Musings: Oboe Obsession

Image: benzahodnar, Pixabay

I don’t play the oboe…yet. But I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I should. And this feeling isn’t new – it’s been in the wings for a long time, awaiting its curtain call, politely but resolutely refusing to be ignored. Is that strange? Maybe it is, but I think it’s worth further exploration.

As did many kids of my generation, I played an instrument in school. My instrument at that time was the violin – a lovely instrument, to be sure, but not really what I wanted to play. Oh, and I had a very pronounced overbite, later addressed with orthodontia. I had a vague impression at the time that kids with malocclusions couldn’t/shouldn’t play woodwind instruments (without knowing precisely why), so I settled for the violin. And I played it decently.

But without a real passion for the instrument and, by extension, lots of quality time spent practicing it, I wouldn’t become a virtuoso. And though I played it for several years, I basically stopped entirely as a young adult. In retrospect, I regret that I forgot about the delight that the violin can bring – how it can sing so beautifully that it can bring a string music fan to tears. My life was the poorer for only listening to music, rather than actively creating it.

I’m in a creative phase of my life now, and it demands that I produce in ways that enrich my experience as a human…and maybe others’. To this end, I want to create music, even if means having to start “from the ground up”. I’ll likely be quite terrible at first, foisting off-key squeaks and squawks onto my unwitting (unwilling?) audience – anyone in earshot in the house. It’s not a mental image I relish.

And yet, I feel I must try. I’ve researched learning to play oboe as an adult, and after much reading about the instrument and its challenges (difficult to play well, expensive, reeds!), I still think it’s the instrument for me…but I plan to work my way up to it. How? By learning to play the recorder (don’t laugh – it’s an instrument worthy of respect, check out this player) first. Fingering learned by playing the (baroque) recorder is apparently transferable to some extent to the oboe. Oh, and the recorder costs a fraction of the price of even a student oboe.

Image: maxmann, Pixabay

This isn’t commitment-phobia – I’m too pragmatic to sink hundreds of dollars into an oboe without testing the waters first: can I breathe correctly and manage the proper fingering to produce the right notes? And I still have to decide which type of recorder I wish to learn first: soprano (descant), alto, or tenor? Oh, and I need a refresher on learning sheet music, which is just embarrassing when I remember how effortless it was when I was a kid. I haven’t even begun and I’m already humbled.