Let's move on now to the oboe in the woodwind section. This is the 2nd instrument in orchestral score, the first being the flute. It's perhaps the most important solo melodic instrument in an orchestra, with a sound that is exceedingly piercing but capable of not only a biting reedy quality, but when required tremendous sweetness. An oboe player can create great havoc in an orchestra if they fail to be conscious of the tonal qualities that are happening in the rest of the orchestra at the time, and blend in with them when necessary. Without this, the oboe player is always taking command. A bad oboe players a bit like a bad drummer in a barn dance band or jazz band, as they can drive the whole band and take over control of it.
Because of its tremendous power, despite being a small instrument, not only has it got to be played with care, but it has to be used with care by the composer so that it doesn't dominate inappropriately. The oboe is one of the 2 surviving members of a larger reed family, which in rudimentary form has existed since prehistoric times. What is common to all members of the family is the double reed, and in the case of the oboe and bassoon, reeds of put into the players mouth and set into vibration against each other and the players lips. Bassoon and oboe are different from the clarinet in having the 2 reeds. Other survivors of this type of reed family are the Shalmey and the core anglais.
What the oboe has in volume and cut through ability, it lacks in its compass, having the second smallest range of notes of any instrument in current use (the most restricted is the core anglais). Its bottom note is the B flat below middle C, its highest the G, two octaves above that, a total range of only 2 octave is under 6th. It's also one of the more complicated of woodwind instrument having an amazing mechanical arrangement of keys, nevertheless it can be played at high speed.
A good example of its orchestral use is the opening of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky's (1840 to 1893) A 4th Symphony. Another task of the oboe, probably because of its harsh and cutting pure note, is to provide the a to the orchestra for tuning. This is been traditional since the days of Handel (1685 to 1759). Is common practice nowadays for the oboe to give a tuning a in the presence of the audience, before the start of the concert, so the orchestra can make sure that it is properly and tune. However, at one time it was considered vulgar to do this, and the orchestra would tune before the orchestra arrived. Of course, this was fairly useless, as the instruments would have drifted well out of tune by the time the concert started. Wind instruments will drift with temperature changes, probably somewhat more than stringed instruments, but with stringed instruments in addition to the effect of temperature on tuning, there is a great effect of humidity, both on the strings (particularly if they are gut rather than synthetic core), and on the wood which will expand with humidity. So perhaps in the past, audience were more interested in etiquette than in insulation.
Another thing about the oboe is that it needs very little air to pass through it to produce its note, quite the opposite of the flute, where large volumes of air are needed to produce the vibrations. Thus a flautist may go faint and dizzy from puffing too much wind, acting much like the air fan when blowing up a bouncy castle. And an oboe player may go dizzy from lack of oxygen because they are virtually holding their breath, just passing out a little amount of air in a very controlled manner. This is where it is rather good to be a string player, we can breathe quite naturally, and that's why string players are much more sensible, they're not going dizzy from too much or too little breathing.
Despite the fact that the tone of an oboe is so very penetrating, at the first Handel Commemorative Concerts held in the UK, 26 oboe is played in an orchestra against about 40 violins. Horrendous!
The oboe's distant cousin, the English horn core anglais, is sometimes considered a poor relation, that does produce the most eerily wonderful sound. It relates to the voices as soprano equals oboe; alto equals English horn; 10 equals bassoon; Bass equals double bassoon. English horn differs in construction from the oboe in that it ends in wooden "bell", similar to a ball with 2 sections of the perimeter cutaway procedure each other, one opening fitting onto the main pipe and the other free to omit the air. At the other end of the instrument there is a thin metal tube on which the double reed is fixed. The Tube is bent, probably to allow the larger instrument to be fingered more easily. The bell at the end accounts for its unique tone amongst the double reed instruments, and is something that is found on some Arabic instruments, many of which have a double reed that is housed in a wooden container, so it vibrates much in the manner of the double reeds of set of Scottish bagpipes, and is not gripped between the lips. The core anglais has been used to great effect in many piece of music, including by Berlioz (1803 to 1869) in the Carnival Romain.
The core anglais is pitched one 5th below the oboe, with its lowest note being the D below middle C, and its highest the A one octave above that. The fingering, is fortunately identical to that of the oboe, but being pitched a 5th lower, it is confusing to play for an oboist rather as a viola is confusing to play for a violinist, unless they are well practised at the 2 instruments.
As far as I'm aware, oboes haven't been used in jazz bands, but they are certainly used in certain types of barn dance band. With my own bands, we have used oboes in the Ostentatious Dance Band, a Jane Austen period bands which does some of the authentic dances of the period (rather than the Hollywood versions) and includes variously, oboe, cello, guitar et cetera. It's also an instrument that sometimes gets included in English barn dance bands that play earlier music, though I've ever come across it in Irish or Scottish music.
Moving on now to the clarinet. The clarinet differs in several important ways from the instruments of the oboe family. The internal shape is different. It is. The clarinet is a cylindrical tube made from wood or high-density plastic, whereas the oboe and bassoon family are conical in section. The clarinet has a single Reed which lies at the tip of the tube on a flat mouthpiece called the table, with the other side of the reed resting against the performers lip or teeth, whereas the oboe has a double reed, touching against each other on one side and touching the performers lips on the other sites. The clarinet is not an instrument of such antiquities the ones we spoken about so far, dating from about 1690 (which is still an awfully long time ago!) Although it was developed around 1690 it didn't become common in orchestras until about 1790. This instrument that has been improved mechanically over time, and currently has some 13 keys and 20 side holes. It is transposing instrument, but it's built in various keys. The most common to have clarinets in B flat and in A. The beef flat clarinet actually produces a note one tone lower than written, so that a piece written in the key of C major has its clarinet part written in D, with a key signature of 2 sharps. The A clarinet sounds 3 semitones lower than written, so that a piece in C major would be written in the key of E flat. (All very complicated stuff for simple violinist!)
There are 2 less common versions of the clarinet, clarinet become low or little clarinet, built in E flat, and the more common bass clarinet with its wonderful fruity rich tone, built in B flat the bass clarinet and double bassoon are the true bass members of the woodwinds.
The clarinet is considered to be a very useful member of an orchestra, in that it's tone Ridley blends with any other instrument, though when playing a clarinet quintet, that is a string quartet plus clarinet as in the famous quintet by Mozart, the modern orchestral clarinet can be rather too overpowering in volume, no matter how hard the clarinettist tries. The instrument after all has been developed to be a solo instrument in an orchestra, able to cut through a whole host of other instruments playing at the same time. So when it's matched against for stringed instruments and not the 40 stringed instruments of a Symphony Orchestra, it's bound to win and drown out everybody else. Really, clarinet quintet's based on a string quartet and clarinet should be played with a baroque instrument, which is much gentler in sound.