Congratulations!  You just got your oboe, this is an exciting moment for you. Before diving in make sure to take care of a couple loose ends. You are going to be assembling and disassembling your oboe a lot over your career so it is worth the time and effort to learn good habits from the beginning to ensure your oboe stays in top shape. 

Anatomy of the oboe

Most oboes are divided in three parts. The top joint, the middle joint and the bell. (Some oboists refer to the middle joint as the bottom joint).

Different oboes may have more or less keys depending on the maker and the level of instrument. Professional oboes will have more keys and vents than beginner oboes. The keys rotate around rods that may be encased in silver or nickel sleeves and the rods are held to the body of the instrument by posts. Most keys can be adjusted by screws, but use caution when adjusting the oboe yourself. Each key needs to be in balance with another key in a network and should be screwed or unscrewed by an experienced hand. 

Notice the bell may have a key or even two holes that are opened by a lever that sticks out at the top. This is the bridge key of the bell. The bridge keys need to line up between the different joints so the oboe can function properly and your efforts are not wasted. Be careful with the bridge keys by not squeezing or pressing them against each other during assembly. Bent bridge keys can seriously compromise the functionality of your instrument. 

Assembling the oboe

The most important thing to be careful of when putting the oboe together is to avoid putting pressure on the keys or rods with your hands. As mentioned above the bridge keys are especially prone to bending.  Before you put the oboe together make sure there is some cork grease on the tenon corks so the pieces can be connected smoothly.  

Gently hold but do not squeeze the oboe. In the same vein, there are bridge keys that stick out at the ends of the joints that need to be lined up with their composite parts on the connecting joint. Make sure they line up smoothly and don’t bump into or press into each other during assembly

Now it’s time to get the bell and mid joint out of the case. Holding the midjoint by the thumb rest, and the bell anchored on your lap, slowly press the mid joint into the bell. Be mindful that the bridge keys line up as described above. 

Next, the top joint can be held from the top which is vacant of any keys or rods. Again anchor the bell in your lap and lower the top joint into the middle joint. Carefully line up the bridge keys as you press.  

Now that your oboe is together you may like to practice taking it apart. This occurs in reverse order with the bell coming off first followed by the top joint. If you are a beginner you may like to practice this a few times so it becomes second nature to you. 

Daily care

Oboe assembly and disassembly is a great time to check on the state of your oboe. Make sure to take care of the oboe so it keeps sounding as good as possible! Swab out after every 20 minutes or so of playing, and keep your swab with you during rehearsals and concerts. You do not want water in the keys while playing. This will help keep the bore from becoming saturated with spit and condensation and protect it from warping.

When you put your oboe away, be sure to clean the octave vents, especially the second and third ones. Use cigarette paper and blow out the moisture into the paper. You may need to swab again afterward. 

This last one is obvious, but I’ll include it anyway just in case: keep your oboe in your case at night and during travel. Temperature shifts are bad for oboes. 


This article was written by guest author Danny Cruz who loves to play the oboe and teach music.  You can find more of his content at