Topic: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

I'm playing on an earlier model Amati contrabassoon right now (yikes), and the 4th space G simply cannot be attacked. It seems like it can be slurred TO, and is steady once sustained, but cannot be attacked, no matter the bocal or reed. If I hold the low Eb key and first register key, I can attack with greater success, but its tone quality is highly questionable.

The standard G fingering will really growl at me if I articulate the note, no matter what. Could this be a bore issue? Could it be that the Amati crooks and the Moosmann crook I'm using are all duds? I'm using David Brundage reeds...any modifications here?

Let me know if this situation is familiar to anyone out there, or if you feel like you could offer a possible diagnosis. I will be taking the horn to a repairman shortly in any event, but I thought I would run it by this forum first, just to see.

Thanks!

Phil
NYC

Share

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

I see you're in NYC...I'd take it to Peter Landy ASAP.  I've played a couple Amatis that came through Peter and they played quite well..no squirrely notes or intonation quirks to mention.  Other thoughts...is this a new problem or one that's been around a long time?  If new, perhaps a dirty bocal or a dent at a nodal point....maybe a key not opening to proper height, or one stuck shut.  Reed problem?..try other reeds.  If this an old problem, I don't know what direction I'd go, different bocal?   Just my $.02.....Happy TDay!

Share

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

Thank you kindly! Peter is my regular guy...just thought I'd get a few ideas. Happy T Day to you, too!

Share

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

Look at Fox Product's technician resources page on their web site & download the 'basic contra repair' article. There is a section starting on P3 - 'Wing F adjustment' which, in conjunction with the diagram on P5,  could help you.

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

I hope I am not stating the obvious, have you tried the g without the octave keys? Try  just lifting your left hand index finger only. That works quite well many notes in the overblown octave. Bocals are also important, our contra player uses a Heckel bocal on our Mollenhauers and I had to get my old Kohlert bocal when I played contra in the Adams chamber symphony last year, the high range was impossible on all 4 of the Mollenhauer bocals we have. Good luck! -Steve

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

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

This situation is very familiar to me.

When I decided to start focusing on playing contrabassoon, I started off by borrowing an instrument from the local university. On that instrument, not only could I not get the half-hole G to attack reliably, but I couldn't slur to it from the octave below at all. The latter was especially frustrating at the time because I had an orchestral part that asked for it in an exposed passage. (I don't remember now what the piece was.) For a while, I was very frustrated with myself.

I took a lesson with a prominent contra bassoonist. He let me try his Heckel. The very first thing I played was the slur, followed by the half-hole G. They were smooth as butter.

That's when I learned that the issue was the instrument, not me. That lesson, and that experience, was a turning point for me.

My long-term solution was to order and purchase my instrument. That does not help you with your Amati.

Here are a few thoughts for you and that instrument.

Definitely try different bocals (Heckel, etc.). Ditto different reeds and reed shapes (K1, K2, Fox standard, Fox Fast, Fox Fast 2, Burl Lane, etc.) and scrapes.

Try playing the G using the lower vent as a flick key (this may help clarify the attack and minimize the tone quality issue).

I like Ian White's suggestion.

Here is another thought. When I took delivery of my Fox, I noticed that the half-hole G didn't speak as cleanly as I wanted. Chip Owen opened up one of the holes in the wing joint a little bit. This could possibly be done with your Amati by a trusted repairman who knows what he or she is doing.

One more thought: the Fox Divorced Low E mechanism helps address the tone color issue when using the lower vent key. I do not know how practical or expensive it would be to retrofit it to your Amati. If you're willing to do so, you may find that it helps improve that G when using the lower vent key, as well as other notes (especially the Ab above it).

Share

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

My suggestion is probably the same as the adjustment Chip did. It works on most contras - just allowing that slight leak can work wonders.

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

No -- in my case, Chip reamed a tone or register hole. Ergo my comment about going to a trusted mechanic who knows what he or she is doing.

Share

Re: 4th space G on my contra is BUSTED. Is there a cure out there?

Add the low D key. It will help stabilize the note. I have a Mollehauer and before I had a half-hole mechanism installed, I used that fingering when attacking the G.

Share