Topic: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

I'm currently playing marriage of figaro for quintet on bassoon, whenever i get to the runs I try and play them slowly, I do pretty well I start to play it faster and faster and then I just fall on my face, it's like my fingers just go wild and do whatever they want to do. Anyone else have had this situation before? i'm a first year bassoonist.

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Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

All the time.

The trick is to be patient with yourself as you speed up the passage; you MUST use a metronome. Find a tempo that you can reliably play the passage at. Play it at that speed several (at least four) times. Increase the tempo by AT MOST four beats per minute. Play it several (at least four) times. Ideally play it multiple times in a row perfectly before moving the tempo up again. You need to stick to a tempo and play the pattern many times at that tempo before increasing. Once you reach a tempo that you start to feel frantic, don't continue faster yet. You have some other shedding to do.

At the point you start to "break up" you want to back the tempo off several steps in your process. This part can be done without a metronome depending on how you do it. You need to break the passage up into various groups. If the passage is essentially rapid 16th notes (or whatever, as long as it's the same value throughout) you can do this rather easily. Start by making the rhythm double-dotted:
____ __ ____ __ ____

Then try it reversed:
__ ____ __ ____ __

Etc.

Then try groups of three:

_ _ _ .... _ _ _ ... _ _ _

It's hard to diagram in text, but maybe you know what I mean. The idea is to break the long pattern into very short groups, then mix the groups up and expand them longer and longer until you are playing the whole passage.

I hope that wasn't too wordy...

Good luck!

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

Hello bassoonater, You wrote, . . . it's like my fingers just go wild and do whatever they want to do . . . .

Trent's response is excellent. Add these self-questions: are you stiffening your fingers when you play it faster or in quintet? Are you increasing the tempo (rushing!) as you play the passage? (Are the other players rushing?) Have you practiced the passages 'from the end' (begin by repeating the last few notes, then add notes before the last few with successive repeats). Are you practicing going over the bar lines? As you play are you looking ahead (preferred) or looking at the pattern you are playing? What are you focusing on as you play, your fingers, the air, the notation, the sound? (Try to change focus to see if doing so improves your accuracy.)

When you practice the passages for the first time after resting start over with slow tempos. I recommend practicing the passages several times in 5 - 6 minute groups in each practice session with work on other material between groups. Avoid continuous practicing on the same passages for long periods of time.

Finally a plug for my book "Bassoon Strategies for the Next Level". It contains notated practicing patterns for the fast Marriage of Figaro excerpts. Good luck, C. Weait

Christopher Weait,
Principal bassoon, Toronto Symphony (1968 - 1985)
IDRS Honorary Member; Emeritus professor Ohio State University
www.weaitmusic.com

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

Hello Bassoonater,  you've gotten some fine advice.  Practice (dozens of times, hundreds?) over several days until you can play the passages flawlessly and relaxed at half tempo, almost without thinking about them.  Then nonchalantly play a short burst (a beat or two) that emphasizes mostly one hand at full tempo and see what happens.  Do your fingers straighten and flail as Prof. Weait asked?  Is there any tightening in your shoulder or elbow?  If so, keep it slow for awhile longer.  If not, add a beat or two.  Then repeat with a passage that emphasizes the other hand.  Since the nerves fire at the same rate whether you are playing slowly or quickly, practicing slowly for a long period and then doing a quick speedup can be very effective.

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Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

Good advice from the experts there.

I find the bassoon parts in the full orchestra version a challenge after 30 years of playing but don't let that put you off!

Good luck.

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

Or look on internet for the helping (cheating) fingering. Maybe you will find some good fingering tips, so your fingers won't get tense and will run more smooth.

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

I don't recommend using the cheat (alternate) fingerings. They distort the pitch and tone quality which will immediately get you singled out during an audition.  Slow practice with the full fingerings will pay off.

David Husby
CIM '14

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Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

First of all Bassoonater wasn't asking how to play audition. So any talk about that is off the topic.
Secondary. Why do you think there is such a thing like "alternate fingering"? I agree, some of alternate fingering do destroy pitch but you just have to find the right one for your bassoon, if you decide to use it. Ether way you will have to practice a lot and follow advises from above.

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

I just said that because Figaro is the #1 orchestral excerpt asked for orchestral auditions and if you can't play it perfectly, you won't ever get a job.  The
"cheat" fingerings for that (I believe) use the F# trill key underneath the L1 tone hole and that would be considered an alternate fingering.

David Husby
CIM '14

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Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

There is no reason to use any "cheat" fingerings for the Marriage of Figaro overture, unless you consider using a whisper key lock cheating (I don't). The passage can be played using full, normal fingerings just fine. You just have to practice.

Anyway, that's a bit of a thread hijack...

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

I also don't think locked whisper key is cheating. In Figaro I use alternate only in bar 161.

Re: Has anyone ever had this problem at one point?

Something I realized one day changed my playing....

Unlike a saxophone, we don't have pads over the tone holes. Our flesh comes directly into contact with the airstream!

So when you're playing (slowly, hopefully) focus on the pads of your fingers, and how they touch down on the instrument. Don't press too hard! And when you lift up your fingers, do it from the third knuckle (the one at the end of your palm), and only move it as little as possible without distorting the sound.

Practicing in this way, focusing on the movement of your fingers will help getting them to fly without flying OFF the instrument (avoid splaying out your fingers, tensing outward at the second knuckle). If you keep this up, you'll set a REALLY good foundation for finger technique. Its good that you're in your first year! Save yourself tendonitis scares and sadness (from not being able to play as fast as you want big_smile) and touch your bassoon as you would touch your eyeball!!! very, very very carefully. big_smile

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