now is the time

June 14, 1892

Dear Sir!

I send herewith your oboe, it is a fine beautiful instrument, which will give good satisfaction & much pleasure which you will like better the more you get used to it. Should in course of time anything turn up that you would like to have changed or altered, just let me know it please & I will have done if by any means possible. Wishing You good success and much pleasure with the new instrument, I remain

Yours very respectfully,

S. Berteling

(Letter in the New York State Museum Archives, Albany)


If you don't read anything else in this information kit, please take the time to read this page plus the section immediately following concerning insurance.

Everyday Use:
1. Don't blow warm air into a cold instrument. Let the instrument lie in its case to warm up to room temperature. 2. Swab out the upper joint every 10 minutes. 3. Use a paint brush to brush the dust and debris off the instrument. 4. Check to make sure the humidifier in the case is full of water. If not, fill it.
If possible, alternate the use of the new and the used oboe every other day for at least the first four to six weeks in order for the bore of the new instrument to dry out completely.

Once A Week:
1. Oil the upper joint bore with a turkey feather. Use almond oil. Put just one drop on the end of a feather and oil the bore as if you were cleaning the instrument. 2. Use a silver polishing cloth on the keys.

The Care And Feeding Of Your New Oboe
If you don't have adequate coverage for your musical instruments, perhaps this is the first thing to consider. Very few agents sell comprehensive policies for musical instruments used professionally. If you are looking for a good policy, one well-established company is:
Clarion Associates, Inc. 1711 New York Avenue Huntington Station, NY 11746 (516) 423-2990 Fax: (516) 423-2821

Clarion has very reasonable rates, and their specialty is all-risk world-wide coverage for professional musicians. In order to get the most attractive rates with Clarion, you must be a member of an organization that has group coverage through Clarion. For woodwind players, the only group that offers this coverage is the National Flute Association. If you are a member of the National Flute Association, you are eligible for Clarion's best rates, and most people find that it's well worth it. Information for membership in the National Flute Association can be obtained by writing or calling:
The National Flute Association, Inc. P.O. Box 800597 Santa Clarita, CA 91380-0597 (805) 297-5287

Oiling The Mechanism
Everyone has different ideas about this, but one thing is certain: an instrument not oiled regularly will lose several years of its playing life, as the key mechanism will deteriorate if it isn't taken care of properly. Do be sure to oil the key mechanism of your oboe every month or two. Use just a tiny drop at each location; oil dripped onto pads or into tone holes can cause problems.

It is no accident that the Scandinavian governments replace all the oboes of the oboe sections on a regular basis, gratis, because of the cracking which results from the cold weather. It's also no accident that the climate control hardware of the Musical Instrument Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looks more complicated than the machinery in the intensive care unit of your local hospital.
There are two crucial items here:

Item #1:  a humidifier. Not a small one, but something that will hold up to ten gallons of water. The safest humidifier is a steam humidifier because all bacteria, etc are destroyed in the vaporization process. Cold water humidifiers can become breeding grounds for germs if they aren't properly maintained. In any case, a humidifier is the best possible investment you can make against cracks and bore shrinkage. Bores shrink and keys bind up as a result of cold weather and low humidity. Major bore shrinkage can have disastrous results on your instrument. It can quite literally become a different instrument from the one you bought.

Item #2:  don't blow warm air through a cold instrument. If you arrive at a rehearsal or concert from the cold, put down your instrument case, open it, and leave it while you get everything else organized. This way the instrument comes to room temperature on its own. Warm air & cold oboes spell disaster. Some cracks are more serious than others. The traditional spots to watch for are: 1) between the tone holes of the two trill keys and 2)everything north of these two holes. These are serious spots. The second areas to keep an eye on are the places where wood covers metal, i.e. the top of the second joint and the top of the bell. Wood can shrink around a metal tenon which, of course, does not shrink. We all know what happens next. The good news is that these cracks are far less serious, and are less likely to spread. If you've bought an instrument from me and it cracks, call immediately. Don't keep playing it, and don't wait for the crack to get worse. It's vitally important to the playing life of an instrument that cracks be caught and repaired as soon as possible. This is also true for used instruments which haven't been played regularly for some time. They should be blown in gradually, as if they had never been played. Otherwise, playing characteristics of the oboe can be adversely affected and, needless to say, the resale value of an instrument is lowered.

Have I mentioned everything you already knew? Oh, yes, if you've bought a new instrument, be sure to clean it out every ten minutes while you are breaking it in. This is especially important in order to prevent cracks in the top joint. My suggestion is to put whatever you clean your instrument with right on the stand, and USE it! To the extent possible, try not to play a new instrument for long periods of time. If you can keep the instrument dry inside, and gradually increase the playing time, you'll be doing the best you can for any new instrument.

