An oboe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The oboe can be a very difficult instrument to play. This is because it changes on a daily basis. For example, if you are used to playing in warm rooms, and you suddenly must play in a cold one (and visa versa), adjustments must be made. Here are a few (hopefully) helpful tips I have come across in my experience playing. These tips are assuming you have a decent familiarity with the oboe and how it works.
Do Not Over-Soak Your Reed!
When I was about 12 years old I remember a perfect example of what you are not supposed to do. My private instructor was the instructor of about 15 other students on different instruments. Once a season we would have a recital showcasing what we were taught. I had not been playing the oboe for long, and while she told me warned me of this exact tip, I still was unaware of how long I was actually soaking my reed. It was my turn to perform. I believe I was playing an excerpt of Marcello's concerto. The accompanist started, and when I came in it was just awful. I looked over at my instructor but continued to play the entire piece. I could see the look in her eyes -- pity. My reed was so over-soaked it barely made a noise, just enough of a noise to be considered playing. Luckily, the lesson was learned there and not in, say, an orchestra rehearsal. The point is, in many cases, do not soak your reed for more than 5 minutes. Of course, reeds will vary, some soaking faster than others.
Breathe With the Beat
A common hardship of the oboe is making a good entrance. If there is not enough breath support when it is your time to come in, the sound will be delayed and/or sound sloppy. One way to combat this and ensure you are coming in with the right tempo is to simply breathe the last beat of rest before you enter. Also, showing your breath allows others to see, and everyone will be more likely to enter correctly and simultaneously. What I mean by "show your breath" is move when you breathe. Make sure everyone around you sees your breathing but without looking over-the-top.
You Can Never Swab Your Oboe Too Often
Swabbing your oboe when you are not playing is key to not having your keys filled with water (technically it spits, but people just like the nicer version -- "water"). Some novice instrumentalists think that swabbing your instrument out should only be done when you are putting it away for the day. This is simply not true. Swabbing your oboe out wipes away that trickle of water that could lead right to a keyhole. Sometimes, oboist uses a huge feather as a swab. This works well in orchestra conditions because it tends to be a faster method. Silk swabs are preferred otherwise because little pieces of a feather can sometimes get stuck and silk swabs produce little to no lint.
Have More Than One Good Reed
Reeds come and go quickly if you practice and perform a lot. Having more than one backup is best. In fact, some oboist prefers to have 3 to 4 equally good reeds that they rotate evenly. This tends to make them all last longer. On the other hand, some performers tend to have a reed for every occasion. For instance, I know people who have a "2nd chair reed," a "soft reed," a "loud reed," and a "solo reed." Regardless of which choice is best for you, keep many reeds on hand. Who knows what could happen? A careless clarinettist could side-swipe the stand where your reeds are laying and could send them flying towards the principal flautist!