Irish Oboe?

Irish Oboe?

Hey, I know this sounds strange, but I was just listening to some solo piping (love it) and have read that the pipes preceded and of course very much influenced and in a sense helped to create the style that is known as “Irish flute”. Thinking about imitating pipers on flute led me to the idea that oboe is better suited for playing piper style on a single-line instrument since oboe is the pipes doudle-reeded cousin. A folk oboe could have a funkier tone like the pipes and easily cut through in a session. Plus, using a baroque oboe which has open holes and no extensive key mechanism, a player could do the slides, similar to why Irish flute is generally played on simple system wood version ala 19th century . I think oboe has the potential for sounding phenominal in an ITM setting.

Is this a totally crazy idea or has anyone seen or heard a folk oboe in ITM or any other setting?

Re: Irish Oboe?

Seems like a great idea. The sound of the baroque oboe differs from the modern concert oboe much as the sound of the baroque (or Irish) flute differs from the multi-keyed modern metal concert flute.
The baroque oboe would most likely be used today by the specialist baroque and early music ensembles. It might be worth contacting one or two of them.

Re: Irish Oboe?

I’d have thought that the simple-system flute had the advantage over the oboe that you could play a longer stream of notes on less breath - and thus approximate more closely to the uninterrupted sound of the pipes. But I don’t know how clever oboists can be, in this or other respects.

For some time in post-Mediaeval England and Wales a “hornpipe” was played, which was a reed-pipe amplified by an opening cow’s horn fixed at the bottom end. I should think these turned up in Ireland also. Stylish modern versions of this instrument are now on sale.

I’ve not heard ITM on the oboe, but Sue Harris played one along with John Kirkpatrick (all-round squeezebox player) in recordings of English trad some time ago.

Re: Irish Oboe?

If you read Anthony Baines, he makes the inference that the double reed instrument was fairly common in the middle ages and obviously, bagpipes in general carry that tradition. Haute bois=oboe ( or something like that…)

Posted by .

Re: Irish Oboe?

You can do circular breathing very effectively on an oboe. It would be like a chanter using your mouth as the bellows.

Re: Irish Oboe?

In terms of length of phrasing, the oboe wins hands down. I believe it uses much less air due to the resistance of the reeds similar to all other reed instruments, while flute is pure air with very little resistance; therefore, oboists can play much longer phrases than flutists. And yes, circular breathing is done on oboe due again to the resistance and relatively limited need of airstream to continue tone production; on the flute, except for playing a single steady note, circular breathing is not possible.

Re: Irish Oboe?

Great--now I know this idea has some merit. All I have to do now is buy a baroque oboe and learn to play it, cut reeds with an Irish piper sound and edge to them, and then learn all the piper techniques, modify and synthesize those techniques to current ITM…….no problem. See you at next week’s session….

Re: Irish Oboe?

I actually just graduated from an American University with a degree in oboe and Baroque oboe and then came to Irish flute later. I have experimented with playing lots of different kinds of music on oboe and came up with the same kinds of ideas. Unfortunately, most good Baroque oboes are at A=415…which would put you a halfstep lower than sessions at D. You can find 440 Baroque oboes but they aren’t common…Moeck sells them but I’d hardly call them Baroque oboes…they are more Oboe-looking objects. The oboe is great for airs and I have had some fun playing jigs and reels on it (and yes, I can play phrases four or five times longer than I can on the flute) but there are some difficulties. The oboe is a little less flexible, in general, than trad. Irish instruments and as such, many of the ornaments are difficult to execute, though not impossible. I have tried both pipe-ish ornaments and flute-ish ornaments and had much more success approaching it more like an Irish flute than pipes, but thats just me. I think the oboe/Baroque Hautboy is just waiting to be discovered by Trad music and hope more people explore it!

Re: Irish Oboe?

Themuse, could you tell us some tracks of the CD where you found the oboe?
Gosh, I should listen to it more carefully, I didn’t even notice there was oboe in the recordings.

Re: Irish Oboe?

Gothicoboist, why don’t you start something yourself? 🙂
You could gather some friend musicians and do some informal session recordings, make them available at Myspace for some cents and sparkle the revolution ;-P
Don’t forget to let us know 🙂

Re: Irish Oboe?

Well I actually just got a scholarship to study in Ireland for my grad degree and I am leaving on Sep. 1st. Who knows what could happen at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

🙂

P.S. I would be willing to record some samples of me playing this stuff on oboe and baroque oboe but I only have my rudimentary mic plugged into my comp. It would be enough to get an idea though…

Re: Irish Oboe?

