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.
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)