Making and the Philadelphia Oboe Legacy
By Joseph Shalita
oboe reeds can be a traumatic expierience, even for the most
seasoned professional. Some players love making reeds, while
others rank it up there with root canal.
doesn't matter if your a professional, or a beginning student.
Eventually you will have to learn to make oboe reeds.
Aren't all oboe reeds the same?
and no. Oboe reeds are different in practically every country.
Their measurements are different, as well as the sound that
each particular oboist is trying to achieve. If you live in
Europe, in general (with some exceptions, this is the oboe
of course) reeds tend to be made with a "short scrape".
short scrape tends to give a different sound color than what
we generally use in the United States were the "long
scrape" is preferred. Why the difference?
answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning
of the 20th century. Around 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
orchestra was the Philadelphia Orchestra, the conductor was
Leopold Stokowski, and the oboist was a young French player
named Marcel Tabuteau.
to Laila Storch, who was the first woman oboist graduate of
the Curtis institute of music and a student of Tabuteau's,
foreign musicians, particularly French ones, started immigrating
to the United States at the turn of the century. Among the
group of these talented young musicians was Tabuteau.
Tabuteau was a student of Georges Gillet at the Conservatoire
de Paris and was one of his most gifted students. After being
awarded the Premier Prix at the Conservatoire and after graduating,
Tabuteau came to the United States in 1905 after being recruited
by Walter Damrosch, the conductor of the New York Symphony
playing three seasons as english horn with the orchestra,
he joined the Metropolitan Opera as first oboe, playing under
Arturo Toscanini. In 1915, he joined the Philadelphia Orchestra
as first oboe.
this time, Tabuteau began to develop a much fuller and "richer"
tone. This development was caused by the combination of the
hall where the orchestra played in, and the fact that there
were various distinct styles of playing happening at the same
time. For example, the flute, oboe, and clarinet players were
generally imported from France, while the horn, bassoon, and
brass players were imported from Germany. The styles didn't
reasons which probably influenced Tabuteau were the fact that
it was the beginning of the recording age, and having to perform
in the larger concert halls of the United States.
brings us to the point of what Tabuteau had to change in a
typical French short scraped reed. I believe that this is
the type of reed he probably played on. This leads into the
theory that he had to find a way to make a reed that would
produce the desired results by scraping it longer, which would
give more vibration and more sound.
problem is as soon as you take the scrape back toward the
thread and deeper into the wood of the reed, it will drop
in pitch. To compensate, you must have a shorter reed. Narrowing
the shape will also help with this problem.
now that the reed is narrower and shorter, it still doesn't
have enough "stuff" in the sound. Why? Because the
gouge of the cane must be altered, generally made thicker.
of these things, Tabuteau had to figure out for himself. To
make matters worse, not only did he have to make the gouge
thicker, but he also had to change the actual proportions
of the gouge. How the measurements go from the center of the
cane, which is thicker, to the sides of the cane, which are
thinner, turns out to be one of the most critical factors
of how a reed vibrates.
we take for granted what Tabuteau had to figure out on his
own. When our gouging machines don't work, there are plenty
of people around who can adjust it. When we have reed problems,
there are web sites, reed manuals, and teachers to consult.
would it be like if we were forced to be in Tabuteau's shoes.
to the Marcel Tabuteau main page