Topic: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

Dear friends from the forum. I was very glad to be able to go to the IDRS convention this summer.  The best part of it was to be able to try new bassoons and equipment but I notice some thing that I want to point out. Bassoonists are choosing bassoons for how they fell or for how they play? The same thing happened few years ago, iI remember, with trumpets. They really hated the Monet trumpet when it first came out but the "market" made it a rule, now many trumpet players plays on that kind of trumpet. I heard many new bassoonists at the convention with bassoons that may fell good but did not have the quantity of sound, and please don't tell me about projection for physic is physics. So, are Bassoonists choosing bassoons for how they fell or for how they play?

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Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

I used to play a late 12,000 Heckel for many many years. I played the Skalkottas Sonate Concertante at the IDRS Conference in 1995, and 1997. I started to notice several players that were playing Fox bassoons, but I thought they sounded like Heckels. The only difference in sound was that the players on Foxes had clearer more subtle phrasing, and were heard far easier than the Heckels (projection). I decided to give them a chance, and play tested a Fox 601, after Bob Williams (Detroit Symphony)suggested to me that I might like them. The instruments were far easier to play and the intonation and response  was infinitely better than many Heckels. There seem to be many choices out there now. I know many wonderful players that are playing Walters, Wolfs, Moennigs?, Heckels, Foxes, Yamahas, Benson Bells, and Moosemans. I think it is what you feel MOST comfortable with, and can get the sound YOU want. Many Heckels for me, made me sound as the bassoon wished me to sound, not as I wished to play.

Last edited by Vincent Ellin (2013-07-28 13:45:01)

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Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

I have played on many different bassoons. Currently I play on an 8000 series Heckel bassoon. As all other bassoons it has its idiosynchrasies. But  this instrument allows me to very easily change its tone colour (frequency spectrum). The instrument reacts especially sensitively to slightest adjustments of the throat (etc). Much more so than any other instrument I have played or play tested.

I think that this is because this instrument has a particularly rich overtone spectrum for most notes. It is then easier to change the tone colour by dampening out different partials. This gives strong effects in the sound close to the instrument, and also (somewhat differently perhaps) far from the instrument.

Yours Bernhard

Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

Vincent Ellin wrote:

I used to play a late 12,000 Heckel for many many years. I played the Skalkottas Sonate Concertante at the IDRS Conference in 1995, and 1997. I started to notice several players that were playing Fox bassoons, but I thought they sounded like Heckels. The only difference in sound was that the players on Foxes had clearer more subtle phrasing, and were heard far easier than the Heckels (projection). I decided to give them a chance, and play tested a Fox 601, after Bob Williams (Detroit Symphony)suggested to me that I might like them. The instruments were far easier to play and the intonation and response  was infinitely better than many Heckels. There seem to be many choices out there now. I know many wonderful players that are playing Walters, Wolfs, Moennigs?, Heckels, Foxes, Yamahas, Benson Bells, and Moosemans. I think it is what you feel MOST comfortable with, and can get the sound YOU want. Many Heckels for me, made me sound as the bassoon wished me to sound, not as I wished to play.

Don't forget Puchner! :-)

I pretty much agree with many of the points of this statement. I am almost always underwhelmed by any Heckel I play. A few are very good in terms of tone color and response, but you usually have to "play games" with them because the best sounding ones are uneven. It's the trade-off, and the reason they sound so interesting is that they're uneven. The ones I prefer tend to be 6000-7500 in serial numbers, although one 5000 series instrument in particular (Paula Brusky's bassoon) was just a joy to play on. I have yet to play a 10k+ Heckel that I really liked, although a few I played at the conference were fine. They were more even but I didn't feel like I was really getting the most out of my effort in terms of flexibility of sound. I think Vincent hits it on the head when he said that they sound like they wish to sound, not how you want to play. Ironically, even when compared with a 15k series Heckel I actually prefer more of the Heckel Crest bassoons over many other Heckels I have played, proportionally speaking (although keywork is very different from my instrument and would take some getting used to).

The favorite (brand new) instruments I have played (aside from my own) over the last few years have all been from different makes. A Yamaha 821 a few years ago was amazing. A Moennig last conference was excellent. This conference it was between one Walter bassoon in particular and a traditional finish Puchner model 6000. In all cases the instruments felt like I could play with a variety of tone colors, like I could fill the instrument with air, and that it responding to the changes I made, however subtle. There's a core resonance to an instrument that I look for, and an ease of response. For me the sound comes when these factors are in place.

Last edited by Trent (2013-07-28 18:25:41)

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: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

Being serious about choosing a bassoon really needs two people: the bassoonist and a trusted listener (who could also be a bassoonist). Also needed is a largish space to allow the listener to get far enough from the player to hear how the instruments are projecting. Ideally, the buying bassoonist should hear someone else play the instruments, too. Occasionally, an instrument that sounds full to the player does not project to the audience very well

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

Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

Dear Chris, yes that's how I found out about the particular qualities of the bassoon I currently play. Btw: I bought the side strap and it works very well! Thanks for the suggestion.
Yours sincerely Bernhard

Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

Bassoonists choose bassoons for a number of reasons, some good, many bad.  I believe that many people end up with their bassoon simply because it was the best one they could find in a certain lapse of time, and that they needed one for music school/ their masters degree/ a symphony job/ an audition/ because I had the money/ because it felt great/ because it sounded great or good or better than the Selmer USA that they had before.  If you are in the market for a bassoon, the two main factors that you have to consider is the time you have to choose it, and arranging your finances to pay for the damned thing.  Often, these two conditions do not occur simultaneously, leading to more problems. 
For amateurs, the limitation is usually money.  Very few of us can afford to ante up the $35,000.00 + that a new professional bassoon is going to cost, so we end up paying the amount that our spouses will allow us while attempting to maintain marital bliss.  As a result, an amateur will start shopping and in the end, they will buy an affordable bassoon that is better than the one they had before.  However, quantifying the actual reasons for the purchase would be difficult, as better than the last is quite vague.  In the end, I have always felt that 'better' meant 'easier to play', or, 'it does not have the same faults that my old one has, and the faults on this one are easier to manage.'

Professionals should have a bit of a shopping list.  Intonation, evenness, projection, response to your reed style and overall sound are all important, and they are usually shopping for a horn that has an incredible combination of these.  However, finding this paragon of virtue usually ends up in failure, and they settle for a decent combination of some of these.  The danger for pros is that after buying a bassoon, the honeymoon wears off and the faults of the bassoon that they chose ends up driving them crazy.  So they find another one and buy it, and the cycle repeats anew.

So in response to your question:  The number of reasons that bassoonists buy bassoons is probably kinda sorta maybe about equal to the amount of bassoonists who are currently shopping for a bassoon + the amount of bassoonists dreaming of buying another one.

Last edited by Dean (2013-07-30 07:58:02)

Bassoonist Ordinaire, all around nice guy.
If anyone needs a damn fool, I'm your man!

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Re: Chosing a bassoon as a musician or as a "bassonist."

For me it has to be a combination of sound and feel.  If it doesn't feel good, I'm not going to play as well. Also I have played some that feel good, but didn't project well.  I play a good amount of studio work in addition to my full time symphony gig, so I have always tried bassoons in all the different situations to make sure I'm happy with how "I sound" on the instrument.  Many very good instrument makers these days!  After playing a Heckel for a long time, I have played and owned several different brands and am really happy with my new Mönnig Diamant bassoon.  Feels great, sounds great in all situations and an incredible high range and great pitch down low too. 

Mark

Mark Ortwein
Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
OrtweinWoodwinds.com

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