Highs and Lows with the Oboe

Lesson

Learn about the oboe and the difference between high sounds and low sounds on an instrument.

Recommended Ages 

Kindergarten and first grade

Step 1 Explain what an oboe is. 

The oboe is a woodwind instrument played with a small mouth piece made of two reeds, known as a “double reed.” Oboes are commonly seen in symphonic orchestras and chamber ensembles. You might recognize the sound of the oboe from the theme of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake or John William’s score for Star Wars

Step 2 To show the range of the sounds an oboe can make, play “Hedwig’s Theme” from the Harry Potter score by John Williams.
A student assists me by holding my sheet music.

Step 3 Talk about the difference between high pitch sounds and low pitch sounds on the oboe. Students may remark that the high pitches sound like birds and the low pitches sound like singing men or bears.

Step 4 For the interactive part of the lesson, make colorfully-painted cardboard arrows for each of the students. Then practice listening for high sounds and low sounds. When they hear a high sound from the oboe, have the students point the arrow up. When they hear a low sound from the oboe, have them point the arrow down.

Some of the students may even be more specific, and be able to identify a mid-range pitch by pointing the arrow in between up and down.

Step 5 Allow the students to stand in a circle. While playing the oboe in the middle, go around the circle pointing at them with the bell of the oboe. They should decide if the pitch of the instrument goes up or down based on the direction of their arrow.

They will hear a sliding scale of oboe pitches, from bassy B-notes to squeaky C-notes. Some of the students may want to work with students standing next to them to make the sound go way higher, and others may compete with each other to make the sound go back and forth between two adjacent pitches. 

Reflection

After the lesson with the oboe, students should gain a greater familiarity with an obscure but important orchestral instrument, and enhance their ability to identify differences in pitch.

Sophie is a working artist and designer, with a background in drawing and painting. This is her first semester teaching with Art Sphere.

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