Bassoon: History, characteristics, types and the best bassoons on the market.
Since the emergence of chamber music there has been a need for an instrument such as the bassoon. The bassoon is of vital importance because of its depth and dynamism, as well as its ample capacity to splice with the sound of other instruments. However, the bassoon did not have an easy path to become what it's today. Instead, he went through numerous trials and even failures, but in the end he managed to leave his mark in time and today we have the opportunity to learn from him.
That is why in this article we will describe all the important aspects of this exciting instrument: what it's, its history, what are the parts of the bassoon and everything you should know about it. We also bring you a comparison of the best fagots on the market, their features and prices. Craving one yet? So let's get started!
What is a bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind musical instrument. Unlike the metal wind aerophones, this one has a double reed. That is why it belongs to the family of double reed instruments, together with:
- Oboe: woodwind instrument without bends like the bassoon. It has a shorter length and is available in various tunings.
- English Horn: its shape is quite characteristic because it has a thin needle-like mouthpiece. In addition, its bell is pear-shaped. Another version of the same instrument is the French horn, whose use in chamber music is quite limited.
- Dulzaina: it's rather a subfamily of the bassoon and is closely related to the oboe. It has a fairly short length of 30cm and its use is more common in traditional Spanish music.
- Horn: usually referred to as part of the bassoon family because it has a double reed although encapsulated within a cone. This instrument is rather an ancestor that, with the arrival of the bassoon, fell into disuse. At present it's only used in repertoires that seek to rescue ancient compositions from the 14th century to the beginning of the baroque period in the 16th century.
History of the bassoon
The history of the bassoon dates back to the 17th century in Europe. Its main creator is believed to be Aphranius Theseus. However, this theory seems to vanish because Theseus' instrument was a bellows instrument, like the Galician bagpipe. That is why many music historians do not see a great relationship between the current instrument and the instrument of this Italian canon.
However, the bassoon appears quite frequently in 17th century accounts and treatises on music. It was at this time that it emerged as an established instrument, although it would not reach its current form until the 19th century.
- Low central body: main part of the instrument and the one that uses the largest amount of incoming air. The sound processing to produce the musical notes culminates in the lower central body.
- Tenor central body: this is the first extension of the body in the bassoon. This is where the sound enters and is then processed by the first key section.
- Ring: this part of the bassoon is located at the end of the central bass body and is where the sound ends up coming out. The size of the aperture is what shapes the sound. If the ring is narrow, the sound will have a tendency towards the mid and high frequencies. But if it's large, then the sound will be characterized by low frequencies.
- Bell: where the ring is located. Together with him, he is responsible for shaping the sound frequencies and stabilizing them.
- Union ring: it has four of these areas that are responsible for joining the three cylinders that make up its body. Inside, they have cork, felt or some other material rings that prevent air from escaping.
- Body base: it is the second section of the instrument and the one that makes its curvature possible. A section of keys and pistons is also located at the base.
- Base stop: it's a plate that contains an internal curvature and contributes not only to give mobility to the sound, but also to form it so that it can enter its final path.
- Thumb rest: all woodwind and brass instruments are equipped with a thumb rest for better grip and balance control.
- Tudel: part of the bassoon that differentiates it from many other wind instruments. Although other members of this family have a part called tudel, in the instrument that concerns us its shape is totally different, since it looks like a kind of straw. This is why the embouchure technique is much easier on this instrument.
- Key system: used to shape the sound that moves inside the instrument.
Types of bassoon
- Bassoon: main instrument of the family and the one we consider in this buying guide and comparison. It differs from the other types by its size, which is a midpoint between the rest of the fagots. In addition, its tessitura is from the note of the third lower line of the staff, to the C flat of the first upper line of the staff.
- Bassoon: it's the smallest of the family and offers a higher pitched sound. Its tessitura ranges from the note F of the first lower space of the staff to B flat of the upper octave of the staff.
- Contrabassoon: the contrabassoon is the largest, with a six-meter long tube that can weigh up to 10 kg. It offers the most bass sounds in the family.
Tips for playing the bassoon
This is a large musical instrument and therefore some important aspects must be taken into account:
Every bassoonist must adopt a suitable body position to avoid fatigue. The shoulders should have a relaxed position, as if slumped and pulled back, loose in the air. The thorax or chest should be thrust out (pigeon chest). In addition, the knees should be slightly bent and the feet should be shoulder-width apart. Finally, the pelvis and buttocks should be kept as relaxed as possible.
We always recommend diaphragmatic intercostal breathing. This is the best technique because it considers every physiological aspect and natural resonator of the human body. Take into account the apnea breathing as if you were free diving.
This is much more useful when it comes to children and adolescents who want to learn. This is not to say that an adult cannot develop it, although it will be more difficult.
For this purpose, we recommend the legendary practice technique of senselessness. In theory, it means that when you limit one of your senses, the others become more acute. In this case, the sound that we propose to limit's the sight, by putting a blindfold on your eyes while you are in the practice sessions.
Practice in time and out of time
it's about creating practice regimens focused on your weaknesses. For this you must analyze yourself and keep track of the deficiencies that you observe in yourself in order to work on them carefully.
Curiosities about the bassoon and its family
- The contrabassoon has a body length of six meters and weighs approximately 10 kg.
