Topic: Oboe back pressure and health risks

I am a woodwind doubler but I play primarily bassoon. I've recently become very interested in adding oboe to my arsenal. I love the oboe and the English horn as well, but after a few short, red-faced, headache-y practice sessions with oboe, I have become a little bit concerned about the amount of back pressure involved in playing. I understand that the vast majority of players who are otherwise healthy have really quite little to fear from playing the oboe, but after suffering two grand mal seizures last year, and reading about William Bennett, I've become very sensitive about risks to my health (particularly ones that can involve blood flow to my head!!) that may (or may not) result from playing the oboe.

I guess what I would like to know is: are there any serious health risks that have been known to occur due to back pressure from the oboe? Does one get more used to the pressure over time? What is a way that I can most reduce the amount of pressure?

Thank you!

New York City


Re: Oboe back pressure and health risks

In reviewing the scientific and medical literature on this point, I have not found any disorders attributable to the pressures in oboe playing. Obviously, breath control is a learned skill, and "easy does it" is a good path for the beginning oboist to follow - and a responsive reed, of course.

Bill - also the bibliographer for the Performing Arts Medicine Association

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"