Oboe Vs English Horn – Difference Between Oboe And English Horn

Are wondering what the difference is between an Oboe vs. English Horn, well you have come to the right place. Here is our in-depth guide on the differences between an oboe and an English horn.

oboe and english horn

3 Main Differences

  • English horn is one and a half times longer than the oboe.
  • English horn has a wider reed than the oboe.
  • English Horn has a pear shaped bell that Oboe doesn’t have.

What is the difference between an English horn and an oboe?

An English horn and the oboe both come from the same double-reed family of instruments. The main difference is that the English horn is one and a half times longer than the oboe and features a pear-shaped bell that the oboe does not have. Also, they are considered instruments that are alto and soprano in sound, that is, the English horn and oboe, respectively. They are both double-reed instruments, with the English horn having a wider reed than the oboe.

Other differences

The English horn is an F instrument that also features a wider reed and metal tube that the reed attaches to. The reed is usually tied together with a metal wire. The oboe is a C instrument that has a thinner reed attached to cork and which fits directly on the main body. The oboe has a higher-pitched sound, while the English horn features a more smooth, darker sound. They both feature the same keys and fingerings, and usually, a musician that can play one can play the other.

difference between oboe and english horn

A history

It should be noted that the English horn was developed around 1720 and was born from the oboe da caccia. It wasn’t made in England but Silesia and didn’t make it to England and France before the early 1800s. Unlike the French horn or any horn, the English horn was named Corno Inglese in the first scores that were written for it, so it became the norm to call it that.

It should also be noted that the English horn was not as well accepted as the oboe. There were not many pieces written for it until the 20th century. The English horn is, after all, part of the oboe family of instruments and is considered an alto oboe. The English horn features the same fingering as the oboe, and many oboe players are asked to play the English horn in orchestras.

It can be said that the oboe and English horn were developed in the late 1600s and early 1700s, but double-reed instruments date back to 2500 BC in the city of Ur. With only three or four holes at that time to play notes and double reed, musicians at that time played their music.

It was further developed and was seen in 1500 BC before a procession before Cleopatra in Egypt, these double reed instruments featuring their musicians. The temple of Palestine in 1000 BC featured 2 to 5 of these musicians in an orchestra with double reed instruments. Later the Romans had their favorite double reed instrument called the tibia in their orchestras. All of these basic double reed instruments were made of silver or wood and featured holes but no keys.

The double reed instruments like the oboe and the English horn have come a long way since their beginnings. They are now primarily manufactured in France and the United States of America as well as England. These are where the elite instruments are currently being made for the orchestras of today.


So, there you have it, our guide on an English Horn vs. Oboe. We hope this article was able to help you, and thank you for reading!

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About Jayden Buckley

Hi, my name is Jayden and I am author/editor for PlayTheTunes. I remember the first time I hopped on the drums, I was hooked. Music has played an enormous part of my life, and I'm honored I get to share my experiences with you!