How can I improve my oboe embouchure with Photos and Video

Forming and controlling the oboe embouchure is a critical skill for players of all levels. The following exercises include helpful techniques for beginners just learning to form their mouths and  advanced players hoping to take their tone to the next level. I love to revisit these techniques daily and feel that they have really helped to hone the flexibility and color pallet of my tone.

How to Form the oboe Embouchure
A good Embouchure gives you control and flexibility over the tone!

Oboe Embouchure for beginners

Oboe Embouchure can be a tricky skill to master but by following these steps it can become second nature. 


Step one: relax the jaw and let it open naturally while gently keeping the lips closed. Be careful not to introduce any tension in the jaw. Just let it hang naturally. 

Relaxed Jaw and flexible lips

Step two: Create the vowel shape “ooooh with your mouth as in Rhymes with “Winnie the Pooh.”  This should force the corners of the mouth forward and the top lip around the top teeth slightly like a drawstring bag. 


If you are having trouble with the vowel shape consider using a fast food restaurant straw and alternate blowing and sucking air through the straw without using your hands.  Be aware of the muscles in use and activate them when forming the embouchure. 

Step three: now it is time to hold the reed. Place the reed gently on the bottom lip and draw the top lip over the read until an airtight seal is formed. You should be able to hold the reed without help from your hands. When this feels comfortable try blowing into the reed while holding the reed with your hands. When this is easy try the no hands version.

Exercises to improve oboe Embouchure with a Mirror

Self awareness is a difficult skill to master and awareness of the facial muscles can be even more difficult. Using a mirror helps you see what muscles are flexing as you imitate the external features of the oboe embouchure. 

Pencil Hold

To Improve your embouchure when you are not actively practicing you should periodically flex the key muscles  in short bursts to really train the muscle memory. Holding a pencil by the end in your mouth like you would a reed can help train the muscles you use to play. 

By flexing the muscles on a regular basis throughout the day you can really gain control and improve your playing quickly. 

How to Practice Oboe Emboushure

With the reed alone

Ray Still is one of the more famous oboe pedagoges who advocated for exercises with the reed alone. Others who actively taught reed alone exercises include Andrew Parker, Dorris Deloach, and Peter Cooper.  While most older players neglect reed alone drills they can improve the tone and intonation of anyone who works on them and are an important part of learning to play for young players. 

The most important skill developed by reed alone work outs are manipulating the pitch of the reed by staying near the tip with your mouth and using wind speed and top lip pressure to adjust the pitch of the reed.

Eventually it may be possible to play on the reed in this way without the aid of your hands, but at first always hold the reed securely so as not to drop it.  Eventually you will want to manipulate the reed with the embouchure alone to check for true flexibility and avoid gripping the reed too tightly with the mouth. 

Try forming the embouchure and playing a peep on the reed with a tuner or drone. The goal is to control the pitch of the reed so it sounds a c.If you can sustain this pitch you are already gaining more control than most beginners. The next goal is to practice sliding to the pitches C#,C, B, Bb, A, and Ab. If you can do all these pitches on the reed alone  with control,you will have better tone and flexibility on the oboe. 

Practice schedule


Having a reasonable practice schedule will increase your endurance and strength with the embouchure. I often have students who take forever to gain control over the muscles in their mouths because they only practice for a few days a week. Consistency is more beneficial than total time. 30 minutes every day is ten times  better than 4 hours 2 days a week. 

Recovery techniques for tired embouchure

Vowel sounds

Your mouth may become tired from practicing embouchure workouts. It can help to stretch out the muscles by making the vowels Aaaaa  and EE or ehehe with your mouth. The increased blood flow will alleviate any fatigue and avoid soreness. 

Take Breaks

Frequent breaks can help you recover faster and get more repetitions in during your practice. Try to take a 5 minute break every 15 minutes when you are starting out and a 10 minute break every hour when you are more advanced. 

Schedule practice and rehearsal times wisely

Collegiate players often have a hard time when they are playing for most of every day. Make sure you plan rehearsals and practice sessions in a way that they do not exhaust you for concerts. You always want to sound your best in public.


 Heavy Reeds are the enemy of long practice sessions and controlled playing during concerts.  Make sure you are making reeds that can be played with a good tone without squeezing or excessive manipulation from the lips. If you need to buy reeds try a few different sources so you can find the best available options for yourself.  If you want to buy reeds that I make by hand click here

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Very helpful for beginners like me. It helped me mostly with the tired embouchure!thxxxxxx

  2. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Having been trained in Junior High in 7th grade, no one ever, and I mean ever, taught me what was correct or not. I played in the Orchestra for 6 years and being the only oboe player, no teacher ever knew what was correct because they probably never had an oboe player before. I am so grateful to be able to change what I was doing on my own to what will make vibrato and other skills SO much easier! Thanks again!!!

  3. This is priceless to me! Thank you! I’m trying to help my daughter get started on the oboe and I’ve been struggling how to teach this. Can’t wait to start tonight!

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