Topic: Chinese Bassoons

I have duplicated this post of mine (sent wrongly to the early Music Topic). As it is very relevant to "Teaching"

Hi Fellow Bassoonists

A few months back I posted an email to the List regarding the purchase of a Chinese made bassoon by a local high school.
We now have 3 of these instruments (in 3 different institutions), which are being monitored for performance, durability, reliability etc.

They are quite reliably tuned, even toned, free blowing and fitted with pretty well all the "optional" keys you would find on a professional model - but no bocal key lock. The tubes extend into the bore, the wet side is lined all the way down, and the mechanism is generally robust.

The down side is a mighty heavy right hand little finger F# key that needs to be eased. One student has managed to bend a bocal. The joints are very stiff and the cases have been glued with more water than glue I suspect. Several blocks have come loose - they are only glued not tacked or screwed; the lining of a compartment lid has pulled away (can easily be reglued).
The harness is a bit cumbersome - I still prefer a seat strap supplemented by a shoulder strap to a high anchor point.

At about 1/3  to 1/4 the price of our beloved "reliable" instruments these cannot be ignored.

They certainly exceed the quality of older models such as Lark, Riedl, Selmer (plastic), Huller, Adler et al.

I will keep you posted on the perrformance of these instruments and am interested to hear from others.

Regards Neville
Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Well, since one post was duplicated, how about another?  I think this is a very interesting topic, which could affect the future of bassoon manufacturing, so here is my previous response to the Chinese bassoon topic:

My only experience with the Chinese bassoons came a few years ago.  A buyer for a local school district had one to try out and he was getting ready to buy 5 or 6 of them for the district.  The prices are very tempting.  He asked me to try it out, and assured me that I had a "brand new" bassoon in my hands. 

This new bassoon already had a substantial crack in the boot joint.  The wood seemed to be treated just about as well as the piles of lumber at a Home Depot.  I could not play one single scale in tune without major adjustments, and the sound was just awful.  I could go to the lumber yard myself and drill some holes in a piece of wood and call it a bassoon, but it takes craftsmanship to produce a musical instrument.  Instead of getting excited about a $700-1000 bassoon, I asked the buyer if he was willing to pay $700-1000 for a future lampost.

Perhaps there have been some improvements, but I just can't see buying in to the Wal-Mart philosophy when considering the purchase of an instrument; even if it is a beginner bassoon.  Beginners should still have something where they can enjoy the instrument and be stimulated to keep on playing, eventually getting a better bassoon.  There are some really fine student instruments out there (Moosmann, Fox), but like most things in life, you will get what you pay for. 

I hope Neville will keep us updated on the progress of the new bassoons.  I'd be curious to know how long they will last.

Scott Pool

"The Ornaments look pretty, but they're pulling down the branches of the tree." - Cake

Re: Chinese Bassoons

THE CHINESE BASSOON CONNECTION (or, my tongue and cheek experiment)                         

Thank you Neville, for initiating a topic dear to my heart. (if only because the experience is so distant now) I agree with you Scott. "This is a very interesting topic, which could affect the future of bassoon manufacturing."  If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share, in summary, my adventures with just such a bassoon.

About a year and a half ago, I won an auction, on a very well known Web site, for a Chinese manufactured bassoon. Very intrigued, as to what's available for a starting bassoon player, for the sum of $800.00-$900.00,

I dispackaged my new, or like new, or pseudo/quasi new, Laval bassoon. Apparently, it was previously owned, as evidenced by one bent and removed Ab key, and the torn out body lock. No problem, as I paid only $305 complete with shipping. I was very far ahead, even if used only for parts. Opening the case, was a complete bassoon, silver plated, and yes Neville, with all the necessary keywork to qualify as an acceptable contemporary bassoon. The case? Barely adequate for the trip from China. However, in one corner of the case was installed a device, very effectively catching my eye. Was it a clock? No, it's a hygrometer. In all the world's history, of bassoon manufacture, who'd have thought to supplant valuable storage space, for the likes of this beautiful, brass plated, humidity gauge?  What an ingenious marketing scheme. I can't imagine how I've ever survived  without it. To whomever, I thank you dearly. Oh, by the way, it indicated better relative time than humidity.