I love the oboe---the tone of it seems like it would lend itself very well to Irish music. Please record something!

And just think, if you took it to a session, you could have everyone else tune to your A…

Re: Irish Oboe?

Best of luck, Gothico…thanks for the insights. Would love to hear the ITM oboe. I notice the modern oboe has many open holes (and its made of wood of course) and was thinking that would make slides more possible and give the modern oboe a chance to sound “folksy”. What do you think?

Re: Irish Oboe?

When in New England, especially north of Boston or Portland, Maine, look for a fellow called Michael Albert. He plays classical oboe and violin and is a DAMN GOOD Irish fiddler and whistle player - also has written some fine tunes. He will pull out the oboe - usually modern, but sometimes baroque as well - in sessions and concerts. His sense of ornamentation is wonderful in both ITM and early music and he can do some piping-style things with the oboe that I never thought possible. You can hear him on cdbaby.com - look for the band ‘The Beggar Boys.’

Re: Irish Oboe?

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t one of the Chieftains a professional oboist before he joined them?

Re: Irish Oboe?

Ya, Derek Bell. He played in the English style though, I play in the American. It is…very very different.

Re: Irish Oboe?

I’ve always liked the sound of double-reed, particularly in the ITM context.

It has been suggested, that one should just pick-up Uilleann pipes.

But not content with that, I did acquire a bombarde - terrific instrument, but guaranteed to deafen the player and anyone within 100 yards - a surefire session-crusher ;)

In the mean time, I asked a local gaida maker (Risto) if the Bulgarian bagpipe chanter could be modified to be mouth-blown and scaled similar to a whistle or flute. The gaida chanter reed is of the single reed cane variety - much like the drones in highland pipes - and are somewhat quieter than the bombarde or GHB chanter.

Got a call from Risto recently that he’s made one and added a drone. I’ll venture down that way in a few days and post back with the result if you’re interested.

Posted by .

Re: Irish Oboe?

Interesting idea, Mozle. I was thinking about a simple Chinese instrument I’ve seen and played years ago--conicle wood shape with a small double reed at the small end and a metal bell at the large end. Sounds like a snake charmer horn and LOUD--sometimes when listening to the ul. pipes I feel like I’m being charmed…I’ll look for it here in Chinatown in San Fran…could be novel but not great…

Re: Irish Oboe?

Interesting topic. I remember Sue Harris playing oboe with the Albion Country Band long, long ago. A wonderful instrument.

Is there a diatonic “simple system” oboe, analogous to the whistle or Irish flute? Would that make the ornaments work better?

I met an oboe builder years ago who specialized in early versions of the instrument, especially oboe d’amore. I was sorely tempted to order one. Then I remembered that not only could I not afford it, but I was already falling behind on playing the instruments I already owned.

Re: Irish Oboe?

Hello Bob himself,

The closest thing I’ve seen to a diatonic, simple system oboe that is analogous to whistle or flute is the “piston” - this is essentially a bombarde in the key of D - still a bit on the loud side, and might be difficult in octave 2 - perhaps a special “quiet reed” could be made: Any reed-makers care to comment?

Posted by .

Re: Irish Oboe?

You should try and aquire a Breton ‘Piston’. It is a bombard in the key of D and invented by the fantastic bombard player Youann le Bihan in the 1980’s I think. Check out recordiings by the Breton group Gwerz with whom he plays it extensively. He also plays it with the group Skolvan. The Piston enables bombard players to play with other concert pitch ensembles.
You may also consider a ‘subois’. Subois is a play on words with the concept of the Hautbois (French for “oboe”) Hautbois means “high wood” and subois means, with tongue in cheek, “under wood.” This is a bombarde/rustic oboe hybrid

Re: Irish Oboe?

Not ITM, but close is the American Contra Dance band Wild Asparagus. David Cantieni is the wind player. He’s moved away from oboe in recent years, but some of their older recordings have plenty of oboe.

You can play MUCH longer phrases on oboe than on flute. With the flute, half of your air goes out into space. with teh oboe, all of it goes through the instrument to make the tone, and since the opening near the reed is so small, it can’t take much air. We usually have to plan where we will breathe OUT as well as breathe in when we are playing, because we’ll deplete the oxygen in our lungs long before we’ll run out of air to play with.

Re: Irish Oboe?

i have had the same hopes and found a simple system oboe online. it does have a few keys, but no circlets over the holes, just like a flute or chanter. i only paid $150 for the oboe. the dealer said the instrument is playable, not older than 110 years. he said that he hasn’t been able to sell it because of its lack of keys which is not a problem for irish music.