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Topic: Oboe vs French Oboe

  1. #1

    Oboe vs French Oboe

    The VSL instruments bundled with Kontakt 2 include an Oboe and "French Oboe". Comparing the two, I find that the French Oboe blends better when voiced over JABB trumpets and the other blends better when voiced in a triad with two Westgate clarinets.

    I'm just wondering, if I use the French Oboe in place of the other oboe in part of my score, whether that means the reed player will actually need two oboes.

    To phrase the question differently, can an oboe player make the standard instrument sound more brassy (or rather more compatible with the brass) when necessary and mellower when it has to blend with the clarinets? Or is the oboe tone color pretty much the same, except for the textural differences in the notes at the extremes of its range?

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    What VSL calls "French oboe" is "oboe" what we know as a modern oboe. It is calls "French" oboe, because the standard keysystem is called (French) conservatoire or conservatory system. VSL's "oboe" is Viennese oboe which is very common in Viennese orchestras, but the instrument is not used elsewhere. Its structure, keysystem and of course, the sounds are different from modern oboe.
    By the way, current Viennese oboe used in Vienna Philharmonic are made by Yamaha.

    >>I'm just wondering, if I use the French Oboe in place of the other oboe in part of my
    >>score, whether that means the reed player will actually need two oboes.

    First of all, you don't have to write "French Oboe" in the score, because instruments that players have are French oboe most likely, and the term "French" would just confuse them.
    Probably the term "Viennese" would confuse the player too, if they don't know the Viennese oboe is.

    For oboe players, there are only two types of reeds. Bad ones, and ok ones. And they always strive to make an excellent reed, which, as I understand, no one has made so far.

    >>can an oboe player make the standard instrument sound more brassy

    They could produce "reedier" sounds, if music really calls for them. But it should be noted that is not what players have studied to do.

    Just because certain sounds worked for you in computer, it will not guarantee to produce desired effect in live.
    Kentaro Sato (Ken-P)

  3. #3

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    You're bumping into one of the problems of sample libraries. Each have their own sound and characteristics, but that has little relevance the to real world. It's great for composers and producers who can choose exactly the sound they want, but in the real world, when you hire an oboist, they bring one oboe, their oboe, that makes the sound they like the best. As a conductor, you can explain certain musical situations and ask them to do whatever they can to alter their sound accordingly, but there's not going to be all that much variance in their sound.

    Your best bet is to find a professional oboist and put these questions to him/her. Going to the player is always your best resource. They might also be able to tell you about certain compositional or orchestrational problems or solutions that they've encountered in their careers.

    As for the French Oboe business, as I understand it, there are primarily two traditional "schools" or traditions of oboe playing - French and German. The French school tends toward a lighter more melodic sound, such as one that would blend well in Debussy or Ravel, while the German school is more strident and brassy. There is an newer American school or style emerging as well which is somewhere inbetween the French and German styles. Others may feel free to correct or elaborate.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA

  4. #4

    Lightbulb Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    Bottom line is that oboists tend to strive for a particular "ideal" sound, and they all tend to shoot for the same timbre (or rather, for one of 3 or 4 timbres, depending on their country of origin). They are generally not used to trying to vary their timbre - they in fact try to avoid it. (This is the diametric opposite of jazz sax players, who tend to strive for an individual and unique sound.) Your options for getting different timbres out of a living oboist are (a) dynamics, and (b) extended techniques (like multiphonics, teeth on the reed, harmonics, etc.).

    Oboe and trumpet tend to blend pretty well anyway. If you want them to be closer, mark the oboe up a dynamic level, or mark the part to indicate that you want a rougher sound (not sure what you'll get, though), or mute the trumpets. Or write in a soprano sax instead, or in addition. (I'd suggest a soprano sarrusophone, but it isn't easy to find someone who will play it in public )

    Grant Green ||| www.contrabass.com
    Sarrusophones and other seismic devices

  5. #5

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    Thanks for the input. As it happens, I do have my second reed player doubling on the soprano sax in some places (the only sax in my score, which is supposed to sound like a late 19th century operetta . . . and usually does). But it is never exposed, always used to blend other timbers. Sometines it's a substitute for a third trumpet. My sax samples aren't great, but I've heard enough live music with the soprano sax and trumpets, that I know that it will work.

    When I use the oboe, it's usually because I want a typical oboe-like sound for most of the piece. However, because I have only 4 reed players, when it is not needed for solo work or its unique timber, the 3rd reed player is otherwise occupied and can't play the sax, and having the 4th switch from the oboe to another instrument would be cumbersome, I just need it to fill out the chord. On these occasions, I try to put the oboe in the upper part of its range, where it has less color. If the trumpets are playing, it would be nice to have it blend with them as much as possible.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    New York, NY

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    Of course, you could always hire a synth player for the gig, set him up with a laptop, and indicate in the score when you want him to change from the french oboe to the vienesse oboe... And you'll get the same sound as the recording... No more having to worry about reeds and stuff...

    P.S., just keep him out of the way of the clarinet player...

  7. #7

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    As a side note. I fell in love with the sound of the Oboe when I watched the movie The Mission.
    Garritan on GarageBand '08 using Intel iMac with 1.5G RAM
    Listen to my collection here

  8. #8

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    I have heard synths used on Broadway, with varying degrees of success. Since this is a score for a period (pre 20th century) musical, I need them to be as unobtrusive as possible. I spent a lot of time working out how to do this without padding the string, reed, or brass sections with sampled instruments (though I will have to do so when I orchestrate the reduction).

    In the full score, I have two keyboard players using the patches that I think will sound the least electronic, or sampled, or sythesized: piano, harp, harpsichord, pitched percussion (also guitar and mandolin, since each is used in only one number.) I think I can get away without having to pad the reed section or the brass. One neat trick mentioned in RK's book (though I don't remember whether it was included in the online version) is to have the oboe double the clarinet in unison -- which sounds something like a trumpet or horn. If both reeds are free, putting them together like this over the brass, especially in softer passages, sounds nicer than either alone.

    Basically, all I wanted to know about the oboe is if the playing style could affect the tone color much (like with a sax) but I guess the answer is "no". Which is fine. I can work around it. It's not the most critical element of my score. And thanks again for all your help.

  9. #9

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstinen
    Finally, I was fed up, took a sock off and stuffed it into the bell of my oboe. Problem solved!


    HA HA HA !

    for you oboe players.... here's a couple of oboe snippets
    where the oboe gets to do his/her thing in Rhapsody in Blue,
    a project that I am working on.

    Instruments used are GOS, GPO, JABB, Garritan Stradivari, Garritan Gofriller cello and Garritan Steinway.


  10. #10

    Re: Oboe vs French Oboe

    A friend of mine used to play Oboe in a very professional orchestra. She made the mistake one evening by eating a cookie backstage and not brushing her teeth afterward. When it came time for a very pronounced solo, a crumb dislodged from her teeth and jammed between the reeds, thus muting the Oboe. In panic, she sucked in and dislodged it just in time for the solo. Whew!
    Garritan on GarageBand '08 using Intel iMac with 1.5G RAM
    Listen to my collection here

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