Serious Crack Prevention
Oiling the bore of an instrument has been a controversial issue. Paul Covey recommends oiling the bore of his instruments once a day during the break-in period. On the flip side of the coin, Hans Moennig said never do it! People who have advised against oiling the bore of an instrument usually do so for one of two reasons: first, they are concerned that oil doesn't get on the pads and, second, no one should be oiling the bore of a plastic instrument, or one with a rubber bore liner. This includes all plastic oboes, all Kreul oboes, and the more recent Laubin oboes. If you know that you have a completely wooden instrument, and if you aim your oiled feather along the south side of the bore instead of where the pads are, you will be doing the right thing. Since players have started following these recommendations, my crack work has decreased by about 30%. So I know it works!
Oil the bore of a new instrument once a week for the first few months, gradually decreasing the frequency after that. Use a feather which has been dipped in a tiny bit of almond oil (Hain markets almond oil, so it can be ordered at your local health food store) or linseed oil (available at art supply stores). If you have a second instrument, alternate them, playing the new instrument every second day, and for very short periods of time, keeping the bore as dry as possible. Gradually increase the playing time, and try to keep to the every other day program as long as you can. This also applies to older instruments which haven't been played in years.
Here's the raison dÍtre of it all: the oil will help prevent moisture/water from expanding the inner bore. Cracks in the top joint are the result of the bore getting wet and expanding, while the outside remains as it was. The wood's reaction to this stress is a crack, and this is why so many new instruments crack where all that moisture condenses in the upper joint. The second point is playing every other day. The bore of a wooden instrument does not dry out completely in one day. It takes two days. Therefore, if you let it dry completely before playing it again, potential cracks have a chance to close up. If the instrument is played every day, the bore never really dries out, and cracks are more likely to occur.

Blackwood, African (Grenadilla)
Commercial names: Mozambique ebony (UK); mpingo (Tanzania). Distribution: East Africa General
Description: Dark purple-brown with black streaks which predominate, giving an almost black appearance to the wood. Grain direction usually straight, is sometimes variable. Extremely fine, even textured and slightly oily to the touch. It is exceptionally hard and weighs 1,200 kg/m3 (75 lb/ft3); specific gravity 1.2.
Seasoning: Usually partially dried in log or billet form and then converted, end-coated and stacked under cover. Dries extremely slowly, and heart shakes are common.
Working properties: The wood is difficult to work, offering extreme resistance to cutting edges and very severe blunting effect. Stellite or tungsten carbide tipped saw teeth essential. In machining it tends to rise on the cutters. Finishes exceptionally resistant to preservative treatment.

Uses: Musical instruments, especially woodwind; ornamental turnery, chessmen, carved figures, walking sticks, brush backs, knife handles, truncheons, bearings and slides, pulley blocks, and inlay work. Its oiliness, resistance to climatic change, and ability to take an exceptional finish make it preferable to ebony for these purposes.
Excerpted from William A. Lincoln's World Woods in Color (Linden Publishing Co., Fresno, California, 1986)

The Use Of The Third Octave Key
The third octave key is a wonderful asset to have when playing in the top octave. As you'll discover (if you haven't used one before), it cleans up the initial attack/response of the top notes, it raises the pitch so that you don't have to force notes up to pitch and it allows some pretty devastating pianissimo playing up there. Obviously, it provides a wider choice of fingerings to use and, of course, you have the option of not using it at all.

If the third octave key looks like it's not opening, it's just right. It should open just a crack, so that you have real difficulty trying to get a piece of cigarette paper underneath the pad. If it is open wider, it loses its function. On oboes d'amour, English horns and bass oboes, it opens further. Do please take a good look at the opening of your third octave key, and take a careful look at the exact position of the adjustment screw. All instruments with third octaves leave here correctly adjusted, so if you just leave it, all should be well. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where you want to adjust the third octave key, or if the wood has swelled due to climate changes for example, here's what to do: Begin with the third octave key completely shut. With an oboe, play a high F# or G ppp, using the third octave key. Keep playing and opening the key the smallest amount via the adjustment screw until you get the optimal ppp attack. If you open the third octave too far, the best attack will be lost, and it will sound roughly like the same fingering using the first octave key instead. On d'amore, English horn and bass oboe, a high E or F is a good note to check; these seem to be the best indicators on those instruments.

