The Structure of the Oboe
What kind of instrument is the bass oboe?

The names of the different parts of an oboe

The entire display of the oboe
  • Reed
  • Tube
  • Upper section
  • First octave key
  • Second octave key
  • Third octave key
  • B key
  • A key
  • G key
  • G# key
  • Left E♭ key
  • Low B key
  • Low B♭ key
  • Lower section
  • F# key
  • E key
  • F key
  • D key
  • C key
  • E♭ key
  • C# key
  • Bell

*Select any name to zoom in on the part.

With its black body and silver-colored keys, to the eye, the oboe looks like a larger version of the clarinet. However, the two instruments differ completely in several respects.
First, there are the parts into which the player blows. The clarinet has a mouthpiece which is connected to a single reed. Conversely, while the oboe has no mouthpiece it does have two reeds-the oboe is a double-reed instrument.
The shape of the bell is also quite different. The bell of an oboe does not extend as far as that of a clarinet, and it is also thicker.

The opening of an oboe.

The opening of an oboe.

The opening of a clarinet.

The opening of a clarinet.

An oboe's bell.

An oboe's bell.

A clarinet's bell.

A clarinet's bell.

The inside of an oboe is very narrow, indeed, with the internal diameter of the upper portion of the upper section measuring only around 4 mm. The diameter grows wider the closer to the bell, forming a cone.
The hole for blowing into on an oboe is narrow, so only a little bit of the player's breath can enter. In other wind instruments, it tends to be difficult for the player if they do not have sufficient breath volume, but in the case of the oboe, there tends to be too much breath. This is by no means easy on the player. Because oboe players use their breath little by little, playing a long melody using a single breath is almost like a sustained stretch of breath-holding. This causes carbon dioxide to accumulate in the lungs during performances. Because players have to breathe in after exhaling long-held breaths all at once, it also takes longer for oboe players to take a breath than it does for players of other wind instruments.

A cross-section of an oboe.

A cross-section of an oboe.