Oboe Etiquette

As a teacher, I feel it is important to help define the responsibilities of an oboist in both rehearsal and performance settings at every level.  Ideally, improved communication will clarify confusion, minimize complications, and most importantly, set students up for a successful musical experience.  Below are expectations for students at three different levels: Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, and University Student.  There is repetition from one to the next, with advancing degrees of responsibility.

Oboe Etiquette- Grades 6-8

Being a good musician is not only about how well you play your instrument. These simple rules of etiquette will help you become a better all-around musician and understand what your teacher expects from students in band and orchestra.

Be Prepared! Always check this list to make sure you have everything you need before class:

*Oboe
*Swab
*Reed
*Water Container
*Music
*Pencil

Oboe– Keep your instrument in good working order. Always swab when you are done playing.

Reed– Have a good reed at all times. If possible, have two. Keep a water container in your case and get fresh water daily. Soak your reed for 2-3 minutes in warm water before rehearsal starts.

Music– Take good care of your music! Keep it clean and neat, only writing lightly with a pencil, never a pen. Do not fold the music or tear it.

Pencil– Always have a pencil! When your teacher tells you things to remember and work on, mark them. Your music is not a coloring page. Only write important reminders and musical notes.

Practice Preparation– Practice, practice, practice!

In Class– Listen to your teacher. If the conductor says to stop, stop. No talking! Talking during a rehearsal wastes valuable time, frustrates your teacher and keeps you from learning and improving.

Concert Etiquette

* Be on time! Plan to be at a concert at least 15 minutes early unless otherwise requested by your band director. Have your reed soaked, oboe put together, music ready, and warm up for a few minutes before it is time to play.

*Always check, and double check, what the uniform requirements are for your group. What colors? How dressed up should you be?   What kind of shoes, socks or tights do you need?

*If at any time you need to walk away from your instrument, make sure the oboe is in a safe place and your reed is carefully put away.

*During the concert, keep your body still. No leg crossing, yawning, wiggling or talking. Listen politely to other groups performing. Know the program order and be ready to play when it is your turn.

* Most importantly, play beautiful music!

Oboe Etiquette- Grades 9-12

Musicianship is not only based on talent and performing ability. There are many expectations placed on members of an orchestra or band, especially the oboist. The oboist not only provides the tuning A for the orchestra but often has important solos. Conductors want oboists who are talented but also reliable and respectful.

Be Prepared! Always check this list to make sure you have everything you need before class:

*Oboe
*Swab
*Reed
*Water Container
*Cigarette Paper
*Music
*Pencil
*Tuner

Oboe– Keep your instrument in good working condition. Always swab when you are done playing.

Reeds– Have 2-3 good reeds at all times. If one breaks, you need backup. Keep a water container in your case and get fresh water daily. Soak your reed in warm water for 2-3 minutes before rehearsal starts. If you play the English Horn, have 1-2 good reeds.

Music– Take good care of your music! Keep it clean and neat, only writing lightly with a pencil, never a pen. Do not fold the music or tear it.

Pencil– Always have a pencil! When your teacher tells you things to remember and work on, mark them. Your music is not a coloring page. Only write important reminders and musical notes.

Practice Preparation– Practice, practice, practice! Know your music before you go into class. Listen to recordings of the pieces. Follow along with your part. Work difficult passages. Get a ‘feel’ for the style of the music and what the composer wanted.

In Class– BE ON TIME! If you aren’t early, you are late.

* Keep your pencil, water and swab easily accessible

* Listen to your teacher. If the conductor says to stop, stop. No talking! Talking during a rehearsal wastes valuable time, frustrates your teacher and keeps you from learning and improving. If the conductor is working with another section, listen to what they say. The same idea may apply to your own part in a later phrase.

* Sit up straight at the front of your chair. Avoid slouching, crossing legs and yawning- all three tell the conductor that you are bored. This will not help you earn your conductor’s respect and it will definitely not help you earn or keep 1st chair.

* TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Silence ringers. No texting. No excuses!

Tuning– Always check your intonation before rehearsal. Be early and warmed up before it is time to begin. Don’t forget your tuner!

* For wind band, the tuning preference is dependent on the conductor. Often the tuba will play a B-Flat and then the oboe will play either a B-Flat or an A. Sometimes only the oboe will give the tuning note. Your conductor will let you know what is expected.

* In orchestra, the 1st oboist plays an A. Wait for the 1st chair violinist to stand and indicate that it is time to tune. Typically there will be two A’s, depending on the conductor’s preference. One A will be for the woodwinds and brass. The second will be for the strings.

2nd Oboe Tuning– When the 1st oboe plays the A (or B-Flat for band), wait for other instruments to come in before you tune. In order to keep your A from conflicting with the 1st, play quietly but strong enough to be an effective check of pitch. Do not “doodle” around on other notes.   The purpose of tuning is not to play a solo but to blend. Once you have checked your pitch, stop playing.

