Back to all articles

The History of the Oboe

The exact year that the oboe was invented is not known, but it’s thought to have originated sometime around the mid-17th century in France. Its predecessors, double-reed wind instruments like the flute and the shawm-an (the latter of which was popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance), had already been in use in Europe for quite some time. Early oboes were simple instruments with only two or three keys, so it was not easy to play all semitones. However, at the end of the 18th century, oboes with a greater number of keys began to be made, allowing players to produce all semitones consistently. After the French created the oboe, a more advanced, German-style oboe spread throughout Europe as well. But at the end of the 19th century, oboes with a revolutionary new mechanism were created in France; known as the conservatoire style, this is the version that is now mainstream. But how did it get there? In the late 19th century, the oboe world was equally divided between the German and French styles of the instrument, but after the famous composer and conductor Richard Strauss announced that he preferred the French style, it became the most widely used version, with the German style used only in the areas surrounding Vienna. (That version later became known as the Wiener oboe.) The oboe still features heavily in classical music today.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.