THE BASSOON is a musical instrument with a history behind it of over four centuries. It is the principal tenor and bass instrument of the orchestra woodwind family which also includes the flute, the oboe and cor anglais or English horn, the clarinet, the bass clarinet and the contra bassoon.
Its narrow conical bore leads from the curved metal crook or bocal onto which the double reed is placed down through the wing joint or tenor joint to the bass or boot joint. The bore then doubles back up through the long joint and finally through the bell which is located at the top of the instrument.
The instrument, which weighs about seven pounds when assembled, is supported and stabilized either with a neck strap which allows the player to stand or with a seat belt.
Sound is produced by sealing the lips around the double reed made of cane and blowing air against and through the two blades causing them to vibrate against each other at a certain frequency or pitch. The bassoon, which is pitched in C, has slightly more than a three-octave range starting from the Bb below the bass staff up to the treble E. This is the range most commonly played and written in the repertoire. Although rarely used, additional fingerings have been developed that allow it to play up to, almost, an octave higher. Its rich, dark, sonorous range coincides with the bass and tenor voice while at the top its tone is expressive and plaintive reaching into the lower range of the soprano voice.
The standardBASSOON bassoon is a double reed instrument that belongs to the woodwind family. It is written in the bass or tenor clefs, and sounds at the same pitch level in which it is written (concert pitch).
CONTRABASSOON The Contrabassoon is the largest and lowest- sounding member of the double reeds family; it sounds an octave lower than it is written. It is also often referred to as the "double bassoon."
The modern bassoon has a colorful and complex past. It evolved from a 16th century instrument known by a variety of names - curtal or curtail (English), basson or fagot (French), dulcian or fagott (German), fagotto (Italian), and bajon (Spanish). This ancestor of the bassoon, which was also played with a double reed, was fashioned out of a single piece of wood rather than the four separate sections common to todays bassoon.
In the early 17th century, the curtal came in six sizes ranging in length from as short as 15" to as long as 4 9". It was the French who later in that same century transformed the one-piece bass curtal into the four-piece instrument. During the 18th and 19th centuries the bassoon was gradually improved and refined. It evolved from the 1713 three-key model played during the time of Mozart to six keys during Haydens time to the the present 17 to 24 key versions of today. Two schools of bassoon-making arose in the 1880s: the French school under Buffet and the German school under Heckel. Each had it own solutions to tone production, fingering and intonation.
19th century experiments in bassoon construction resulted in many interesting variations. There were bassoons for military bands with globular and other odd-shaped brass and wooden bells, bassoons in F and G called tenoroons, semi contrabassoons, and sub contrabassoons.
In most early music written for the bassoon, it was used merely to play the bass line and it was usually tied to the continuo part. Then, in 1678, it became part of orchestras for French opera when Lully called for bassoons in his opera, Psyche. During the 18th century, major solo and orchestral music was written for the bassoon elevating its importance in the orchestra and it began to break away from just playing the continuo part.
When organs were banned from English churches in 1644 as monuments to superstition and idolatry, music was supplied by small groups of instruments including the bassoon. Therefore, one of the earliest places bassoonists performed was in church.
Today the bassoon is used extensively in the symphony orchestra, opera, and most recently in the contemporary musicals of the 20th century, television, and movie soundtracks. Innumerable composers have written for the bassoon, particularly during the 18th century, and the repertoire includes impressive parts in orchestral scores, woodwind ensemble music and many bassoon solo concertos.
JACQUES MARTIN HOTTETERRE He is thought to be the inventor of the modern day bassoon. It is thought he developed it in the 1650s. Hotteterre is given credit for the invention, though it is possible that it was a collaboration between him and other instrument makers of the period.
SIGMUND SCHNITZER It is also theorized that Sigmund Schnitzer, a woodwind maker from Nuremberg, may have invented the bassoon in the 1500s.
The bocal,BOCAL sometimes referred to as the crook, is the first section of the bassoon. The bocal is made from a tube of metal that curves away from the body of the instrument to create space for the reed, which fits on its end. The reed is the mouthpiece for the bassoon. All types of woodwind instruments utilize a reed. A reed is shaped from a slice of cane and carved to create two sections that vibrate together when the musician blows into it.
The tenor joint restsTENOR JOINT between the bocal and the boot joint. Together, these components make up the back of the bassoon, the side that is closest to the musician while being played. The bass, or "boot" joint is made of two tubes that runAND BASS JOINT parallel to each other. These tubes curve from front to back and join at the base of the instrument. Typically, a metal cap conceals the hardware that joins the tubes. If used, the hand rest, or crutch, connects to the bass joint. The player can rest her right hand on the crutch when it is not needed for keying.
BELL JOINT The bell joint connects to the bass joint and is slightly flared at its open end. The slightly bell-shaped end of this joint is where the sound comes from.
