Why Oboes Are So Expensive

trapdoor2

Senior Stratmaster
Oct 25, 2017
2,171
South Carolina
The video was pretty cool. I had no idea the mechanism was more complicated than a clarinet's. The complexity is crazy. Not gonna print out something like that!

Looked to be enough blanks there to supply every oboist in the known universe with their own battery of oboes. I wonder how long they last? Wood continues to move and shrink forever and instrument tubes are next-to-impossible to repair once cracked.

The one I sold was a Selmer, student grade. I attemped to play it: squawkitty, squawk. Occasionally a reasonable tone would peep out. I considered my attempts a success as I can't make a brass instrument do even that. With single reeds, I can usually play a scale or a simple tune. Same with flutes and whistles.
 

Stratbats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 16, 2018
3,985
WV
Although I mainly worked on brass, I occasionally did a re-pad and adjust of the levers on a clarinet or sax. Quite complicated enough for me, thank you! Woodwind wasn't really my area of expertise.

In my experience, small-scale musical instrument manufacturers are the polar opposite of the big corporations. Whereas the big manufacturers will have a marketing department that calculates (and possibly creates) a perceived value that has little to do with actual cost of production, specialist makers take a more honest view. They tend to work on 'cost plus'. In other words, they sit down and work out exactly what an instrument cost the business in terms of materials and labour – along with all the associated costs of keeping a business open at all – then add a margin that will hopefully keep the lights on into the future.

If the best oboe you can buy costs $14,000, it's probably worth the money. I can guarantee you, there won't be any Porches in the company car park. More than that, pro players only buy instruments that they really find to be the best. Orchestral musicians are usually a cautious bunch, so launching an advertising campaign telling them you're using a stock of 'tone ebony' won't sell you a single instrument.

Would I give @Scott Baxendale $15k or more for a guitar? Nope. But that's because I'm not a pro musician, so it would be an expensive act of vanity. Do I believe that Scott has honestly costed the guitars he sells? Yes, because all the value he delivers has to be in the instrument itself.
"An expensive act of vanity" this has to be one of the best things I've ever read on here. And sobering. For years I've wanted a Custom Shop Stratocaster (I have a bit of $ inherited from my late father) but I can never justify the cost of such an act. I am not a professional musician in any way shape or form. And quite frankly I am very happy with the humble Strat that I now have. There is nothing wrong with it and it sounds great to my ears. And we are personally (over) "blessed" with a sheer amount of belongings as it is... It just seems that endless buying has turned into an act of justification in itself, for itself.

I love to read about instruments and the building of them. It is a fascinating subject and I have profound admiration for the people that do such.
 

Wrighty

Dr. Stratster
Mar 7, 2013
11,893
Harlow, Essex, UK
"A specialized woodwind with a wistful yet powerful tone, the oboe is one of the most expensive instruments you can buy. Professional-grade oboes can sell for almost $14,000. That's more than four times the price of a high-end flute. So, what goes into making oboes?"


It’s ‘cos it’s all based on pipes and valves. Called in a plumber recently? Horrendous cost!
 

jvin248

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 10, 2014
5,827
Michigan
...The one I sold was a Selmer, student grade. I attempted to play it: squawkitty, squawk. Occasionally a reasonable tone would peep out. I considered my attempts a success...

The squawks happen with poorly set or worn out pads and a too stiff of a reed for the player's skill level (softer is better at the beginning, "2.5" reeds for kids starting out, "4.0" for pro types that played for years, and reeds are meant to be replaceable).

I've repadded a couple of clarinets. Setting pads is as effective as leveling frets, fixing the nut, and a pro setup on a guitar -- a good tech can transform a $50 beater into the same ease of playability as a Custom Shop model, but it takes skill and attention to detail.

.
 

CB91710

No GAS shortage here
Platinum Supporting Member
Feb 24, 2019
11,483
SoCal
Any quality band instrument is expensive.
People complain about a US made Strat or Gibson being $2000 to $4000... that is dirt cheap compared to many other instruments.

Cheap plastic "trumpets" are almost $200.
Student model brass trumpets start at $450, but $1400-$2k is the minimum for anything decent (intermediate).
Student model saxophones start at $1000 and go up to $4k... you can pay $700+ for just a mouthpiece, and a 5-pack of reeds costs as much as 5 packs of strings.
 

simoncroft

Still playing. Still learning!
Silver Member
May 30, 2013
20,013
SE England
Any cello or stringed instrument under $25k is considered a intermediate grade instrument to anyone who plays in the symphony.

While I had no reason to doubt you, I just checked a few orchestral stringed instrument dealers over here, and I get the impression that a cello could easily cost £80,000 if you are in a leading orchestra. Violins can famously run into millions, of course. Makes that 1958 Les Paul look a bit of a bargain. :sneaky:
Any quality band instrument is expensive.
People complain about a US made Strat or Gibson being $2000 to $4000... that is dirt cheap compared to many other instruments.

