The Oboe is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. It is a descendant of the shawm. In the 17th century Jean Hotteterre and Michel Danican Philidor modified the shawm, so that the new oboe had a narrower bore and a reed which is held by the player's lips near the end. Henry Purcell was the first composer to specifically score for it. Careful manipulation of pressure on the reed allows the player to express a huge range of emotions and moods. A musician who plays the oboe is sometimes called an Oboist.
The oboe is most commonly made from grenadilla (or African blackwood), but some manufacturers also make oboes out of high-quality plastic resin. The oboe has an extremely narrow conical bore, and double reed mouthpiece consisting of two thin blades of cane tied together on a small-diameter metal tube. This setup leads to overblowing at the octave (compared to the clarinet, which overblows a twelfth). The commonly accepted range for the oboe extends from Bb3 to A6, nearly three octaves. Together with the flute/recorder it is one of the oldest woodwind instruments.
Compared to woodwind instruments such as the flute or clarinet, the oboe is very difficult to play and produce a good sound on. Amateur players often produce an unpleasant, out-of-tune strident tone that blends badly with other instruments. It was the main melody instrument in military bands before it was ousted by the clarinet.
Because the oboe has a very penetrating tone which can be heard through other sounds on the concert platform, it is widely called upon to set the pitch for orchestras.
The oboe has several sibling instruments. The most widely known today is the cor anglais (English Horn), which evolved from the Baroque oboe da caccia. Both are pitched a perfect fifth lower than the standard oboe. The oboe d'amore, also popular during the Baroque period, is pitched a minor third lower than the oboe. Johann Sebastian Bach used the oboe d'amore extensively. Even less common is the baritone or bass oboe, which sounds an octave lower than the regular oboe. Delius and Holst both scored for it, but today it is almost a museum piece. Instead, the more powerful heckelphone is used.