Monday, May 31, 2010

Care and Feeding of a New Oboe

As you know from my last post, I recently bought a new oboe from Carlos Coelho Woodwinds.  (Sorry, this is a bit of a commercial for him.  I think he's just great!)  I bought my English horn from him about 5 years ago and have been very happy.

Along with my new oboe, came a goody bag.  (Love the goody bag!)  In it was a screw driver, cork grease, an instrument stand, 2 Loree stickers, and a silver polishing cloth.  There was also a beautiful purple, silk swab.  It seems like such a shame that it's only going to be used for a spit rag! 

Each new oboe from Carlos also comes with a 2-year warranty for cracks.  This is great because if an oboe is going to crack, it'll do it in the first year or so.  If it makes it past 2 years,  you're usually home free!  Oboes are notorious for cracking.  I think this is because of the really small diameter of the bore in the top joint.  The air pressure is too great and, along with the sound waves vibrating through the wood, it's just too much for the instrument to take.

In order to prevent cracking, it is very important to break in a new oboe properly.  Here are the instructions from the Loree factory.

How to Break in Your New Instrument (from Loree factory):
  • In the beginning, play the instrument for no more than 10-15 minutes at a time.  Swab it, return it to its case, and keep the lid closed.  A few hours later or the next day, you may repeat this procedure.  each week, you may add 5 or 10 minutes playing time.  After about 3 months, you should be able to play it as you wish.
  •  On chilly days (or in a cold room) always warm the instrument before playing it.  This may be done by holding it against your body for a few minutes, or cradling at least the top joint in you hands.  If the oboe was left in an unheated area on a cold day, you must not play it until it has had a chance to warm gradually.  (I can vouch for this.  The one time my old oboe cracked, it was in a freezing cold practice room.)
  • During the break in period, we recommend you to oil regularly the bore of you new instrument (about one a week).  Be sure first, that the bore is well dried and cleared of moisture.  Then, put some drops of "F. Loree" natural bore oil, preferably on a feather, and apply a light coat of oil gently inside the instrument.  After a few months, you can progressively reduce to oil your instrument.  (Note:  There are oboists who are dead-set against oiling the bore.  My opinion is that you should oil it in the beginning to keep moisture from getting into the wood.  Once broken in, I personally don't keep oiling it.)
 Additionally, Carlos has his own set of instructions for breaking in a new oboe.  Here's what he says:

Suggestions for Breaking in and Care (from Carlos):
  • Warm up instrument to body temperature.
  • NEVER warm up the instrument by blowing hot air into the bore.
  • **Start by playing low notes only.
  • SWAB!!!  We recommend a silk swab.  Try swabbing from the top joint to the bell.  It will prevent to pull back all the water through the top joint and your swab will never get stuck!  Swab constantly, especially if the weather is dry.
  • Start by playing only 10-15 minutes at a time a couple of times a day during the first week.  Increase playing time 5 to 10 minutes a week.
  • Clean and oil the mechanism about every 8 weeks.  Try to keep the wood clean.
  • We do recommend oiling the bore.  It may be necessary ti oil the bore on specific occasions.  Let's talk first!
  • Keep swabbing........swabbing.....!

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