- The bassoon is 2.5 meters long and in general only 1.5 meters are observed.
- In order to write on the staff the tessitura of the contra bassoon, terms such as “subcontra” were created. These indicate that it's two and even three octaves of those that can naturally be written on the staff.
- Only composers Kalevi Aho and Gunter Schuller have created concertos for contrabassoons.
- The bassoon is an instrument of which it's not possible to determine with certainty its main creator. Its origin has remained an unknown for some four hundred years.
- Musicians and composers Yusef Lateef and Chick Corea were the first to write compositions incorporating the bassoon. They are still the best of all time.
- Although the instrument was created in the 17th century, it was only in the 20th century that it achieved a fixed place within the symphony orchestra.
- He is known as the “Orchestra Clown” because he can recreate really funny and versatile sounds.
In the following video you can enjoy the most beautiful sonata created for bassoons. Its composer was none other than Camille Saint Saëns.
Principal bassoon players
There are really few players of any instrument who can enjoy the privilege of saying that they have composed pieces for them. The bassoon has the largest number of players of this stature and some of them are:
- Baron von Duernitz: Mozart created a bassoon concerto for him. This was due to von Duernitz's great mastery of this instrument.
- Antoine Dard: he is one of the first and the most complete interpreter of all times. He also wrote a method for learning this instrument and was the first bassoonist of King Louis XV of France.
- Mordechai Rechtman: holds the title of the longest-serving bassoonist in the Israel Philharmonic as a soloist, at the age of 45.
- Gustavo Nuñez: this Uruguayan performer is considered one of the greatest of this generation.
- Klaus Thunemann: he is the performer who has collaborated with the most symphony orchestras and jazz bands in the world.
- Milan Turkovic: in his career he has reached almost any place in the world carrying this instrument. He is also the only one to have recorded all the bassoon works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Weber.
The best bassoon brands
- Schreiber: is a French manufacturer specializing in woodwind and brass instruments. Its proposals are mainly aimed at intermediate and professional players who want an inexpensive bassoon with good characteristics.
- Guntram Wolf: this is a German company that manufactures woodwind instruments. Many of them are sought after by great musicians worldwide.
- Oscar Adler & Co: this German-based manufacturer is considered one of the best in the world. Their instruments are often expensive, but worth every euro.
- Gebrüder Mönning: is another major German company that has made woodwind and brass instruments for many of the world's top musicians.
- Ammoon: its products are low-end and are aimed at beginner or amateur musicians. Although it's possible to find excellent products very cheap compared to other more expensive brands.
- Tuyama: this Chinese company specializes in low and mid-range products.
The best fagots on the market
Schreiber WS5016-2-0 Bassoon
This is a model of the “Konservatorium” series and has a standard length of 250cm. The key system is German, so it fits most symphony orchestras in Europe. In total, it has 25 keys and one of them is for the D sharp note.
Its general construction is made of maple wood and the keys are made of nickel silver, which is one of the best materials for these parts of the bassoon. Includes a semi-hard case and basic accessories for maintenance. If you want to buy a bassoon of excellent quality, this is the one. Find the best price at Thomann.
Gebrüder Mönnig 214 Topas Bassoon
This manufacturer is very professional and its most representative model is the Gebrüder Mönnig 214 Topas Bassoon, which has been classified by the company as “basic” professional. it's made of AAA maple wood and the keys are silver-plated nickel silver. It has 26 keys that allow a great extension up to the notes of D sharp, E sharp and double key of E flat.
The sound response is fast, dynamic and with excellent projection, since it has an innovative stabilizing system. In addition, it has two W. Mönnig FF nozzles Nr. 1 and Nr. 2 which are a marvel and also includes a Marcus Bonna Gebr case. Mönnig and some accessories for maintenance. Buying this bassoon will be expensive, but it's worth every penny. To see the best price at Thomann follow the link.
Schreiber WS5017-2-0 Bassoon
This is a special conservatory model that follows the same concept as the Schreiber 5016. However, it differs in the design of the keys, which is much more ergonomic and adjusts the notes of C, A and C# for smaller hands. it's made of sycamore and has 25 keys with German system. It includes a shoulder strap instead of a neck strap, as well as a semi-rigid case and accessories. The price of the bassoon is not as high as other models in the same range, but it's still expensive for some pockets. Interested? Find the best price at Thomann.
Oscar Adler & Co. Bassoon 1357/125 Anniversary
Oscar Adler & Co. is considered one of the best in the world in this market sector and this proposal far exceeds its competition in the same price range. it's made of maple wood with silver-plated key system, which greatly improves the action of the mechanism. It has 23 keys and five rollers, as well as keys for high C and lab2 notes. The body has a lacquer finish and comes with a case and implements for general maintenance. Find the best price at Thomann.
Guntram Wolf Fg 5 Plus Quint-Bassoon
This proposal from Guntram Wokf is a fifth bassoon for children. it's made of class AA maple and the keys are silver plated. It measures 84.5 cm in length and weighs 0.95 kg. Its sound is a little sharper than the rest and this is due to its small size. But this is why it's ideal for children who wish to enter the world of the bassoon. To see the best price at Thomann follow this link.
We also recommend you to see our comparison to choose the ideal recorder for you.