About 10 minutes to straighten and install the Ab key, align and restore an adequate seal,and replace the body lock. Greased it up, assembled the instrument, installed the bocal, (1 of 3, mind you) which was in fact curved in the right direction, so things were looking up. If I could only describe in words, the pure transparent sound emitted after carefully selecting a reed. That first satisfied moment of anticipation, whilst not knowing the potential of this instrument to make music. Neville? My first impression was similar to your own evaluation. Whether the quality of sound was good vs bad, I won't argue, however, it wasn't at all muffled, quite brilliant, consistent in timbre throughout the entire range. Out of the box, it sealed well enough to play and evaluate. While the overall intonation hovered closely to 440, there were a few local pitch irregularities. Since my own early experience of learning the bassoon,was on a Linton, which by my peer's testament, I was the only one who could play that thing, this Chinese specimen was a close candidate for a budding new player,(or learner).

And so about 10 or 20 minutes into sonoric hopefulness, commenced the binding key syndrome. No problem! Expected. This would be typical for a cheap bassoon, or for that matter, typical for a cheap doorknob. A little time at the bench, and I'll be able to blow this thing, even if just in between rainy days. Shorten some hinge rods, ream a couple of pivots, adjust a few springs, refine, just a little, some key heights. No problem. Oops, hmm, a few loose posts. That's not a good sign folks. Alright, I can see where this is going. And so it goes, when one builds a bassoon from  a piece of maple barely adequate for a table leg. Scott couldn't have said it better.

No Problem!! Strip the entire bassoon down to the body,(bands came right off), posts, and all. Just reinstall all the posts with the appropriate adhesives,align them with the previously adjusted keys, and soonly, I'll be  rewarded with beautiful sound again.

Duh? How come some of the pivot screws are stripped? That's not supposed to happen. So the manufacturer is a little lax, in their tolerances. No Problem!!! I'll just drill out all the offending posts, retap the threads, and ream the hinge tubes for nice new stainless pivot screws, acquired from, you know where, (that'd be Fox). OK, there's not much else left to possibly go wrong, so I'm getting really excited to audition, this now hybrid Chinese/American bassoon. While on the last lap of this surprise rebuild, I'll do some of my favorite stuff and really fine tune the action. So I'll add the Teflon to all the sliding bearing surfaces, and do a first class regulation of the mechanism. I enjoy this mechanical work so much, it's actually a reward for all the previous "no problem" type torture. Incidentally Neville, you're accurate in your observation of the keywork being "robust". As these bassoons are made with a soft brass stock for the keys, the dimension is necessarily more robust. The keys bend so easily, that I can't imagine an innocent student not rendering this bassoon  helpless, just from ordinary assembly. Any other manufacturer uses nickel silver, around twice the tensile of brass. Added to this ongoing adventure was all the typical and commensurate procedure of smoothing the tone holes and on and on. Interestingly, I had to replace only 3 or 4 pads. Go figure.

So after all the work I put into this instrument. I don't have much hope for it's survival. Sad!

I didn't keep an accurate account of time. I'd say I spent between 40 and 50 hours trying to make a reliable instrument from the available raw material. I sold the bassoon to a young player, insisting on owning one of these lovely instruments for a reasonable cost of $750, still well under the market price. I explained over the tele and in writing, how to care for this Laval, so it can be serviceable. I further installed a spare low D guard over the bottom of the tenor joint, so to have a place to securely grab the joint while putting the bassoon together. I screwed all the blocking together so the case may last for awhile. Oh, last and least, I got the hygrometer working. Yes, to the detriment of storage space. But then, who needs reed tools for these instruments. That makes my time worth about $10 an hour. A foolish wage by our standards, but an extraordinary wage for the Chinese workers that generate these instruments.

