Position of the Instrument and Fingers

Position of the Instrument

MT: Don’t hold the oboe out at such a straight angle. RF: Tabuteau demonstrated, showing how uncontrolled and wild the sound is — actually barbaric.

MT: Hold the oboe down and keep the head up.

RF: He showed how Robert Bloom went to an extreme since he held the oboe almost flat against his chest.

MT: Look straight ahead at me, the conductor; don’t look at the ground.

MT: Hold the oboe straight, not to side of the mouth as flute player.

Position of the Fingers

MT: Keep all fingers above the keys in playing position.

MT: Keep your fingers curved, especially your right-hand fingers.

MT: Hammer with the fingers when playing the oboe; like a pianist, curve your fingers, do not hold them out flat.

JMk: At one other time he decided that my fingers were being used in too, what would we call, confidential or sneaky Pete fashion, of playing all over the oboe and hardly being able to see the fingers move, and he didn’t like that one bit. So, he put a stop to it. I had to perform the goose step with a raising of every finger no matter how fast I was playing for four of five weeks thereafter, at which point he let me stop.

JMk: The only physical that Tabuteau every really harped on were certain elements of posture like not having your arms too low or too high and the angle of the oboe which he would experiment with, perhaps according to his student’s embouchure, in order to get a better result. And the hand position was discussed in some great detail. I’m always amused when I see former students of Tabuteau who were told repetitively by Tabuteau that their hand position was too much this way and too much that way, and to this day they are doing what they did despite having been told, but I suppose that’s human nature.

Tabuteau’s position of his instrument during the 1929-1930 season of the Philadelphia Orchestra was rather high by today’s standards in the US.
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Tabuteau backstage, holding his instrument somewhat close to his body.
Tabuteau in his later years (December 1957) standing and holding the oboe well away from his torso.