KEYS Typically, a bassoon has at least 13 keys. Many, but not all of these, are located along the front of the instrument.
A double reed is a typeof reed used to producesound in various windinstruments. Theterm double reed comesfrom the fact that therearetwo piecesof cane vibrating againsteach other.For bassoon reeds, tubesof this cane are first splitlengthwise then gougedto a certain thickness.The chosen piece of caneis then cut to shape andthe centre portion isthinned (profiled). Thecane is folded end to endto form the two blades ofthe reed.
The unprofiled end of the cane is shaped into a tube with the aid of a mandrel and bound with three strategically positioned wires. Additional binding using thread is added. The folded tip is cut off to allow the blades to vibrate and final adjustments to the interior of the reed using a reamer, and to the exterior using a reed-scraping knife, are carried out. The reed is then ready to fit to thebocal of the bassoon.
Bassoon double reeds are wider than oboe double reeds; theyre also shorter and thus do not need such a tight embouchure in order to make a sound. Most double reed embouchures are the same. Players pull their lips over their teeth to protect the reed from their teeth.
The bassoon is held diagonally in front of the player, but unlike the flute, oboe and clarinet, it cannot be supported by the players hands alone. Some means of additional support is required; the most common ones used are 1) a seat strap attached to the base of the boot joint, which is laid across the chair seat prior to sitting down, or 2) a neck strap or shoulder harness attached to the top of the boot joint. Occasionally a spike similar to those used for the cello or the bass clarinet is attached to the bottom of the boot joint and rests on the floor. It is possible to play while standing up if the player uses a neck strap or similar harness, or if the seat strap is tied to the belt. Sometimes a device called a balance hanger is used when playing in a standing position. This is installed between the instrument and the neck strap, and shifts the point of support closer to the center of gravity.
To stabilize the right hand, many bassoonists use an adjustable comma-shaped apparatus called a "crutch," or a hand rest, which mounts to the boot joint. The crutch is secured with a thumb screw, which also allows the distance that it protrudes from the bassoon to be adjusted. Players rest the curve of the right hand where the thumb joins the palm against the crutch. The crutch also keeps the right hand from tiring and enables the player to keep the finger pads flat on the finger holes and keys.
An aspect of bassoon technique not found on any other woodwind is called flicking. It involves the left hand thumb momentarily pressing, or flicking the high A, C and D keys at the beginning of certain notes in the middle octave. This eliminates cracking, or brief multiphonics that happens without the use of this technique. Flicking is not universal amongst bassoonists; some American players, principally on the East Coast, use it sparingly, if at all. The rest use it virtually 100% of the time—it has become in essence part of the fingering.
The alternative method is "venting", which requires that the register key be used as part of the full fingering as opposed to being open momentarily at the start of the note.
A new automatic octave key system is available as an add- on, invented by Arthur Weisberg. When installed, the Weisberg system completely eliminates the need to flick in the upper octave. Only a few years old, it has yet to be offered as standard equipment by any of the major bassoon manufacturers.
While flicking is used to higher notes, the whisper key is used for lower notes. From the G right below middle C and lower, the whisper key is pressed with the left thumb and held for the duration of the note. This prevents cracking, as low notes can sometimes crack into a higher octave. Both flicking and using the whisper key is especially important to ensure notes speak properly during slurring between high and low registers.
Many extended techniques can be performed on the bassoon, such as multiphonics, flutter- tonguing, circular breathing, double tonguing, and harmonics. In the case of the bassoon, flutter- tonguing may be accomplished by "gargling" in the back of the throat as well as by the conventional method of rolling Rs.
The bassoon embouchure is a very important aspect of producing a full, round bassoon tone, but can be difficult to obtain as a beginner. The bassoon embouchure is made by putting your lips together as if you were whistling and then dropping your jaw down as if you were yawning (dont actually yawn or open your mouth). Both sets of teeth should be covered by your lips in order to protect the reed. The reed should be placed in your mouth and a seal should be formed around the reed with your lips and facial muscles
The bassoon embouchure is a make or break situation for many young Some common bassoon musicians. All students should own a embouchure problems are: small mirror and look at their 1. Biting embouchure daily. 2. Under bite or even jaws 3. Rolling lips in over the teeth with little or no red showing Pucker the lips like you are whistling 4. Smiling or blowing out a match. Focus the 5. Excessive tension in the lips/chin corners inward like closing a draw- muscles string bag. The lips should be fairly 6. Puffing the cheeks and/or air relaxed, not tight. Drop the lower pockets between the lips and the jaw and form an overbite. Put about teeth 3/4ths of the reed in the mouth. The 7. Too little reed in mouth upper lip should be up close to the bark, and the lower lip about half Since every student is different, it is way between the tip and the important that students get individual bark. This position may change as attention with regards to you change registers. Breathe in an embouchure. Private instructors are oval to aid in correct embouchure the best way to ensure that students formation. Say "Ho;" then breathe get the embouchure attention they in, keeping the lips in same shape. need.
