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Buying Oboes (or any instrument)

Discussion in 'The Double-Reed Family: General Discussion' started by Gandalfe, Sep 6, 2009.

  1. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Peter Hurd comes highly respected in this part of the world. From his web site:

    Always buy the instrument, NOT the name on the instrument! Almost every oboe maker (with some exceptions) has made at least some exquisite instruments. Some makers of course, such as Loree, have produced a higher percentage of excellent instruments.

    A few years ago, I was advising a father in California who was looking for a first class oboe for his 16 year old daughter. At the time, I did not have any instruments from my collection I felt would suffice. When speaking to the father, I could hear his daughter saying in the background "it MUST BE a Loree!" After a couple of weeks passed, I received another call from the father. His daughter had managed to assembled a collection 5 new Loree oboes from dealers to try- 2 "Royal", plus 1 "AK", and 2 "regular bore" instruments. "Is this the correct approach?" he asked. I replied that if I were in his position that I would compare the lot of Loree oboes to a used Hiniker oboe for sale on consignment at Midwest Musical Imports. So the father arranged to have the Hiniker sent out for trial as well. About a week later, the father called again saying "we bought the Hiniker! It was NO contest. The Hiniker oboe `sings!'"

    One other oboe history: A few years ago, I ventured to Vancouver, BC to spend a day at master repairman Robert ("Bob") MacDonald's repair bench.
    Bob enjoys talking to his clients while he works. After some time sitting next to Bob, I spotted a familiar looking case on the far side of bench. I picked up the case, opened it, and discovered a brand new Loree "Royale" Rosewood oboe with gold keys. I asked Bob if I could "give it a go". Bob said "of course- I would like to have your opinion. I plugged in a reed and played for a few minutes. I turned to Bob and said "this is in fact THE worst oboe I have ever played!" Bob replied "yes, this is my opinion also, but I am still determined to try to salvage it!" After another hour, I needed to stretch, so I walked about the shop. Passing Bob's apprentice's bench, I noticed a familiar looking oboe on a peg. I picked it up and discovered that it was a "BW" series (Storch) Chauvet oboe. Bob's apprentice had just finished a complete overhaul. I asked Bob if I could play the oboe. "Sure." I played the first 30 or so bars of the Strauss Oboe Concerto. The instrument just about "played itself." I said to Bob "this is easily THE finest oboe I have ever played!" Bob replied "yes, it is fantastic, and would you believe that it belongs to the same person who owns the Loree Royal!"

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  2. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

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    I was bored yesterday so after lunch I went over to my local Sam Ash to play some altos. I brought my bari mouthpiece as well just in case. The first thing that happened was I ran into a young guy looking for a bari mouthpiece. I let him try my Berg. His reeds were really too hard for the piece and he had great difficulty making it play. In the end it was not his cup of tea. He was looking for something much darker. And let's face it - a 115/1 Berg is not dark! :)

    After he left I was able to get on to the important business of playing a few altos on the wall (since he was in the room where people try horns). First up was a King Zephyr. Nice horn. Typical Zephyr. Quite playable. Bright. Quick action. Good response. Then it was on to a Yamaha 82Z. Like most of the better 82Z's that I have played this one really sang. It had a nice core to the sound and plenty of power. A first class horn. It also felt great in the hands. Then it was on to a plain brass P. Mauriat. The staff has been telling me for months to bring by an alto piece to try this horn because it was supposed to be fabulous. It wasn't. The tone is quite nice on the bottom end of the horn but it then gets progressively thinner when moving up into the higher registers. The keywork leaves a lot to be desired. The left hand is a mess. The table keys are too close to the other keys on the left hand and seem to sit too low. The palm keys felt strange as well. The travel of the low C key was excessive. The octave key was too high and required far too much travel of my thumb. Some of this could be sorted out in a personalized setup but when comparing the horn to the Yamaha 82Z I would have encouraged any player to spend the extra $150 for the 82Z.

    Later in the day I took my son to his guitar lesson at another music store. They also had a 82Z on the floor. That one will be there for a while unless someone is just looking to buy an 82Z. It just wasn't that good of a horn. It lacked the power of the great 82Z's. The sound was middle of the road and it just didn't sing. A disappointing horn tonally. By far the worst 82Z I have played.
     
  3. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    Sometimes I feel like a frog playing a saxophone
    so many stories .. but here's one

    I recently had a customer who sent in a B&H 926 Imperial. It could be ranked as a very bad sounding clarinet. Very poor tonal quality, the instrument couldn't be pushed without sounding just plain bad.

    The setup was basically all messed up. Someone had modified the keywork to make all the pads much closer to the toneholes. Not a good thing on a large bore, large tonehole instrument. I had to unmodify it. In the end (and after an overhaul) it was a very free blowing and dynamic clarinet. One which I would have loved to have in my collection.

    In other words, A great instrument may stink but usually they can be corrected. Thus the reason lower quality instruments may far outperform a much higher quality instrument. leaks and other setup issues can greatly detract from general playability.
     
  4. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    I've heard of more than one person havening problems if the pads are the wrong size or thickness.

    I mention on another thread that B&H didn't make their own horns: they were an importer/exporter. So, it's possible you could find another one of those fairly easily :).
     
  5. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Steve aka froggy, it might be interesting to capture your thoughts on buying a used student instrument to tide you over until you can get a better oboe.
     
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