Piccolo Oboe

Piccolo Oboe

F Piccolo Oboe

E-flat Piccolo Oboe

This rare little instrument, either in F or E-flat respectively a fourth or a minor third above the Oboe, is the highest double reed instrument in existence.  It has seen very little use despite being marketed by three major oboe manufacturers.

Recordings of this instrument are quite rare as well.  From what I can gather in the scant recordings to be had, is that the sound is more raucous than the Oboe, and less refined.  This tends to be the case with all higher reed instruments.

As the instrument comes in two different pitches, it is best to include transposed parts for both the E-flat and F instrument.  The one time I wrote for this instrument, I chose the F instrument as it seems to be preferred by oboists due to its key being one octave higher than the English Horn.  In general, I would advise against the use of this instrument unless its procurement is assured.

One note, the Piccolo Oboe is also known as the Oboe Musette.  I dislike this term, as a musette is a type of bagpipe unrelated to the oboe altogether.  Stick with Piccolo Oboe for the name.

A modern composition for solo Piccolo Oboe.  I cannot tell if this is an instrument in E-flat or F.  Listen for the more strident sound and the few high passages where an Oboe simply cannot play the high notes.

Oboes Part 3 – Oboes in the Band

The Oboe in the Band

As I mentioned in the subsection on the Oboe itself, the Oboe does not share well with others.  That said, the English Horn is like a young girl who is in love with the whole world.  She wants to be around everyone, and everyone is enlightened by her presence.  It is odd how a simple difference in a fifth and a different shape to the bell changes the whole outlook of an instrument.  The other lower oboes tend to fall along the lines of the English Horn.

I also mentioned in the subsection on the Oboe that there are generally only two Oboes in the band.  This number does not include the English Hornist, who forms the third member of the ensemble.  I personally would love to see the band’s oboe section expanded to include a fourth player on the Bass Oboe.  What rich and wonderful combination can be had with such an ensemble!

Most professional Oboists own or have access to an English Horn.  This means it is theoretically possible to have all members of the oboe section playing English Horn at once.  Or what about a low quartet made of Oboe d’Amore, two English Horns, and a Bass Oboe?

Groups more than four can be attempted, but they are advised against.  Oboists tend to clash with their own personalities.  I have been in a room with a dozen or more oboists, and I wouldn’t wish that fate upon any!  (By the way, only Bassoonists are allowed to say this about their soprano kindred.  I’m sure they say equal things about us!)

Were I to have an expanded section, I would always expand the oboe family on the lower end.  A full bodied section could be as such:

Player 1. Oboe

Player 2. Oboe

Player 3. Oboe d’Amore, Oboe

Player 4. English Horn, Oboe

Player 5. English Horn, Oboe

Player 6. Bass Oboe, Oboe

With a section like this, we can open up nearly every combination of oboes possible.  All members can switch to Oboe if such a strident sound is needed.  At the low end, we can have a full quartet of low oboes.  I do not include the Piccolo Oboe here, only because it is so unknown to players, that its inclusion would be tenuous at best, but if one were available, then any of the Oboe players could potentially double on the instrument.

Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Piccolo Oboe (F), 10 Oboes, Oboe d’Amore, 2 English Horns, and Bass Oboe.

Oboes – Introduction

Oboe

Introduction – The prima dona of the woodwinds, the Oboe is the most glamorous soloist in the band.  No other soprano instrument can project the range of emotions that the Oboe can.  Sadly, the Oboe, and all double reeds in general, are criminally overlooked by most bandestrators.  They have been thought of as mere color instruments for far too long.  This is in sad deference to the noble origins of wind bands where the double reeds were the bulk of the ensemble.

The Oboe is the true leader and soprano voice of the woodwind family.  Treat it as such.

Oboe Family

The oboe family is far smaller than most of the other woodwinds.  Traditionally, only four members have been used, with the higher Piccolo Oboe doomed to textbook obscurity.  I would attempt to reclassify the oboe family along the lines of the flute family, but the names of the oboes are so ingrained in their usage, and oboe players so stagnant in their views, that I’m afraid my endeavor would be useless.  That said, there is a sample of what the true names of these instruments should be.

Traditional Name

Practical Name

Piccolo Oboe or Oboe Musette Sopranino Oboe
Oboe Soprano Oboe
Oboe d’Amore Mezzo-Soprano Oboe
English Horn Alto Oboe
Bass Oboe Tenor Oboe

As you can see, the traditional nomenclature follows no rhyme or reason.  It exists as it is.  For the foreseeable future no further members of the oboe family are likely to appear.  As a composer, I would love to have available instruments an octave below the English Horn and the Bass Oboe (Baritone and Bass Oboes according to the chart of “practical” names), but I don’t think I will ever get my wish.

Species

Piccolo Oboe

Oboe

Oboe d’Amore

English Horn

Bass Oboe