Topic: Mini-bassoons in teaching

I am looking for teaching experiences in using Guntram Wolf's mini-bassoons with younger children (6-9 years old and too small to hold and finger a full-size bassoon).  Has anyone had any experience with these instruments?  Do they serve as a good introduction to the bassoon and its sound production, support, embouchre, reed, fingering, and pitch?  Do they provide a productive springboard for moving to the regular bassoon once the student is big enough?  Can they contribute to, and be used in, beginning school ensembles?  Any issues with the clef and pitch of the instrument(s)?

Did anyone attend the session on this topic at IDRS (Morgentown??) a few years ago?  Is the session's discussion available?

Thanks!

Harvey Fleet

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Re: Mini-bassoons in teaching

While I have never used one for teaching my students (the youngest I teach is 6th grade), I do own and play quite regularly a Wolf Tenoroon (in F).  All of my younger students who have played it  are immediately taken aback by it and find it irresistibly "cute."  For the most part, yes they can be played by children with normal fingerings (with the exception of the very highest notes) and be played very well in tune.  As for support I do not know whether or not you are referring to air support or physically holding the instrument so I will address both.  As far as air support if a lighter reed is used (which in my experience works quite well) then the air support will be less than that of a regular bassoon and thus easier for children.  As far as holding the instrument, this is far and away easier than the bassoon as you don't have to deal with the weight issue (especially compared with the plastic instruments used by many schools).  As soon as I hand my instrument to a student the immediately remark on how light it is.  Going from one instrument to the other will take some time as the finger stretch is a bit different which has been the only problem I have seen, but this would not be an issue is the student starts out on a tenor bassoon.  As far as reeds are concerned here I think is the biggest difference.  I have debated with Guntram some on this issue and feel that a wholly different reed is needed that is proportionately smaller in all dimensions to a regular bassoon.  In particular the tube needs to be much narrower otherwise the low register will be unbelievably sharp.  If you make your own reeds it shouldn't be too big of a deal to make the tube narrower.  With the instruments being useful in ensembles, ABSOLUTELY!  I personally wish it were used more (mostly so I could have somewhere to play mine!), but yes it can indeed add a nice tenor voice to an ensemble both student and professional.  Clef would not be a problem, as it reads exactly the same as a bassoon would only the music is transposed.  If you have any further questions about these instruments let me know, I hopefully will have a stock of then in for sale in the next month or so.

Bret Newton

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