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Oboe, double-reed wind instrument with a wooden body and narrow conical bore. The oboe was invented in the 17th century by the French musicians Jean Hotteterre and Michel Philidor, who modified the louder shawm (the prevailing double-reed instrument) for indoor use. Their oboe, called hautbois (French for “high, or loud, wood”), had a narrower bore than the shawm's, a body in three sections instead of one, and a smaller reed grasped near its tip by the player's lips. By 1700 most orchestras included a pair of oboes. Early oboes had seven finger holes and two keys; by the 1700s four-keyed models were also in use. In the 1800s additional keys were added, reaching 15 or more, and the bore and sound holes were redesigned. Oboes of the French school (played in most countries today) have a very narrow bore and a penetrating sound. Those of the German school (also played in Vienna and Vienna-influenced countries) have a wider bore and a mellower sound. The range of the modern oboe extends two and one-half octaves upwards from the B below middle C. Handel, Joseph Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Nielsen are among composers who have written solo works for the oboe.

The cor anglais(English horn) is an alto oboe, a fifth lower in pitch, and is probably identical to the oboe da caccia (Italian for “hunting oboe”) used by Johann Sebastian Bach. The oboe d'amore (Italian for “oboe of love”), which was invented about 1720, and also used by Bach, is pitched a third below the oboe. The heckelphone (invented 1904) is an improved baritone oboe, pitched an octave below the oboe. The term oboe also refers generically to any double-reed instrument, such as European folk shawms (for example, the Balkan zurla), the ancient Greek aulos, the Indian nagasvaram, and the Japanese hichiriki.

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