The Oboe is a double-reed wind instrument with a wooden body and narrow conical bore.
In French the oboe is called hautbois which means 'high, or loud, wood'. The oboe has a body in three sections. It has a tiny double reed, through which the musician must force air at a very high pressure. It is traditionally made from Blackwood, also called grenadille. The instrument has up to 23 holes. The double reed is fashioned from cane which is usually dried and aged for several years. The oboe encompasses two octaves.
The oboe was invented in the 17th century by the French musicians Jean Hotteterre and Michel Danican Philidor, who modified the louder shawm (the prevailing double-reed instrument). The instrument's scuccess was established at the court of Louis XIV and spread rapidly all over Europe. By 1700 most orchestras included oboes. In 1700 the French instrumentalist Jean-Pierre Freillon published the first method for the instrument: 'Véritable manière d'apprendre à jouer du hautbois'.
The next important development came in the 1800's and was the use of key mechanisms. There was no single outline for the key sytems. Generally, the Germans created simpler systems, and the French more complicated ones. Still today, the key systems do vary from oboes of one manufacturer to another.
Early oboes had seven finger-holes and two keys; by the 1700s four-keyed models were also in use. In the 1800s additional keys were added, reaching 15 or more, and the bore and sound holes were redesigned. Oboes of the French school (played in most countries today) have a very narrow bore and a penetrating, focused sound. Those of the German school have a wider bore and a more easily blending sound. After Theobald Boehm invented his key mechanism for the flute, it was French builders who applied the system to the oboe.
The oboe is the smallest orchestral double-reed instrument and very important in the orchestra. Because the oboe's pitch varies little with temperature, the oboe will play the A-note to which all othe instruments in the orchestra will tune to. The oboe also is an important soloist.
THE ENGLISH HORN
The English horn uses the same keywork as the oboe but it plays at a lower pitch. This wooden instrument is incorrectly named because it is neither English, nor a horn! It is taller than the oboe. It is considered to be the alto auf the oboe family.
THE OBOE D'AMORE
The oboe d'amore was at the first time used around 1720. Bach was among the first composers to make use of this instrument which is the mezzosoprano member of the oboe family. It sounds also smoother than the oboe.