Youngsters could soon play a part in a musical revolution by taking up an instrument experts feared was heading for extinction.

The oboe has been listed as one of five classical instruments on a national "endangered species" list because too few people play it and orchestras have struggled to recruit members in their woodwind sections.

Now a Sussex firm is leading an attempt to redress the balance by getting children to start playing it again.

T W Howarth in Worthing, which supplies woodwind instruments to several London orchestras, has designed and built the first child-friendly version of the instrument.

Their mini-oboe is considered a breakthrough in the music industry.

The company's education coordinator, William Ring, said that while other musical equipment has been made in child sizes for many years it has been difficult to do the same with oboes.

He said: "The problem has always been that they are too heavy for children to play so they take up another instrument instead."

"With oboes, and bassoons which are also on the endangered list, the pitch changes significantly if you make them smaller."

The new mini-oboe has been designed to replicate the full-sized instrument as closely as possible.

Children in Sussex will be able to start playing them after Christmas when the first models are released.

Mr Ring said a similar project to create mini-bassoons, which went on sale in 1999, had been extremely successful with hundreds of youngsters now playing them.

He said: "It is important that people start playing these instruments when they are young. Too often they are played by people who have converted from another instrument as they get older."

He added that oboes and bassoons gave an important contribution to orchestral groups which helped players of other instruments. He said that if they were missing from youth orchestras it left a gap that affected others.

Mr Ring said: "It will take ten, 15 or even 20 years before we see any impact but I think this can be really successful.

"London is the global centre as far as classical music is concerned and it would be fantastic to see British oboists working there as the best in the world. There is no reason why they cannot be."

The mini-oboes and mini-bassoons are being introduced to pupils at schools in Sussex as part of the Government's Wider Opportunities scheme. It aims to allow every school age child to have a year of free tuition on an orchestral instrument.

Ivan Rockey, the general manager of Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, said it was welcome news.

He said: "Youth orchestras especially have had problems finding oboists in recent years and anything to address that is welcome.

"In the long term it can only help music in this country if more children can be encouraged to start playing."

What do you think? Would you or someone in your family be interested in taking up the oboe? Leave your comments below.