Do this: Notice how close together your teeth are as they play. Try lowering your lower jaw just a bit to make more space between your teeth. Make sure you’re using fast enough air to get the sound going, and you’ll notice a less compressed sound. 

Why it works: When playing, your teeth put a little pressure on the reed, which can restrict the vibrations and negatively affect the tone. Moving your teeth apart a little bit relieves that pressure on the reed and allows it to vibrate more freely, thus sounding more open. 

3. Angle your face forward instead of slightly down 

Do this: Look straight ahead at something that’s roughly at your eye level as you play, but don’t allow your oboe to rise. Depending on the length of your arms, your elbows will be either right at your sides or even with the front of your torso. 

Why it works: The angle at which your reed enters your mouth can increase or decrease the pressure that your lips apply to the reed.


Did you know that you can get weekly tips from me about playing oboe? Sign up for my Oboe 101 Newsletter. It's a weekly newsletter with tips and exercises to help you play oboe better and more comfortably. For oboists, family/friends of oboists, and educators.


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