Topic: Flick Keys

I was just curious, and decided to post around:

How many people flick the A4, B4, C4, and D4?
Do you know of people who hold the key down for the duration of the note, or people who don't use the flick keys?

My bassoon teacher and I hold the keys down, I find that the note is a bit more even, and for my instrument, has better intonation.
I know that at least one (of two) student at the high school next door doesn't use the flick keys at all.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these three methods?

My bassoon sig tongue
http://www.freewebs.com/thi13een/Arcanius_BassoonB%20copy.jpg

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Re: Flick Keys

Here is some info on flicking.  http://www.womblewilliams.com/bassoon.flicking.php  Bob Williams wrote another article for the IDRS but I couldn't find it at the moment. 

Most professionals flick I believe.  It is a must for some slurs to those notes you mention, but it also gives a cleaner articulation.  Yes, there are many high school students who do not flick, either because they haven't learned yet or because they don't want to take the time to learn.  Some hold the flick keys down for the duration of the note, while others use the key only on the start of the note especially if the pitch or tone is poor with the flick key.  Have you seen this?  http://www.futurebassoon.com/system.html

Last edited by Kent Moore (2008-12-11 16:57:44)

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

Re: Flick Keys

Another interesting article.  http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:U21-Y8oJe9oJ:www.idrs.org/publications/DR/DR21.2/21st.pdf+idrs+venting&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us&client=firefox-a

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

Re: Flick Keys

And another:
http://idrs.org/Publications/DR/DR18.3.pdf/DR18.3/53_spkr.pdf

Years of Innocence, Ignorance, Neglect and Denial: The Importance of Speaker Key Use on the Bassoon
By Norman Herzberg

Associate Professor of Bassoon, University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Principal Bassoon, Winston-Salem Symphony
Bassoon, Zéphyros Winds
Associate Editor, IDRS.org

Re: Flick Keys

One aspect of the flicking issue that is not often mentioned is the variability of reeds and instruments. I have noticed that on some reeds on my instrument flicking is not AS (my emphasis) necessary as on others. Further, some instruments demand more rigorous and accurate flicking technique than others. Put another way, some reeds and some instruments are "more forgiving" or allow more latitude on the need to flick.

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

Re: Flick Keys

When I studied with Mordecai Rechtman, much of my lesson time was spent just articulating an A without flicking to see what was necessary with tongue, air, support, etc. to play the note without a crack.

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

Re: Flick Keys

The Germans flick but the Austrians usually hold the flick keys down for the duration of the note. I have to add that many Austrian bassoons were using the whisper lock almost always when they were playing. Some British players also play with the flick keys down all the time too. I believe that you need to use the keys always but what is important is what it SOUNDS like. I've heard people who supposedly flick crack consistently in that register anyway....go figure !!! (By the way I know this as I did study in Vienna for two summers in the 80's so I come by this honestly...I worked with Turkovic and Walter Sallagar)

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Re: Flick Keys

Arcanius, I mainly depress and I sometimes flick, depending on the note in question and the needs of the music at hand.

What are the advantages and disadvantages? The big advantage of using the speaker keys, whether flicking or depressing: clarity of attack of mid-range notes. There are other advantages, including improved security in slurs that involve the mid-range notes. The disadvantage: more work to integrate the use of your left thumb into your technique.

The "advantage" of not using the speaker keys: less work for the left thumb. The big disadvantage: a propensity to crack mid-range notes.

I have taken a few bassoon lessons with Arlen Fast, who studied with Herzberg. He opened my ears to the importance of clarity of attack of notes, and helped me develop my left thumb technique. It has made a substantial improvement in my playing.

What is the importance of clarity of attack? I recommend that you listen to as many recordings of the Mozart Bassoon concerto as you can get hold of. Buy them, borrow them, sign them out of your public library. You will find several examples of playing by people who do not flick or depress the speaker keys. It will be immediately apparent. I won't name names. Enjoy the research!

Someone else mentioned the Weisberg system. Acoustically it is amazing. Notes no longer crack, with no need for use of the speaker keys. Slurs work much better. Mid-range notes are more stable and are in better tune. The problem with it, IMHO, is that it's not yet a mature key system. [Edit: the last time I played one was a couple years ago. I do not know what improvements may have been made since then.]

Last edited by William Safford (2008-12-13 07:42:01)

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Re: Flick Keys

I remain an advocate and practitioner of using the register keys (I avoid the term flick as it implies approval of that technique) for all critical situations, where approaching or holding octave notes produce inferior attack or croaking. The main decider is whether or not I can guarantee 100% clean playing. I do find that some reeds are a little unstable with Bb when the (2nd) register key is held open - the 1st register key normally for A can offer stability here.

My Puchner has a simple linkage that closes the bocal key when the 1st register key opens. It is fixed and cannot be disengaged but only rarely do I find it compromises another situation.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Flick Keys

I agree with several previous posters that using the register keys depends much on the reed you're blowing on that particular day.  I find reeds the most variable of all the factors in making clean-sounding notes, whether it's the register keys, using the LH pinky keys on certain notes, using the "long" D fingering, or any number of other fingering problems.

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Re: Flick Keys

I agree totally with Chris - my comment re my unstable Bb is more of a comment on the additional choices within the use of register keys. (generally the first register key for A, but if going no further than Bb then that too; the second register key for Bb B C.
Having said that I would be a little less dogmatic when fast moving passages obviously do no allow sitting on a note long enough for a crack to occur.

