By Ellen Wilkinson

There are several unflattering stereotypes that come with different instruments, from brass players being loud and enjoying the pub (I would omit horns here), flautists being overly competitive and string players cliquey. However, the word I have heard used to describe oboists: neurotic.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘neurotic’ as ‘behaving strangely, or in an anxious way’. Since the mere utterance of ‘reeds’ can send many an oboist into inward turmoil and produce overt signs of distress, I must say that while lots of musicians are frequently stressed, the oboists seem to top them every time. Whether this trait develops over years of playing, or the instrument simply attracts a certain type of person is up for debate, but it is easy to agree that the characteristics symptomatic of oboe-playing frequently oppose those that one might desire in a romantic partner. Here are five reasons why you should never date an oboist: 

1. Time (lack of) 

The oboe is often deemed to be the most difficult instrument of all, and you can expect the hours your partner spends on mastering it to double compared to a flute or clarinet player, as they also have to make their own mouthpiece. An oboist in training spends around two hours per day making reeds on top of regular practice (the process involves gouging, shaping, tying on and scraping a tube of bamboo-like cane). Add on evening rehearsals, concerts and tours and you may be lower on the priority list than is ideal.

2. Money (further lack of)

My flatmate (also an oboist) and I once did a calculation of how much it costs to own every piece of reed making equipment one requires to become a fully-fledged oboist; it was over ten thousand pounds, which is ON TOP OF the price of an oboe (£9K) and a cor anglais (a further £9K). Add on the annual cost of maddeningly frequent repairs and cane expenditure (a bag of cane is £60 on average; you would buy around 8 bags a year, so that is £480 per annum), and date night is looking to be infrequent and inexpensive. Expect a handmade Christmas gift too!   

3. Reeds 

At this point, you may be thinking that this is more of a list of reasons to never play the oboe, but I can assure you that partnering with a reed-maker is as much a minefield as being one. Prepare to listen to lengthy rants on the (often unreliable) quality of cane, console tears of frustration as one fumble of the knife destroys yet another ‘reed with ‘potential’ and endure the bleak replies to ‘how was your day?’ with ‘I had no good reeds.’ At some point, the situation may get so desperate that you resort to the naïve offer of ‘why don’t I try and learn and help you…?’ 

4. An emotional rollercoaster

Oboists take the ‘love-hate relationship’ with one’s art to a new level. Strap in. 

5. The noise

Prokofiev charmingly provided the instrument with one of its most famous solos in ‘Peter and the Wolf’ as the duck. Whilst I would hope that your partner has progressed beyond the ‘quack’ stage, there is no denying that oboes are very loud, and very piercing (there’s a reason they’re the instrument used to tune the orchestra!). And then there is the crow – that annoying noise an oboist makes with just the reed before even attaching it to the oboe… All in all, not ideal as a living partner. 

In spite of all this, oboists are some of the most persevering and passionate people I know, and would be experienced in enduring the ‘ups and downs’ of a relationship. When oboe is going well, and your partner is happy, it will feel extra rewarding, and the sound of an accomplished oboist is really very beautiful. Proceed with patience, but don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Posted by:RAMpage Website

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