Have a tuner just in case. If something happens to keep the 1st oboe from arriving in time, be prepared to help.

On Playing 1st and 2nd Chair

First of all, you are a team! While it may be fun to play 1st oboe and the solo parts, being 2nd is no less important. Stay in tune and play together. Match your tone, dynamics and articulations to the best of your ability.

1st Oboe– It is your responsibility to be early for every rehearsal and performance. Have your reed soaked and be warmed up before rehearsal begins! Know your part and be consistent on the solos. Conductors appreciate a section leader and soloist they can count on.

Be a leader. If there are questions in the oboe section, it is your responsibility to communicate them with the conductor.

Be supportive of the other oboists in your section. While it is a great achievement to have earned 1st chair, music is not a competition. Work together.

Listen to the intonation of the 2nd oboe. It is harder to adjust tuning on low notes (B-Flat to C-Sharp), match their pitch. Often when the 1st part gets into the higher register your pitch will rise, listen carefully and adjust accordingly.

Listen to and work together with the 1st chair flute, clarinet and bassoon for balance, intonation and style.

2nd Oboe– It is your job to support the 1st oboe. Know your part, play consistently, and balance with the 1st oboe.   But still play beautifully! Balancing does not mean hiding. It means playing your part to the best of your ability with careful attention to matching the playing style of the 1st oboist.

Respect the 1st oboist. They worked to earn their seat. If you want to play first, practice hard and prepare more diligently for the next round of auditions. Be supportive and helpful.

Don’t ever play the 1st oboe solos in class or warm-ups (unless you have been specifically assigned to.) But definitely practice them at home. Building your repertoire is a good thing. “Showing off” is not.

Concert Etiquette- Be on time! Plan to be at a concert at least 15 minutes early unless otherwise requested by your band director. Have your reed soaked, oboe put together, music ready, and warm up for a few minutes before it is time to play.

*Always check, and double check, what the uniform requirements are for your group. What colors? How dressed up should you be?   What kind of shoes, socks or tights do you need?

*No perfume or cologne, plenty of deodorant. Strong smells can be very distracting to the other members in your group, especially wind players.

*If at any time you need to walk away from your instrument, make sure the oboe is in a safe place and your reed is carefully put away.

*During the concert, keep your body still. No leg crossing, yawning, wiggling or talking. Listen politely to other groups performing.

*If another group is playing a piece with multiple movements, do not clap in between them! The composer wrote the entire piece to move from one section to the next without interruption. Clapping can disturb the mood of the music and fluster the performers.

*Know the program order and be ready to play when it is your turn.

*Most importantly, play beautiful music!

Oboe Etiquette- University Student

Musicianship is not only based on talent and performing ability. There are many expectations placed on members of an orchestra or band, especially the oboist. The oboist not only provides the tuning A for the orchestra but often has important solos. Conductors want oboists who are talented but also reliable and respectful.   You are preparing for a future as a music professional. Now is the time to develop professional musicianship skills and habits.

Be Prepared! Always check this list to make sure you have everything you need before rehearsals:

*Oboe
*Swab
*Reed
*Water Container
*Music
*Pencil
*Tuner
*Metronome
*Cigarette Paper
*Sharpened Reed Knife, Plaque and Cutting Block
*Oboe or English Horn Peg
*Screwdriver

Oboe– Keep your instrument well maintained. If the weather is cold, warm up the exterior of your oboe before playing to avoid cracks. Plan to arrive even earlier in the winter to allow time for this.

Reeds– Have at least 3-4 good reeds at all times. If you play the English Horn, have 2-3 good reeds.

Music– Take good care of your music! Keep it clean and neat, writing lightly only with pencil. The music will need to be returned and erased, often at the expense of the school or group.

Pencil– Always have a pencil! When the conductor gives you musical instructions, mark them. Only write important reminders and musical notes. Too many markings can interfere with what the composer wrote and make it difficult to read the actual music on the page.

Basic Reed Making Supplies– Only a knife, plaque and cutting block are listed because rehearsal time is not a reed making session. These three items are for fine tuning the reed you are playing (though a reed ready before rehearsal begins is always best.)

Be prepared with a sharp knife at all times by getting in the habit of sharpening your knife before putting it away each time you use it. Sharpening tools are noisy and distracting to the players around you.

If you do decide to make reeds in a rehearsal, be discreet. Watch to see if your conductor approves. If they appear agitated, stop. If you miss an entrance due to reed making, don’t make reeds any more. You are in rehearsal to refine the music not create reeds.

Never make reeds during a concert. If you are prepared with 3-4 reeds consistently, there will be no need for exceptions.

Practice Preparation– Practice, practice, practice! Study your part. Know your music before you go into rehearsal. Listen to recordings of the pieces. Follow along with your part. Work difficult passages. Get a ‘feel’ for the style of the music and what the composer wanted.

Get access to a score (try http://imslp.org or http://nyphil.org/history/archives-collections/scores-and-parts.) Listen to a recording while watching the different parts in the group.

