AFTER you talk to your child's private teacher about it.
When there are no quality school instruments or rentals available.
When your child is practicing most days of the week and is self-motivated to improve for more than 6 months. Your child must also be careful and responsible enough to protect an expensive item.
When your child is already achieving musical honors (District Honor Band, MidFest, etc.) on his/her rented instrument.
AFTER you read all of the information on this page.
*Do not buy an oboe or bassoon during your child's first year in band. Wait until you see a serious commitment. I made All-State with a school-owned oboe before my parents bought one.
*Please do not buy an instrument on eBay without talking to me first! It must be a seller with perfect ratings, a full history of the instrument's maintenance, and must have a trial period with a free return window. If a listing seems too good to be true, it is!!
Bassoons are expensive ($5k+ for a decent student model)...I recommend renting the school's bassoon until late high school or until you know you are serious about playing long-term. Many school bassoons I've encountered are actually pretty decent, so as long as they are fully functional and you are playing in tune, I would hold off on purchasing.
If you want to purchase a high-quality student bassoon, I recommend the Fox 222 or 220 (the 220 has more keys, but the 222 is still good through the end of high school, and even into adult community groups). They both have a "long bore" design, which means they will have a stable, even pitch. I also recommend the Moosmann "M Series" student bassoons (models M22 and M24). They can comparable features to the Fox models and are made in Germany. For professional bassoons, look at the upper Fox models and bassoons by Heckel, Moosmann, and Puchner.
For a quick comparison (ranked cheapest to most expensive new):
Fox 222 - sugar maple, plateau key for LH 3rd finger, high D key is optional, rollers on pinky keys, alternate B-flat key, synthetic ivory bell ("German" style bell), comes with 2 standard "C" bocals. No RH whisper key lock
Moosmann M22 - German maple, plateau key for LH 3rd finger, high D and E keys, rollers on pinky keys, RH whisper key lock, French bell (has silver ring), comes with 2 "Excellent series" bocals. No alternative B-flat
Fox 220 - black maple, open hole for LH 3rd finger, high D and E keys, RH whisper key lock, alternate B-flat key, additional rollers on "pancake" key, French bell, comes with 2 CVX professional bocals
Moosmann M24 -German maple, open hole for LH 3rd finger, high D and E keys, RH whisper key lock, alternate B-flat key, French bell, additional rollers on "pancake" key, comes with 2 "Excellent series" bocals
Convenient bassoon features include the high D key (try to get this, you'll just need to add it later), extra low C key (I do not have this), and a whisper key lock. Some bassoons have rollers between keys to ease finger movement. The Fox 51 model is designed to fit smaller hands. Click here to read about bassoon key options.
Where to Look Online for Used Bassoons: Midwest Musical Imports, Forrests Music, Charles Music, Aria Double Reeds, Miller Marketing, RDG Woodwinds
Bassoon Bocals Just as important as the instrument, the bocal greatly affects a bassoonist's tone. Fox "C" bocals are always a solid choice, and the Fox "CVX" model is especially good for high notes. If you are able to spend a little more, I recommend getting a Heckel or Puchner bocal. All bocals will come in a variety of lengths - #2 is standard. The higher the number, the lower the pitch.
Good oboes are expensive ($2900 on the low end). The student brands most oboe teachers and I recommend are Fox (any model) and Yamaha (model 441). These oboes have good intonation, easy response, and are well-built. All models of Fox oboes have the Low B-flat and Left-F key, which are the two keys needed by high-school oboists for auditions.
Fox Models (ranked cheapest to most expensive)
333 - modified conservatory system, plastic, has every key needed to play through high school and in community bands as an adult. The Yamaha 441 has the same key-work as this model, and is available in wood or plastic.
330 - (335 wood version), almost full conservatory, plastic, moving from low B to low C# is slightly easier, low B-flat has a vent key to help its intonation. This is a good oboe for a student who is making District honorband/All-State. It is a fine instrument for playing in adult community bands and orchestras.
300 - full-conservatory system, plastic
450 - full-conservatory with plastic top joint (to prevent cracking), wooden lower half. I took this one to All-State in high school.
400 - full-conservatory system, wood
Plastic vs. Wood: An oboe's tone has far more to do with the maker/brand than whether it is wood or plastic. Wooden oboes do have slightly better tone, but when comparing plastic and wooden Fox oboes, the difference is almost undetectable. Fox uses a heavy-weight resin that produces a beautiful wood-like sound. I have a plastic Fox English Horn, and I was unable to tell a difference in sound from the wooden version. For other brands, there is more of an audible difference between plastic and wood. Wooden oboes are at risk for cracking, but this can be prevented with special care. I do not recommend buying a wooden oboe in the fall for this reason - oboes need to be "broken in" and get acclimated to being played before winter comes. Always warm up the outside of the top joint before blowing into a wooden oboe, make sure the bore is oiled once every 6 months, and use a case humidifier.
Be cautious of "big box" makers who also make other instruments (ask me in your lesson and I will tell you which ones) - many of these oboes can have severe intonation problems, thin/weak tone, and can be frustrating to play. If you see an oboe priced less than $1500, there is a good reason, and it will cost more in the long-run to either keep it repaired or replace it. Cross-check reviews on multiple sites (the IDRS forums and other oboe teachers' sites will have honest reviews). Learning the oboe is frustrating enough without having problems from the instrument itself. Never buy an oboe without a good return policy or trial period, and always talk to your private teacher first.
College music majors: Purchase a wooden, full-conservatory oboe. There are lots of makers to choose from, so come talk to me or your soon-to-be oboe professor when you are considering a professional instrument. I have a Loree AK bore oboe and a Fox English Horn.
Where to Look Online for Used Oboes: Hannah's Oboes, Oboe Chicago, Charles Double Reed, Midwest Musical Imports, Mcfarland Double Reed Shop, Forrests Music
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