the history of the oboe

The history of the oboe.

The oboe and its double reeds ancestors are probably one of the oldest instruments, dating back to 2,800 BC. We know of its antiquity because similar double-tongue instruments appear in works of art and in literature making reference to countries such as India , Mongolia, China, Arabia, Greece and Japan. From these countries, its influence extended to Europe through the Silk Road in the Middle Ages.

The evolution of the oboe and its history is portrayed especially in 3 ancestors:

THE AULOS (664 – 30 BC.):

An instrument of antiquity that we already mentioned in our article “discover the wind instruments of antiquity“. The aulos is the first model from which the current oboe was born: in ancient Greece, it is believed to have been important in the theater and on other important occasions.


The instrument in which the howls evolved during the Middle Ages consisted of a single wooden tube and had a conical shape with a bell, also had several lengths to have different tones and had a hole to place the double tongue or a mouthpiece (a piece of slightly angled metal covered by cork at the end inserted in the instrument) so that the tongue seats. This instrument was known as the calamus (calamus is the Latin word for reed). It is from this word that the English name shawm is derived.


In the middle of the 17th century, the first Baroque oboe was born, called hautbois, which means high wood. This one was created in France, where it was used to entertain the court. It was made of boxwood and had several holes, but only two or three keys. Also during this time the oboe da caccia (hunting oboe) was created that had a curved body and was used in many of Bach’s cantatas and masses. This instrument was the one that gave rise to the oboe that made its orchestral debut in France in 1657, the instrument had many earlier forms dating back several centuries before.

After the French-style oboe, the German-style one emerged, more of a more advanced design that characterized its expansion throughout Europe. At the end of the 19th century, however, France returned to counterattack with a new revolutionary mechanism for the oboe. The new system developed in France was known as the conservatory style. This is the oboe style that is now the mainstream.

The history of oboe
The history of oboe


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