The bassoon player articulates by placing the tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed. When you are ready to begin a note, take a full breath, firm the corners of the embouchure, and set the tongue against the tip of the reed. Allow the air to build pressure behind the tongue and release the tongue. You should have a clear, centered articulation and tone with no extra sound or air. Releases are produced by shaping your mouth in an ―H‖ syllable. The ―H‖ syllable at the end of the note gives a clean release and also prevents you from closing your throat or stopping the note with your tongue. You should never stop a note with your tongue or with your throat. Finally, you MUST crescendo to all releases. If you crescendo to the end of the release, it gives the music motion and prevents it from being stagnant.
The first key to playing in tune and with good intonation is to play with a good tone. If you play with a good tone, you are much more likely to play in tune than if you were playing with a poor tone.
Finally, daily practice is the determining factor in your success as a musician. You must practice everyday. There can be no off days or vacations—your instrument must be maintained and worked on everyday. Find the time to practice and find a place where you can concentrate and genuinely work hard to make yourself better. Here are a few tips to help your practice sessions run better. 1. Always effectively warm-up and address every fundamental 2. Tune after warming up 3. Use a metronome for everything that you practice 4. Practice etudes, rhythm sheets, and concert music 5. Begin slowly and gradually work up to tempo— Do NOT settle for close enough 6. Focus on performing everything perfectly—Not just right notes and right rhythm, but articulation, dynamics, tone, everything
BAROQUE PERIOD Johann Friedrich Fasch: Several bassoon concerti; the best known is in C major Christoph Graupner: Four bassoon concerti Johann Wilhelm Hertel: Bassoon Concerto in A minor Georg Philipp Telemann: Sonata in F minor Antonio Vivaldi: 39 concerti for bassoon, 37 of which exist in their entirety today Jan Dismas Zelenka: Six trio sonatas for two oboes, bassoon and basso continuo
CLASSICAL PERIOD Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Johann Christian Bach: Bassoon Concerto in B♭ Bassoon Concerto in B♭, K. Bassoon Concerto in E♭ major 191, the only surviving of the Franz Danzi: original three bassoon Bassoon Concerto in G minor, concertos he wrote Bassoon Concerto in C Antonio Rosetti: 2 Bassoon Concerto in F major Bassoon Concertos in F major (Murray C75) François Devienne: Bassoon Concertos in 12 Sonatas (six with opus B♭ major (Murray C69, C73, numbers) C74) 3 Quartets Bassoon Concerto in E♭ major Bassoon Concerto (Murray C68) ) 6 Duos Concertants Carl Stamitz: Bassoon Johann Nepomuk Hummel: Concerto in F major Grand Concerto for Bassoon (in Johann Baptist Vanhal: F) Bassoon Concerto in C major Leopold Kozeluch: Concerto in F major for two Bassoon Concerto in B♭ major bassoons and orchestra (P V:B1) Bassoon Concerto in C major (P V:C1)
ROMANTIC PERIOD Franz Berwald: Konzertstueck Ferdinand David: Concertino for bassoon and orchestra, op. 12 Edward Elgar: Romance for bassoon and orchestra, op. 62 Johann Fuchs: Bassoon Concerto in B♭ major Julius Fučík: Der alte Brummbär ("The Old Grumbler") for bassoon and orchestra, op. 210 Reinhold Glière: Humoresque and Impromptu for Bassoon and Piano, op. 35, nos. 8 and 9 Camille Saint-Saëns: Sonata for bassoon and piano in G major, op. 168 Carl Maria von Weber: Andante e rondo ungarese in C minor, op. 35 Bassoon Concerto in F, op. 75
Maurice Allard (1923–2005) Sol Schoenbach (1915–1999) Archie Camden (1888–1979) Leonard Sharrow (1915– 2004), Chicago Symphony Orchestra1951–1964 Donald Christlieb (1913-2001). Hollywood studios Klaus Thunemann (1937– ) Bernard Garfield (1928), Philadelphia Sherman Walt (1923– Orchestra 1957–2000 1989), Boston Symphony Orchestra 1953–1989 Simon Kovar (1890–1970) William Waterhouse (1931– 2007), Royal Northern College of Ludwig Milde (1849–1913) Music; London Symphony; BBC Symphony; Melos Ensemble Etienne Ozi (1754–1813) Arthur Weisberg (1931–2009) Victor Guillermo Ramos Rangel (1911–1986) Julius Weissenborn (1837–1888)