If you try to adjust the third octave key, and it doesn't work at all (after you've checked to be sure it's not completely shut), you may have a simple repair problem on your hands. Sometimes, depending on how much pressure you use on the third octave key, as well as how strong the metal is in the first place, a third octave key can get pushed right into the back of the first octave key. If you try to place a piece of cigarette paper between the third octave key and the first (thumb) octave key, you will find the two keys grab the paper. There should be clearance there, so that both octave keys are free from each other, i.e. the cigarette paper should have plenty of free room. If this is not the case, the first octave key is accidentally being opened when you use the third octave key. Nothing works correctly, and you have a non-functional third octave key plus a few undesirable squeaks. To fix this, all you have to do is take your thumb and first finger, grab the third octave key, and regulate it back into its original position by bending it out very slightly away from the first octave key. You can tell when you have moved the key enough, because cigarette paper will then clear between the two keys. Incidentally, the third octave gives a number of microtonal and multiphonic possibilities not possible with the traditional two octave keys of the conservatoire system.

A Note On Tuning
The tuning of the high register (G# to C#) on the Rigoutat oboe might be slightly higher than that of the instrument you've been playing. Some French instruments (and other instruments designed after them) are traditionally tuned quite flat for these notes, so that the player automatically adjusts and brings these notes up to pitch. Playing an instrument where the pitch of the second octave is actually where it should be can be a revelation. This is the case with Rigoutat. My advice would be simply to play a new instrument, make reeds for the new instrument, and listen carefully to what it wants to do. Give it and yourself time to get used to each other, and drop automatic adjustments which may no longer be necessary. I've always found that the best way to get accustomed to a new instrument is to bring it as little as possible in terms of expectations, and then just listen and learn what that instrument has to say for itself. That way I can give an instrument a chance without stifling its potential and without forcing it to adjust to me when, ultimately, this approach just doesn't work. I know this to be true from experience with real unknowns New baroque oboes, the baroque tenor oboe, classical oboes, and now the bass oboe. It takes very careful listening and thought to be rock solid sure of what is the instrument and what is the player but, after enough time, this becomes very clear. It may be the slow road, but it's the only one in my experience which yields accurate answers.

Warranty Information
All our new instruments have a limited one year warranty. This covers defects in manufacture and major cracks. In the case of minor cracks, we usually repair them at no cost other than the shipping and insurance charges (if any). For more extensive crack work (tone hole replacements, pins, etc.), we must first decide whether a crack is repairable or if the joint should be completely replaced. If the crack is one which is customarily repaired, we will do the repairs and the owner will be charged half of what our normal fee would be, plus shipping and insurance (if any). For cracks that cannot or should not be repaired, we will fax the manufacturer, and arrange to send the cracked joint to the maker for replacement. This usually means that the original keys are transplanted onto a new piece of wood. The replacement top joint is then returned to us; we will re-service the joint, connect it properly with the rest of the oboe, adjust the entire instrument and then return it to you. In the case of a major problem like this, the only expenses to the owner are the shipping and insurance charges.

Defects in manufacture do not include changes in the wood due to local climate conditions. If an instrument is shipped to a particularly dry climate, for example, the wood often shrinks and keys bind between the posts. Players should understand that this is not defective manufacture--if the same instrument went to a very humid climate, for example, the same keys could become loose as the wood expands! This problem usually clears up as soon as the wood is fully acclimatized to its new environment (this also assumes that the instrument is played regularly). These situations are handled on a case by case basis, but are not covered by the warranty.
As a point of information, the only warranty assistance we receive from the manufacturers is for replacement top joints. Any and all other warranty work we do is not reimbursed to us by any instrument makers. In many other industries, cars, appliances, etc. the manufacturer picks up the tab on all warranty work. Not so in the oboe business!

After the purchase of a new instrument, we will make any specific tuning requests at no charge. This service is offered once during the first year.

How to Keep Your Instrument Looking and Playing Like New
While I realize you've just bought your oboe, sooner or later nearly all of us sell an instrument. For this reason, it's important to realize that the initial visual impression of an instrument (plus its case, case cover and accessories) can have what seems like a disproportionate effect on a prospective buyer's willingness to consider an instrument. Unless you're planning to take it with you, it's wise to give your instrument the best possible care from Day One. Some obvious suggestions born out of my experience selling used instruments:

1.) Keep the key mechanism oiled. This prolongs the mechanical life of the oboe and helps keep the action quiet.

Keep dust and feather debris off your instrument. A small paint brush used occasionally will prevent dust, dirt, and whatever from getting into the rods of the mechanism. Dirt slows down the action of the key work. If you use a feather, keep it away from the instrument itself, since little bits of feathers can get into the mechanism of the instrument.

Keep the plating of your instrument looking nice. Most jewelry stores sell rouge cloths, and the use of one every few months will do wonders for maintaining the condition of the plating. Experience indicates buyers don't want instruments with worn plating, or with plating that is dark with tarnish and neglect.

4.) Finally, observe all precautions described in the Crack Prevention sheet. Nothing, but nothing rattles a prospective buyer like a long crack; the I-should-pay-money-for-this syndrome is a tough one!