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Tuning and Voicing Your Oboe

What is Tuning and Voicing?

It is sometimes possible for your technician to customize your instrument to your specific tuning preferences. We refer to this as “Tuning”.

It is often possible to change the sonority of specific notes, and we refer to this as “Voicing”. Adjectives such as resonant, bright, stuffy, buzzy, or dead to describe the voicing of a particular note. It is important that you use descriptive words that your technician can understand and quantify it for him or her, especially if you are not present for the tuning or voicing session.

Tuning and Voicing go hand in hand, because many of the techniques we use to improve the sonority will also affect the pitch. It is important to know the voicing characteristics of a note while tuning it so that we don’t exacerbate undesirable characteristics further while attempting tuning.

Setting Realistic Expectations:

It helps to have realistic expectations and to go in with your “wish list” prepared. I like it when my clients have a form filled out that shows the tuning relationships between octaves. Keep in mind that the relationship between notes within a scale is more important than achieving “just intonation” according to a tuner.

How does Tuning and Voicing Work?

Most often intonation adjustments affect two notes, the fundamental and the overblown octave. The approach your technician takes to improve intonation discrepancies depends on the relationship between the fundamental and the upper partial, since we can make different modifications that will affect the fundamental more than the upper partial and vise-versa.

When determining the tuning tendencies of a particular instrument it is important to try the instrument with several of your own reeds. If you do not make your own reeds, try to settle in with reeds from just one or two makers that you are familiar and comfortable with before requesting tuning. Similarly, if you are experimenting with staples or reed styles it may be best to wait for your routine to become more consistent before requesting tuning. Similarly, for English horns and Oboe D’Amores it’s important to have your bocal choice solidified.

It is easiest to tune notes where the fundamental and first upper partial have the same tendency. It is common for tuning discrepancies to be more pronounced in the upper octave than the lower, and this is good because most tuning operations affect the upper register more than the lower register anyway.

It is important to make sure your oboe is sealing and well adjusted before tuning and voicing. Some notes rely upon screw adjustments to be in tune, especially in the third octave.

Come Prepared to your Tuning and Voicing Appointment:

Here is a link to the form we like clients to fill in at home and bring to their tuning appointment:

Printable Oboe Tuning and Voicing Survey

Work in Stages:

Be prepared to continue tuning and voicing your instrument at future sessions. You may find that the adjustments you initially requested are not ideal, or maybe your needs have changed. No worries, we can revise it!

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Specializing in the sales and repair of Professional Oboes, Clarinets, and Bassoons since 2004.