The Laval is one of many manufacturer's named brands of bassoons. First there was the Lark, then Haydn, Laval, Maestro, each supplanting the other as the bassoon tooting public becomes privy, then the more westernized namesakes, the Winsten and Elite, and others I don't remember right now. The one that more than irritates me, is the reintroduction of the Kohlert. Somewhere, somehow, a Chinese manufacturing agent purchased the name of Kohlert. So now the unwitting buyer has to have the responsibility to discern what could be a familiar name from the prey. If there's value in this tongue and cheek expedition here, The bassoon teacher can become more aware of this proliferation of imports, for the sake and sanity, of all potential players.

If there are those of you that think I'm harsh. You're right. However, to show my unyielding open mindedness, I've come to one very apparent realization of value for this species of bassoon. Hands down, without a heartbeat of equivocation, there is no better candidate on this planet, for the training of future virtuoso bassoon technicians, than to have at there disposal an endless supply of these instruments, so to facilitate the learning of every conceivable procedure and operation in the restoration of bassoons.(you can take a breath now) All bassoons can have problems, but only some are lucky enough to have all the problems.

I think that's about it for now. All the best.

Nicholas Evans-Bassoonist, Bassoon Repair and Restoration Mechanic.

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Thanks Nicholas for your comprehensive post (and even more comprehensive remake!).
I hold no illusions about the potential problems but as you noted they have started getting the bore / scale right.  When they catch up (vis a vis Asian car manufacturers) they may truly have a good product. It certainly is an interesting development.
i have quite a collection of mangled crooks, torn off body locks, scrappy cases from Hullers, Adlers, Riedls, Larks, Bundys etc and even the odd Moosman loses a screw or two from time to time while the plastic Foxes just totally bind up in our non-temperature controlled "temperate climate" here in NZ.

Regards Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

One advantage to the plastic bassoons that get stuck in cold weather: the player can legitimately say, "Sorry, I can't play outdoors in this weather."

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Re: Chinese Bassoons

Copy of Posts from Early Music Exchanges (in error) - all future debate will reside in Teaching Forum (where they should heve been all along - Neville)


Thanks Neville.  Interesting.  Do these instruments have a brand name?  Maybe I missed it earlier.  Thanks, Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Senior Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University



Hi Scott & Kent__Not surprisingly the instruments are un-branded but they can be viewed on line at <lenkermusic.co.nz>_that is the NZ importer - I don't know about other countries.  I too had nightmare stories about previous Chinese bassoons but the faults in these were obvious and immediate.__This is not the case with these - however such things as "wood treatment" I do not have the expertise to assess.__I actively eradicated inferior instruments from our school system and totally agree with  the acquisition of Moosman and Fox (I personally prefer the former). These instruments so far have not disadvantaged beginner players. _Apart from the heavy F# key I found a night's rehearsing on one of these straight out of the box quite acceptable._As already stated - the proof will be in the longer term performance. (An oboe from a similar source had major key finish problems after the first year).__Cheers Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

My experience of Chinese bassoons is much the same as that of Nicholas.

I have seen mainly older ones but in the last few months a few new ones have come my way & straight out of the box they don't work - the last one I reckon would have needed about half a day's work to get the mechanics working satisfactorily (and that wasn't needed due to damage in transit) before being able to start to assess the tonal qualities. As to the long term  the wood, keywork (still rather soft) & general finish look better than in the past from these sources but only time will tell.

Ian

Re: Chinese Bassoons

An interesting reply - do you think (unknowns aside) that the 1/2 day spent would still be value for money?

Some of us are up against school budgets and it is often "cheap bassoon" or "no bassoon".
My response is usually "no bassoon" - it is a waste of time and talent to turn a student off with bad equipment-- however the "lenker.co.nz" sourced unbranded bassoons are as I described above.

