Topic: Piano on a contra...

Hi fellow IDRG members!

One of the things in-between my own music and works like Brahms and Rimsky-Korsakov getting a nice piano on the contra.

Not withstanding it needs a lot more breath support than most instruments it needs a little finesse to get the lower and upper registers to play legato and piano. A tough task to be sure!

I was wondering if any of your contra players out there had any tips, techniques or suggestions?

Cor anlgais and Contrabassoon enthusiast!

Amateur in all regards, but learning! I love unusual and unique instruments!

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Re: Piano on a contra...

Make sure your instrument is sealing. It's really the number one problem on so many instruments I've played. If your instrument isn't locked in tight you're fighting a really challenging uphill battle. If your Amati is "stock" it's probably leaking not just in the pads but possibly in the bands where the joints fit together. The right experienced technician will take the instrument completely apart to get those to seal up. Probably could also use a wood oiling as well to help the seal.

Otherwise it's all about your reeds. Making a reed that has a nice sound and has a responsive pianissimo in the low register is a primary concern for contrabassoon.

Last edited by Trent (2014-05-25 10:57:53)

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: Piano on a contra...

I was thinking of taking the knife to the heart and scraping a little off. The low (sub B,) notes are a little muddy. If I tunnel enough air through they speak but in the normal course of playing they get lost.

Last edited by GaryW_DR (2014-05-25 15:31:54)

Cor anlgais and Contrabassoon enthusiast!

Amateur in all regards, but learning! I love unusual and unique instruments!

Share

Re: Piano on a contra...

Have you had your Amati stripped down and properly set up? I can't remember if you bought it new or not. My understanding is they desperately need someone to properly set them up and get them sealing when they're new. Probably more in need of that if you have been playing on it for a while and the instrument has settled in and the joints loosened up some. I would honestly double check that it's not the instrument first before the reeds in your case.

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: Piano on a contra...

I am not a contra player, but I have always enjoyed the instrument. Reed shape can also help, I use the Rieger K2 shape an I feel I can get a nice dark sound with it over the K1 shape, it's a chalice or cup shape, like a baroque or Mechler(?) shape. I think Fox has a similar shape that is narrower that requires less air. I quite often will switch reeds for a work, lighter ones for quieter passages and heavier ones for more power. I take the sides way down on the light reeds to keep any surface noise or extraneous buzz or flap out of the sound if I make a crescendo, it also gives me a nice focus to those low notes for a nice dark, but pure sound. I find it also helps to have less slope in the scrape, more gradual, less like a bassoon reed, but that might be personal preference. I used 3 different reeds for the contra part on the Adams chamber symphony performance we did last year, although it was more about greater volume and high range. You can also use the low register keys to help the pp range of the middle register. In Carmina Burana there is a rather difficult pianissimo movement in the mid range that I remember playing with all of the low keys closed, maybe starting from low F to Bb, I don't remember exactly.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.