The oboe is a soprano-range, double-reed wood-wind instrument. About 0.5 meter (2 feet) long, its wooden tube has a conical bore flaring at the end into a bell. Although the modern oboe's range extends from B-flat below middle C to the A nearly three octaves higher, its finest register sounds between D above middle C and the D two octaves above, where its pungent and penetrating quality pervades in all dynamics.
The immediate ancestor of the oboe was the loud piercing treble SHAWM, an outdoor instrument. In order to satisfy the baroque need for refined expression, a French Instrument maker a woodwind performance. The most important change was the abandonment of the shawm's lip rest. Attached to a staple, a longer, narrower reed could be held further forward where, controlled between the lips, a beautiful tone could be produced, with wide dynamic range.
This was the instrument used by Bach so effectively, particularly for obligatos to vocal solos. Only the necessity for more chromatic flexibility forced changes in the sweet-toned baroque instrument. By the time Beethoven had written his Ninth Symphony (1824), Joseph Sellner German-style oboe, with its comparatively wider upper bore and its warm and sensuous tone, is essentially Selner's oboe with mechanical improvements.
The French oboe, developed by the Triebert family between 1810 and 1878, now predominates in Western music, except in Vienna and some Vienneses-influenced areas.