I, too expect to have some adjustments and ongoing repairs to do, but if the scale is essentially OK, the tone acceptable, then we are at least getting some (albeit at ongoing cost) actual mileage from these instruments and in many cases are able to persuade a school, (for the first time ever), to invest in a bassoon or even two bassoons! -  It is the "foot in the door" that can then be followed up by requests for stronger, more reliable instruments.

We all know of bad instruments esp in the double reed and woodwind world - but these were usually characterised by poor intonation, lousy tone, poor fitting and fragile keywork, bad plating, rotting timber, etc.

Intonation and tone are critical factors from the start - if these are bad you don't even start making useful players.
The others can make the ride more problematic as time goes by and eventually render an instrument useless. Maybe by then the school can see the benefit of getting longer-lasting reliable instruments.

The world now drives Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean cars, all once thought to be junk. NZ drives on used imports to a large extent!

Keep the observations coming - we may be seeing the next step in affordable instruments - ironically at a time when many western countries (including NZ) are running down music in schools programmes.

Cheers Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

'An interesting reply - do you think (unknowns aside) that the 1/2 day spent would still be value for money?'

I have my doubts - I would rather go for an Amati if you can't run to a Fox, Moosmann or Adler.

What about a Takeda? Anyone got experience of these? (I believe at least one member of this forum plays one) From what I've heard they sound good, intonation is good, materials OK if a bit poorly finished but relatively cheap.

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Update after 1 year.

Had to remove and weaken the spring on the RH little finger F# "extension" key which was far too heavy for the finger operating it (whether child or adult). This was an "out of the box" fault.

Glue used in case for lining and stops appears to be substandard in some cases.

A bocal has been bent slightly.

I spent some time correcting a jammed low B key after apparent mishap causing the axle to bind.

Otherwise the instruments appear to be stil fine for intonation tone etc.

None of these faults (except perhaps the glue and heavy spring), are unique to Chinese bassoons.

Will keep you informed.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Thanks for the update!  I'm pleasantly surprised at your results.  Keep us informed on the progress.  Would you happen to have a recording available where we could hear these instruments?

Scott Pool

"The Ornaments look pretty, but they're pulling down the branches of the tree." - Cake

Re: Chinese Bassoons

NevilleForsythe wrote:

Thanks Nicholas for your comprehensive post (and even more comprehensive remake!).
I hold no illusions about the potential problems but as you noted they have started getting the bore / scale right.  When they catch up (vis a vis Asian car manufacturers) they may truly have a good product.

Even if they do, teachers will still be very reluctant to recommend one.

Granted I'm a young bassoonist, but my experience in shopping for an intrument is that of my own is that even though Moosman seems to produce a good product, they haven't been around long enought to earn the reputation that Heckel (or even Fox) has. Also from what I've been told, Fox had the same problem when they were starting up.

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Re: Chinese Bassoons

I agree with you Christopher.

I currently play on a 1984 Kreul & Moosmann - bought new - which has served me well. From what I hear & the couple of recent ones I've I have tried briefly they have improved over those 23 years.

Ian

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Heartily agree, Christopher.  Moosmann bassoons have a great reputation and I for one would not look any further for a new bassoon.  In fact, I didn't!  If you do your homework, Brutus, you will find Moosmann to be up there with all the great German brands.

Forgot to include Fox in this when talking about "all the great German brands" but you get the idea.

Last edited by NancyDuncan (2007-12-17 14:25:37)

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Re: Chinese Bassoons

Hello All,
I have been a bassoonist since 1968. Im fairly good after all these years.  I play on a Penzulmer Bassoon bought in 1970. And have had it for all these years. I have noticed and watched for the last year reading your writings on China made bassoons. Well I have a son now I started on the bassoon four years ago. I was looking for an insturment for two years that I could afford and maybe have some good tone.
Well you know where I found it? China made the BEIJING DEYONG MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS CO.,LTD , Wisemann brand. He is in high school and those bassoons should be burned that the school has.  He has played this basson all this school year and recieves compliments on the sound and tone not including the looks of the insturment. I even enjoy playing this bassoon.  The bassoon is very tight and holds a vacume very well. I shopped for a bassoon and got what I feel is a high quility school bassoon that will carry him into college.  I like many amature bassoonist can't afford the TOP of the line bassoons.

