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Bassoons

Pitched in C (an octave below the oboe), the bassoon is the largest of the double reed instruments. The bassoon comes in five parts - the crook (or bocal) which is the thin mouthpipe which connects the reed to the main body; the wing joint and long joint which lock together in the centre of the instrument; the boot joint - the solid "U-bend" at the bottom; and the bell. Due to the fact that fewer instruments are made, mass production methods have not been introduced to bassoon production - meaning all instruments are hand made, and are therefore generally more expensive than other woodwind instruments. The good news is that in the UK, after years of decline the number of pupils taking up double reed instruments has started to rise - due to more generous government spending on LEA music services. However the practical negative ramifications of this is that there can sometimes be supply shortages as manufacturers try and keep up with the larger demand.


bassoons made from seasoned maple
Bassoon technical specifications

There are a number of different issues to consider when purchasing your bassoon. Material Unlike other woodwind instruments that are made from African black wood, bassoons are made from seasoned maple. Some American made student models are produced with plastic bodies, but these are not very popular in the UK where most players start on a wooden instrument.

Number of Keys

As with oboes, the number of keys on a bassoon varies significantly (from 22 to 28). The extra keys generally allow for alternative fingerings and/or more automated venting allowing for easier playing as opposed to a greater range or better tuning. Generally speaking the higher the specification of the instrument, the greater the number of keys. In particular, student and intermediate models sometimes come with a "crook lock" which automatically closes the "whisper" key (at the base of the crook), when notes below the low E are played. This locks the instrument into the lower register.

keys on a bassoon vary from 22-28
bassoon rollers

Rollers

In addition to the number of keys, the numbers of "rollers" on keys varies. Rollers (small rotating cylinders on the edge of keys), enhance the smooth movement of fingers between keys, aiding playing. Generally speaking the higher the specification of the instrument, the greater the number of rollers.



Bassoon key guards

Obviously a bassoon's keywork is very complicated and a well-balanced action can be knocked out of line if not treated with extreme care. Key guards protect exposed and particularly delicate keys with metal protective strips.

The

greater the number of keys, rollers and guards the "better" the instrument's specification. However, with every extra feature comes additional weight, complication and cost. Care therefore has to be taken in choosing the correct specification instrument for your needs

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short reach bassoons for smaller hands Short Reach

A number of manufacturers offer "short reach" models for younger players with smaller hands. In particular, the layout of a bassoon's key work can make reaching the keys engaged with the 4th (ring fingers) difficult for small hands. Short reach bassoons tackle this issue with slightly modified keys, creating a more natural playing position for younger players.

Lining

The boot joint of the bassoon is particularly prone to damage from moisture - due to the fact that moisture will naturally accumulate in the bottom "U-bend". A lined bore in the boot joint is therefore very important to prevent premature rotting.

lined bore in the bassoon boot joint will prevent moisture damage
brass tenon and socket protectors prevent damaging the bassoon Socket Protectors

The pressure put on the joint sockets can be quite severe due to the size of the bassoon, and without protection these can become loose, making the joints "wobbly". Brass tenon and socket protectors prevent damage and thus create a good tight and precise fit.



Crooks

The specification of the instrument's crook (often referred to as the bocal) is paramount in determining the instruments playing characteristics. In particular, the internal taper of the crook and the material used has a significant effect on the tone, projection and response of the instrument. Consequently, many bassoons come supplied with two different crooks as standard and manufacturers offer a range of additional crooks with specific characteristics.


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