Neville

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Flick Keys

I am a North American "venter."  I learned this from a household name in bassoondom and I've never backed away from it.  A long time ago I worked, hard, on the Allard scale book with him and he was adamant that the way to finger these pitches was with the "flick" key held down.

Since then I've had the privilege to work extensively with a couple of students of and, ultimately, with Mr. Herzberg (a key proponent of the "flicking" approach to bassoon fingerings).  These hours into days into weeks (I remember Mr. Herzberg's leather couch all-too-well from spending many nights on it) further solidified my technical approach...he didn't "vent" the notes but he always insisted flicking (as did his students).  [incidentally, he _never_ complained about my "venting," indeed, no teacher or coach I've ever had has, including those of the schools in which "flicking" is a four-letter-word]

Who vents and who flicks in what country is interesting to me and I could elaborate a lot but I won't except to say one thing in light of Mr. Brodersen's post and its highlight with regards to worrying about whether a given pitch will crack or not depending upon the reed:  One of the main reason's I "vent" instead of "flick" is that I don't ever want to think about a change in technique at all.  For instance, if one practices a passage by dutifully flicking, and then the conductor says "let's have all the woodwinds slur this passage," then I'm probably OK.  BUT, if the opposite occurs, "let's have all the woodwinds articulate this passage," then I'm going to have to change my technique.  Sure, I've practiced it both ways, but I'm still going to have to think about a change.

By simply adopting the so-called "flick" keys as the primary fingering and "venting" the note I avoid all of that.  Does it hamper technique?  No.  Period.  Practice makes perfect, as they say.  I own a great Heckel with right hand and "French" whisper keys that I used for almost a decade with this technique - this makes it quite easy to have the whisper key down regardless of key/interval - I have a Milde Scales book full of notes on these keys for my students.  BUT, I also now own a superb instrument with nothing but a left hand whisper lock.  There are only three (perhaps four, but the last one is open to debate) pitches in the entire bassoon range that don't like a closed whisper key on articulation - if one "vents" the standard "flick" pitches.  Over the months of playing on this new instrument I've realized that most of my work can be done with just a closed whisper key lock and my normal venting.  What a freedom this is!  I never worry about cracking and I've just re-learned my scales and standard passages with some on and off of the lock.  Very simple.  I can play just about anything and never have to think about a change in articulation from the podium or first oboe and I have basically eliminated a huge variable in my thought processes regarding finger technique.

Not coincidentally, many of the German fingering charts (including both the old and new Heckel charts that I've got) indicate the "venting" procedure as standard.  I've both seen and played next to fantastic players from Europe that use this same technique.  I feel at home with it and encourage others to give it an ardent try. 

Matthew Harvell
Richmond Symphony Orchestra

PS.  Lest anyone complain that this technique changes the timbre or pitch of a given note, I simply say that a few minutes or hours of sensitive practice will adapt both the air column and embouchure to this so that it is completely not noticed.  Reeds, eventually, may change a few hundreds of a MM here or there, as well.  It is totally do-able and almost without thought.  I'd rather think about the music than my fingerings or reeds and I think this technique goes a long way, for me at least, toward that.

Christopher Brodersen wrote:

No offense to the other posters here, but I find the concept of deciding 'to flick or not to flick' based on the response of the reed (or the bocal, or the instrument) a bit silly and counter-productive.

As my friend Bob Williams wrote in his Double Reed article several years ago, "why play Russian roulette with some notes and not with others?" You should embrace the concept of flicking, and then do it consistently.

You aren't doing your technique or yourself any favors by switching the flicking 'on and off'. I don't know about you, but I'm not good enough to decide, in a split second, whether that A or Bb in the next measure is going to crack or not. I flick for safety's sake, and if the 'unflicked' response of the reed is such that the note would have come out cleanly, so much the better.

For me, it's the difference between being a consistent, reliable, musical bassoonist, and one who just 'gets by'. I'd much rather be the former.

Last edited by harvellm (2008-12-15 23:30:14)

Re: Flick Keys

Christopher,

I suspect flicking was in the US before Hertzberg, as my primary teacher, who started with Pezzi and then was a contemporary of Herzberg with Kovar, had us flicking from the get-go...

David Bell
Alexandria, VA

David Bell
Alexandria, VA
amateur bassoon and contra bassoon

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Re: Flick Keys

I've always thought of flicking as a way to start notes, and thats how it was first taught to me,

Since i've started studying at the conservatory here, the tutors refer to it as "venting" which i believe is a better approach to the situation, I Play a 240D and he plays some kind of Glorious sounding Puchner..

the way we "vent" is either half pushing down the vent keys, or wholly pushing down depending on the situation and reed status.

Any opinions?

" Mozart tells us what it's like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it's like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it's like to be the universe." - D. Adams.

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Re: Flick Keys

I think the terms flicking and venting are interchangeable for most people but some do refer to flicking when you hit the key and then release it while venting is holding the key down for the duration of the note.

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

Re: Flick Keys

NevilleForsythe wrote:

I do find that some reeds are a little unstable with Bb when the (2nd) register key is held open - the 1st register key normally for A can offer stability here.

Neville

When playing a Bb using the 2nd register key, try closing the whisper key. That might improve the note's stability.

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