If you know the pieces you will be performing, get the music ahead of time either from the music librarian or online at http://imslp.org.

In Class– BE ON TIME! If you aren’t early, you are late.

*Keep your pencil, water and swab easily accessible

*Have your parts prepared before rehearsal. Rehearsal time is for fine tuning the pieces and working on balance and intonation.

*Listen to your conductor. If they say stop, stop. No talking! Talking during a rehearsal wastes valuable time, frustrates your conductor and is highly distracting. If the conductor is working with another section, listen to what they say. The same idea may apply to your own part in a later phrase. Mark in your music appropriately.

*Avoid slouching, crossing legs and yawning- all three tell the conductor that you are bored. Be professional and alert.

*Leave conducting to the conductor.

*Store your case and backpack under your seat. If your equipment is spreading out in too many directions, leave some of it in a safe place in the rehearsal room.

*TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Silence ringers. No texting. No excuses!

*If there is a substitute playing your part, it is your responsibility to make sure they have the music before rehearsal begins.

Tuning– Always check your intonation before rehearsal. Be early and warmed up before it is time to begin. Don’t forget your tuner!

2nd Oboe Tuning– When the 1st oboe plays the A (or B-Flat for band), wait for other instruments to come in before you tune. In order to keep your A from conflicting with the 1st, play quietly but strong enough to be an effective check of pitch, about mp. Do not “doodle” around on other notes. A D Major triad or A Major triad is acceptable if you would like to check relative pitches.  The purpose of tuning is not to play a solo but to blend. Once you have checked your pitch, stop playing.

Have a tuner just in case. If something happens to keep the 1st oboe from arriving in time, be prepared to help.

On Playing 1st and 2nd Chair

First of all, you are a team! While it may be fun to play 1st oboe and it’s solo parts, being 2nd is no less important. Stay in tune and play together. Match your tone, dynamics and articulations to the best of your ability.

1st Oboe– It is your responsibility to be early for every rehearsal and performance. Have your reed soaked and be warmed up before rehearsal begins! Know your part and be consistent on the solos. Conductors appreciate a section leader and soloist they can count on.

Be a leader. If there are questions in the oboe section, it is your responsibility to communicate them with the conductor.

Be supportive of the other oboists in your section. While it is a great achievement to have earned 1st chair, music is not a competition. Work together.

Listen to the intonation of the 2nd oboe. It is harder to adjust tuning on low notes (B-Flat to C-Sharp), match their pitch. Often when the 1st part gets into the higher register your pitch will rise, listen carefully and adjust accordingly.

Listen to and work together with the 1st chair flute, clarinet and bassoon for balance, intonation and style.

2nd Oboe– It is your job to support the 1st oboe. Know your part, play consistently, and balance with the 1st oboe.   But still play beautifully! Balancing does not mean hiding. It means playing your part to the best of your ability with careful attention to matching the color, intonation, and style of the 1st oboist.

Respect the 1st oboist. They worked to earn their seat. If you want to play first, practice hard and prepare more diligently for the next round of auditions. Be supportive and helpful.

Don’t ever play the 1st oboe solos in rehearsal. But definitely practice them at home. Building your repertoire is a good thing. “Showing off” is not.

Concert Etiquette- Be on time! Plan to be at a concert at least 15 minutes early unless otherwise requested by your band director. Have your reed soaked, oboe put together, music ready, and warm up for a few minutes before it is time to play.

*Are you prepared? Do you have every item on your list? Most items can be left off stage during the performance. On stage you will need: oboe, reed, water, swab, cigarette paper, music and tuner (if you are the principal oboe.)

*Always check, and double check, what the uniform requirements are for your group.

*No perfume or cologne. Strong odors can be very distracting to the other members in your group, especially wind players.

*During the concert, keep your body still. No leg crossing, yawning, or talking. Be engaged in the music.

*There is debate about toe tapping. Younger musicians are taught to tap their feet to help them feel the beat. As musicians mature, ideally there will be a minimizing to toe tapping. And eventually, feeling the pulse internally with no external movement. Different conductors will have different preferences. Tapping feet can be distracting to the audience, especially if not everyone is tapping to the same beat!

*In regards to counting measures, do not count with your mouth. It looks quite silly from the audience. A good technique is to discreetly count on your fingers, hand placed on your leg.

*If another group is playing a piece with multiple movements, do not clap in between them! The composer wrote the entire piece to move from one section to the next without interruption. Clapping can disturb the mood of the music and fluster the performers.

*Swab as needed but do so discreetly.

*If you get water in a key, swab and blow the water out in a loud portion of the piece or even better, during applause in between pieces. Choose the moment carefully.

*Do not visibly react if you, or another player, makes a mistake.

*Know the program order. If you do not play in every piece, know when to enter and exit the stage.

*After intermission, be onstage warming up at least 5 minutes early.

*Watch concert master for cues to stand during the conductor’s entrance. Be alert and ready to play the tuning note.

*Most importantly, play beautiful music!

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