|An oboe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
When I began to play the oboe back in the late 1950’s, my teacher started me off with Otto Langey’s book, The Oboe. Although not ideal oboe music for beginners it was all that was available. Since that time a number of alternatives have become available, - some are learning methods and some are books of pieces for young players.
As an experienced player and teacher of the oboe, I have used a variety of material in oboe lessons over the years; - some of it is still available and some not. In this article, I will review the books that I have found particularly helpful and which, to the best of my knowledge, are still available today.
“A Tune a Day for Oboe” When I first began to teach in about 1972 this was the book most widely used, indeed it was one of the very few books of oboe music for beginners around at the time. It is still available although not used as often as it used to be. It is a fairly comprehensive book made up of a part tutor, part study book, and part easy pieces. The order in which the notes are introduced is a little questionable in my view but there is a nice balance of exercises and tunes used for each new note or technique introduced. The tunes selected are a mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar which is good. Some of the tunes in the first half of the book are in duet form, with a second part for the teacher to play. Some of the later music is arranged in duet or trio form for a group of students to play. “A Tune a Day” does have quite a lot to commend it but I always found it a slightly dull book, both for student and teacher.
“Learn as you play oboe” This book dates back to 1980 and quickly took over from “A Tune a Day” as the most used of the oboe tutor books. There were a few others which cropped up at about that time as I remember, but they quickly sank without trace. The approach of this book was fairly similar to “A Tune a Day” but with the addition of three sets of Concert Pieces for which piano accompaniments could be purchased. These pieces quickly found themselves on to the Associated Board syllabus at appropriate grades. This book was followed up by a book of First Repertoire Pieces (with piano accompaniments) which also found their way on to the exam boards. My assessment of this book is very similar to that of A Tune a Day in that it is rather dull and uninspiring. Also, the sequence in which the notes are taught is not entirely to my liking.
“Team Woodwind” I am not, and never have been a fan of any kind of band method. It is a concept which does not sit easily with me. I have included this book in my appraisal of oboe music for beginners as I know that some teachers like this particular approach or are pushed into it by circumstances. I have always believed that we begin by working in like-instrument groups (i.e. - with other oboes) before branching out when we are ready into woodwind ensembles and, later, bands and orchestras. Putting different woodwind instruments together too soon I feel is a mistake! “Team Woodwind” is a well-produced book with a reasonable collection of material but it is not for me.
“Abracadabra Oboe” When it came on the market back in 1990, Abracadabra Oboe was the book I had been waiting for since beginning to teach. The sequence in which the notes are taught is absolutely spot-on and the balance between learning material and tunes is excellent. There is also a very good balance between known tunes and the unfamiliar. The only shame is that this book did not materialize 20 years sooner. Material from this book has, not surprisingly, been adopted by the exam boards for the earlier grade exams too which makes it an ideal choice for beginner oboe players.
The three key issues in any oboe tutor must be:
1) The introduction of notes and techniques must be in a logical and helpful order.
2) The layout must be attractive to the eye of the beginner oboist.
3) Most important of all, the book must inspire and motivate young oboists to practice and, therefore, progress.
So, when assessing oboe music for beginners, in my personal opinion, based on many years of both playing and teaching, Abracadabra does all these three things in a way which no other oboe tutor does and provides an ideal starting point for anyone who wishes to learn to play the oboe.
Robert Hinchliffe is a professional oboist, composer, teacher, conductor, and music director. This article is based upon over 35 years of both playing and teaching the oboe. If you have found this article interesting and would like to know more about the oboe, please visit http://www.oboeplaying.co.uk.