BassoonsQuick guide to popular Bassoons
Bassoon is an musical instrument belonging in the woodwind family. It’s defined as a double reed instrument with a unique tone that’s used in a wide range of musical genre, from lyrical to humorous, showing its agility. Orchestral/band/chamber music lovers describe the music from the instrument as warm, dark, reedy timbre that can be likened to a male baritone voice.
The Bassoon is often present in an orchestra, band and sometimes, chamber music. Double reed means there are two pieces of cane vibrating each other to produce various sounds. The bassoon belongs to double reed class of musical instrument. It is often present in an orchestra, band and sometimes, chamber music.
For this article, we will discuss the Alto Horn or E FlatHorn that is known also to the British as the Tenor Horn. It belongs to the saxhorn family and often was pitched in E-flat (Eb).
It’s mainly canonical bore and deep funnel or cornet-like mouthpiece makes it a good alternative to the French Horn. The alto horn, as a valved brass instrument, with predominantly piston valves, is common among Brass bands while the French horn does a lot of solo parts.
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How to Play The Bassoon
Fair warning to future bassoonists, the musical instrument poses as a challenge in terms of learning how to play, toning and caring for it. But it is also rewarding to play an intricate and unique instrument.
- With all due practicality, first try holding a bassoon before deciding whether it is the right instrument for you to learn to play. Make sure that your hands are big enough to cover the C (3rd) hole with the ring finger of your left hand. Finger movements and hitting the right keys with the right fingers is very important (so with all musical instruments). Discern if you are comfortable enough reaching your left thumb to the speaker keys (A, C, D) and the whisper key, while not covering the note of C. There are smaller bassoons made to cater to smaller hands but not readily available or can be quite expensive.
- Make sure your mouth is clean before playing. The presences of mold or bacteria on the reed can affect its sound.
- Hold the instrument at a 45-degree angle across the body for easy playing of keys and gripping. Keeping it at a straight position will affect the finger movements and playing the lower register.
- Once you’re comfortable in holding and playing the keys, learn and practice the right embouchure for the bassoon. When you place the reed in your mouth, cushion or cover the teeth with your lips to protect or prevent you from biting the reed when playing. The upper lip must nearly touch the first wire. Keep the chin muscles stretched downward and the cheeks smooth. Practice the right embouchure in front of a mirror to ensure you are doing it right.
- Embouchure also uses the tongue for articulation – in accent and staccato. Use the words cough, tough and dough to practice the movement of the tip of your tongue. To play fast, practice the method of “double tonguing” by making the sound of “d” and “g” in sequence without opening the mouth, and against the reed.
- Breathing properly is another component of bassoon playing. You breathe into your diaphragm and breath out with your abdominal wall muscles. Lay down on the floor and breathe, practice without the instrument while your back is straight and in a relaxed position.
- To play with a music sheet, you must learn music notations – reading music and playing this on the bassoon requires taking lessons. While practicing you can consult a fingering chart. Taking lessons first will give the advantage of knowing music sheet reading but also the benefits of learning the techniques on embouchure and pitches.
Benefits of the Bassoon
Physically, the benefit of playing the bassoon is strengthening of core muscles much like doing Yoga breathing exercises. Strengthen gives you balance and stability while playing standing up or sitting down. Other benefits are personal, such as the perseverance to learn something new, discipline to follow through and emotional stability from playing to relieve stress. These benefits are for everyone at any age.
Disadvantage of the Bassoon
The bassoon is a very delicate and intricate instruments with many parts. Caring, toning and setting it up require patience and care. It is also hard to handle, you need extra support to enable you to play and hold it properly. All these components require funds, as you need a couple of reeds on hand and these can be expensive.
Purchasing a Bassoon
Bassoons are not instruments to be trifled with because of their delicacy and their price. The introductory price starts at $4,000 to Pro or Master class $17,600/$18,000. It’s not just a musical instrument. It is a real investment that needs close scrutiny before and when purchasing one. Here are the key factors you have to consider:
- Size matters because of finger control and the comfort of playing the instrument.
- You can choose from a beginner, intermediate and professional class. Brand new, beginner class price starts at $4,000.
- Bassoon material – you can choose between plastic and wood. Plastic is durable and less sensitive to temperature and humidity issues. But when it comes to actual construction, wood is still the first choice but a lot more delicate than plastic counterpart.
- There are two types or styles of bassoon, German and French. The differences are fingering, expands the reed and tone produced. The German style sound is thicker and darker sounding while the French style is a lot lighter.