The oboe is a double-reed instrument and a member of the woodwind family. The original name for the Oboe was Hautbois — a French word meaning “high wood,” dating back to the 17th century when the modern oboe first began its development. The first oboes were much simpler than the instruments oboists play now, originally using only three keys until the 19th century when the seven-key oboe was made. Since then, many changes and additions have been made to create the oboe as we know it today.

Sound is produced by blowing into the reed and vibrating a column of air. The distinctive oboe tone is versatile, and has been described as "bright". When the term oboe is used alone, it is generally taken to mean the standard treble instrument rather than other instruments of the family, such as the cor anglais (English horn) or the oboe d'amore.