Instruments Online
September 30, 2011 9:18 AM   Subscribe

If you want to read about the history, construction, sounds and playing techniques of, say, the tympani, or any other instruments of the classical symphonic orchestra, Vienna Symphonic Library's Instruments Online pages are good reading and a handy resource for orchestrators.
posted by Wolfdog (4 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Found via this wikibook, Bessel Functions and the Kettledrum.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:19 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, I've been playing the oboe for 24 years and have never really been aware of the Viennese oboe. Baroque oboe, yes, which this seems to share a lot of characteristics with; to my eyes, the Viennese oboe is like a living fossil.

I would have liked to see more information about reed making, but that material is probably too extensive to cover, as even among us players of the "French oboe"* (more commonly referred to as the "conservatory system"**) there are multitude schools of tonal preference and thus, reed making. (I play on a French oboe, have a tone that is more German than anything else, but I use a modified American scrape for my reeds. Confused yet?)

The voicing pairings are a nice touch. Again, looking at the oboe page, I like that they draw attention to the oboe/trumpet pairing. This is very common, as we're both conical instruments and have a lot of similar qualities to our timbre. It surprises some people, though, as one is a woodwind and the other a brass instrument. But it's very obvious the more baroque music you play or listen to, as trumpets and oboes were major workhorses of that era.

The higher they go the less volume, substance and expressiveness the oboe’s notes have. From D6 they sound shrill and narrow and have not been called for in orchestral literature until recent times. The highest notes (G6 and A6) are biting and shrill.


* Probably called so because the oboe maker F. Lorée was instrumental (har har) in developing what most of us consider to be the modern oboe. Lorée continues to be one of the major oboe brands in orchestras worldwide. I myself own 2 Lorée oboes.

** And then the Brits go and confuse things further by having an oboe that is very much like the French conservatory oboe, but goes and adds a thumb-plate to the mix. (AFAIK, the Germans and Italians also have some key variations to the conservatory system, but I am not very familiar with them.) But the Vienesse oboe still stands out because not only is the key system different, so is the shape of the instrument. It's still conical, but the bore is all sorts of different.
posted by Wossname at 10:05 AM on September 30, 2011

The director of our music group is always asking what kind of things I can do with my tuba range-wise. Now I have visual references! Thanks!
posted by charred husk at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2011

Man, I could have used this in orchestration class 10 years ago. What a great resource!
posted by altopower at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2011

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