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Re: Chinese Bassoons

Well more than 3 years on and our 3 Lenker Bassoons are still hanging in there - good mechanical condition, good scale, good tone. One plastic hand rest broke away from its shaft. Some minor adjustments to a heavy spring and occasional minor problems with the upper G micro-tuning mechanism (operates off R4 when ring key is open). That is not uncommon with quite a number of our various models including well-regarded brands.
Maybe we will see some displayed/demonstrated at the IDRS Conference?  See you there!

Regards Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Sounds like these Chinese jobs are improving if you have only had minor tweaks to do in 3 years - it's inevitable with any complex piece of gear whatever the brand.

Yes - see you in Birmingham.

Ian

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Three and a half years on and a first worrying sign of faulty workmanship and/or materials. I have never ever in 40 years of bassoon teaching and playing, seen the metal sleeve of the boot / wing-joint tenon come away from the surrounding wood and emerge several millimetres as the wing is withdrawn. I have not yet consulted with the local woodwind repairer but it looks as if a judicious application of superglue or similar wood-metal adhesive might stop its unwelcome appearance.

Any suggestions, Nicholas Scott Ian or others?

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

Neville..My Fox Model II from 1986 had the same receiver sleeve in the boot joint came loose a couple of times.  Jim Laslie suggested using gasket shellac to fasten it in.  I found some head gasket shellac at a local auto parts supply store..small bottle with a brush attached to the cap.  It worked fine and has lasted several years now without any further problem.  Be careful not to let any get into the bore area, and be sure to wipe off any excess with a damp cloth.  Jim also suggested that epoxy would probably work fine, but I was a little leery and felt more comfortable with using a "natural" product.  I would certainly use epoxy on a plastic instrument, but I've not seen a plastic one with a sleeve in the receiver of the boot. 

Keep up the reports on the Chinese instruments. I recently had a student come in with a brand new one her school bought...it plays OK now, but it is apparent that the metal in the keys is not very strong and I doubt it will stay in adjustment very well.  Additionally some keys seem to be in ergonometrically uncomfortable places to me, for example the hi Eb key impinges on half hole technique of the LH 1st finger.  I will probably bend it down a little eventually, but I'm not sure how pliable the keys are and don't want to snap it off when I move it 1/2 inch or so.  Also there appear to be plastic tone hole inserts in the body of this plastic bassoon.  they are white plastic...I don't know how they'll hold up, or even if they extend into the bore because I haven't had the time to examine them carefully.  In it's defense, it does look like a shiny new bassoon, certainly more appealing to a beginner bassoonist.  The new band director at her school is a low brass player, and apparently doesn't recognize the value of a very fine Polisi bassoon the school bought several years ago.  It really plays well, although it probably needs a good repad and adjustment.

Best to you..

-Frank Watson

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Re: Chinese Bassoons

Thx Frank

What a great idea to use the old head gasket goo - I think I still have a bottle - our NZ brand really was called Gasket Goo and I almost got addicted to the smell of it - I had a 1938 Austin 10 as my first car in the late 60's and had to change so many gaskets I was doing it almost weekly toward the end (of my patience and ownership of the old crock). Next car was a nice newish Austin 1100 - what a difference!

Regards Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Chinese Bassoons

I have tried several Takeda Model 4 bassoons and they are fantastic instruments.  I got 2 from Midwest Musical Imports  upon recommendations from Eric Arbiter, former principal in Houston.  Both were so good  that I  ended up flipping a coin, picking one, and selling my FOX 601.  I am not kidding.  The scale is  incredible, and the voicing is really good as well.  The sound might be more suited to chamber music or a second bassoon part, but I love  this bassoon.  I have had it for 3 years now.  Midwest does a great job of setting these instruments up.

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