MUS 215

Bassoon

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BASSOON:  double reed instrument with cylindrical bore.  It is made of a wooden tube doubling back on itself, hence the name fagott--a bundle of sticks.

BASSOON FAMILY:

Bassoon Contrabassoon

The bassoon sounds where written.

The contrabassoon sounds an octave lower than the written pitch.

WRITTEN RANGE:

FOREIGN TERMS:

ABBREV. ENGLISH GERMAN FRENCH ITALIAN
Bn., Fg. Bassoon(s) Fagott
Fagotte
Basson(s) Fagotto
Fagotti
C. Bssn.
C. Bn.
C. Fag.
C. Bon.
Contrabassoon Kontrafagott
Kontrafagotte
Contre-basson(s) Contrafagotto
Contrafagotti

TYPES OF BASSOONS:

German (Heckel) System--the American choice.
French System--played primarily in France.
(These are fingering systems which differ greatly both mechanically and in tone quality produced.  Obviously, the Heckel system is viewed as superior by a majority of American players.)

DESIRABLE PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES:  The bassoon is not a beginning instrument.  Before beginning on the bassoon, the student should have developed adequate facility on some other woodwind instrument, preferably the clarinet or saxophone.  Physical size is of primary importance due to the long reaches and stretches demanded of the fingers.  A natural or greater than natural overbite is an advantage.  An underbite is a disadvantage.

PARTS OF THE BASSOON & ASSEMBLY:  (1) Place the boot joint in the left hand.  (2) Insert the tenor joint with the right hand.  (Be careful with the bridge key.)  (3) Insert the long joint with the left hand.  (4) Attach the bell with the right hand.  (Be careful with the bridge key.)  (5) Attach the hand rest, adjusted to the proper height.  (6) Attach the bocal (held correctly above the cork).  (7) Attach the double reed.  (8)  Finally, attach the neck strap or seat strap.

HOLDING POSITION:  (1) The weight of the bassoon is supported by either the neck strap or seat strap, and balanced on the base of the index finger of the left hand, and with the right hand on the hand rest.  (2) The boot joint rests against the right hip with the instrument held diagonally across the body.  (3) The bell is held forward so that the angle of the bocal permits the reed to enter the mouth at a slight angle.

EMBOUCHURE:  (1) Keep the lips relaxed.  Drop the jaw so that the teeth are about a half-inch apart.  (2) Pull the lower jaw back to increase the natural overbite--keep it back while playing.  (3) Push the corners of the mouth toward the center, as in whistling, forming wrinkles in the lips.  (4) Maintaining the contracted position of the lips, roll them over the teeth so that virtually all of the lip is over the teeth.  The exact amount of lip depends on its thickness.  Thin lips will need all the lip over the teeth; thick lips may leave a line of the red of the lip in front of the teeth. (5) Pull the chin muscles down and avoid bunching under the reed.  (6) Put the reed between the lips to the point where the mouth is almost touching the first wire.

TUNING WHILE PLAYING:  (1) Contracting the embouchure around the reed to increase pressure will sharpen the pitch.  (2) Relaxing the embouchure around the reed will flatten the pitch.  (See text re tuning related to bocal length and reed strength.)

REED CHARACTERISTICS:  (1) A soft reed plays flat.  (2) A hard reed plays sharp.  (3) A wide reed tip plays flat.  (4) A narrow reed tip plays sharp.

THE FOLLOWING NOTES TEND TO BE SHARP:

THE FOLLOWING NOTES TEND TO BE FLAT:

BRANDS:  Good student brands:  Fox, Renard, Schreiber, Armstrong, Lorée, Selmer.  Professional brands:  Heckel, Puchner, Fox, Schreiber, Huller, Polisi.

HISTORICAL TIDBIT:

The characteristic shape of the bassoon was invented in 1540 by Alfranio of Ferrara.

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