Cheap plastic "trumpets" are almost $200.
Student model brass trumpets start at $450, but $1400-$2k is the minimum for anything decent (intermediate).
Student model saxophones start at $1000 and go up to $4k... you can pay $700+ for just a mouthpiece, and a 5-pack of reeds costs as much as 5 packs of strings.

My wife took me to a large out-of-town charity shop today. I was really surprised by the size of the place, and the range of things they had for sale. There was a guy checking out a trumpet. "Do you play?" I asked. "No," he said. "I used to repair these for a living," I offered. "I can give you a full appraisal if you like."

"It's missing the thing at the end," said the man. "The mouthpiece is usually in the accessory pouch in the bottom of the case. Here it is with all the oils and cleaning accessories," I showed him. "This one doesn't even go up-and-down," he grumbled, spotting that the middle valve was jammed. "That's a fairly easy fix," I said. "At £20 it's a real bargain."

And, at that point, he walked away, saying nothing. It would have been nice to be thanked, and even nicer to have helped the charity shop sell the trumpet. Alas, we live in a world where craft skills – and understanding of them – don't always have much value anymore.
 

dogletnoir

V----V
Nov 1, 2013
14,002
northeastern us
"An expensive act of vanity" this has to be one of the best things I've ever read on here. And sobering. For years I've wanted a Custom Shop Stratocaster (I have a bit of $ inherited from my late father) but I can never justify the cost of such an act. I am not a professional musician in any way shape or form. And quite frankly I am very happy with the humble Strat that I now have. There is nothing wrong with it and it sounds great to my ears. And we are personally (over) "blessed" with a sheer amount of belongings as it is... It just seems that endless buying has turned into an act of justification in itself, for itself.

I love to read about instruments and the building of them. It is a fascinating subject and I have profound admiration for the people that do such.
On the one hand, if you are totally happy with the sound and playability of the instrument
that you have now then there's no reason for you to look elsewhere.

On the other hand, one doesn't need to be a professional musician to justify the cost of a
Custom Shop Stratocaster.
If i was still playing the clarinet, the professional grade Bb instrument i'd be looking at would
have a price tag of over $9K, and the Eb alto clarinet i'd be looking at would be over $23K.
Orchestral string players pay 'take out a mortgage on the house' prices for pro grade instruments.
In comparison to professional grade brass, woodwinds, and strings, our solidbody electric guitars
are quite inexpensive (apart from the 'collectable vintage' ones, but that's a different discussion).
One might also argue that in any case there's no need to justify an expenditure that you can afford
and that doesn't deprive anyone else of the necessities.

i'm not a proponent of 'endless buying' for its own sake, but i reject the notion that one has to earn
the right to have nice things by engaging in some arcane dues paying ritual, LOL.
If you are going to play the Custom Shop Strat and get enjoyment from it, isn't that justification enough?

Maybe you should play one or two Custom Shop Strats and then decide if there's enough
of a difference in feel and sound between them and whatever you're playing now to justify
the additional expense in your opinion.
i'm not saying this because i believe that you will find the Custom Shop guitars to be 'better'
in any way; that's something only you can decide for yourself, but having a real basis for comparison
involves not just looking but also experiencing what it feels like to play it and listening to the sound it
makes... and possibly even A/B-ing it with what you already have.

For me, how i feel about an instrument comes down to how it makes me feel when i'm playing it.
When i end up feeling happy, that's great.
If i end up feeling guilty because i don't think i deserve what i've got, i either move it along or i try
to think better of myself.
:)
 
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Wound_Up

You can call me Duane 😁
Jan 23, 2020
5,412
NW LA
The video was pretty cool. I had no idea the mechanism was more complicated than a clarinet's. The complexity is crazy. Not gonna print out something like that!

Looked to be enough blanks there to supply every oboist in the known universe with their own battery of oboes. I wonder how long they last? Wood continues to move and shrink forever and instrument tubes are next-to-impossible to repair once cracked.

The one I sold was a Selmer, student grade. I attemped to play it: squawkitty, squawk. Occasionally a reasonable tone would peep out. I considered my attempts a success as I can't make a brass instrument do even that. With single reeds, I can usually play a scale or a simple tune. Same with flutes and whistles.


No way was it that much wood. That's why they buy more every year. It said they build like 600 oboes per year. I'd bet that 600 likely wipes out that much wood. I mean, each oboe has 3 or 4 of those pieces that make up the instrument. Multiply that times 600 instruments and were talking 2400 blanks. For a single year of building.

That's A LOT of tube blanks made into oboe sections.
 

trapdoor2

Senior Stratmaster
Oct 25, 2017
2,171
South Carolina
No way was it that much wood. That's why they buy more every year. It said they build like 600 oboes per year. I'd bet that 600 likely wipes out that much wood. I mean, each oboe has 3 or 4 of those pieces that make up the instrument. Multiply that times 600 instruments and were talking 2400 blanks. For a single year of building.

That's A LOT of tube blanks made into oboe sections.
I was being facetious. As in, "there can't be that many oboists out there..."
 


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