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Oboe FAQ &
HOW TO ADJUST THE SCREWS ON AN
most common problem on oboes is the adjusting screws. Every
player should know how to adjust those because they go out of
adjustment so easily and so frequently.
Look at where the tip of the screw touches the key. There
be something there to soften the contact, usually a piece of
cork. If that’s worn through and you hear a “click” when the
screw contacts the key, you should take the instrument to a repairman
for replacement. The recommended material is sheet
It’s tough and durable, but at the same time it will reduce the key
noise where the screw contacts the key.
Is the screw loose (too easy to turn)? If yes, back the screw
so the threads are exposed and put a drop of “lock-tite” or a similar
material on the threads to tighten the connection. In an
emergency you can use nail polish or a small drop of glue, but
lock-tite is the recommended material and is easily available at any
auto parts or hardware store. Don’t try to apply the material
directly to the screw right out of the bottle! It will make a
mess. Instead, put the material on a hard surface (like the
bottom of a tin or aluminum car), then use a tooth pick or paperclip to
pick up a drop of material and apply that to the screw.
A. Use a piece of cigarette paper cut
into a long
thin wedge as a feeler gauge.
B. Turn the
adjusting screw so the
key with your finger on it is closing, and the other key is not.
C. Turn the screw
until it almost
touches, but there’s still just a little bit of space between the screw
and the key. When you press down on the key that closes with
finger, the other pad will still move a little. You should be
able to hear that when you play the instrument: finger the
you’re testing and it should be a little “fuzzy”, then use another
finger to press down on the key under the screw and the fuzziness
should go away.
Turn the screw just a little tiny tiny amount and test it again with
the feeler gauge: put it under the key under your finger and pull it
out, then put it under the other key and pull it out. When adjusted
correctly it should be difficult to pull the feeler gauge out from the
key under your finger, and barely possible to pull it out from the key
under the screw. DON’T OVER TIGHTEN THE SCREW! If
the “not under your finger” key will close, but the one under your
finger will not. If you overtighten, back up the key and try
again. Turn the screw just a tiny tiny amount each time and
again. When it “feels” ok with feeler gauge, do a play
test: there should be no change of tone quality from using
“regular” fingering and using an extra finger to press down on the key
under the screw.
If you google “oboe adjusting screws” there are
a bunch of hits, including printed instructions and videos.
worth investing in a good quality small screw driver that you can carry
in your case specifically for the purpose of adjusting the instrument
in an emergency.
happens when you get a small knot in your swab and try to pull it
through. DON’T KEEP PULLING! You’ll only jam the
tighter. This happens so frequently there’s a special tool to
extract stuck swabs, and any shop that works on oboes will have one (it
usually takes about a minute to pull the swab out). For the
Yourselfer: start with a long thin metal rod (it must be
than the diameter of the bore). Using a grinder or sander
“screw” type hook at the tip of the rod. Push that into the
from the “bottom” end, hook onto the swab and pull it out.