Topic: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

I am.

Well, I don't think I'm hideous exactly, but I am a tall, tall guy.

Having just finished my first round of college auditions (WHOO CINCINNATI!), I was a little concerned with some critiques I received about my posture. Now, I know it's only natural for a young player to have some problems in this area, but I have honestly tried to improve, and to no avail. My problem is that i tend to lower my head slightly and twist my neck a little to "get under" my reed. Naturally I tried playing with my bassoon higher, but this brought up issues in finger technique and general comfort. I can play just fine, but I notice more and more that I have rather tense shoulders and these heinous knots in my neck. sad

Reading through Vonk's "A Bundle of Joy"--great little book!--I came across a segment on bocal shapes for taller guys. I'm no Waterhouse, but I think my case could be one to benefit from a higher reaching tip.

Can anyone vouch for this? I'd love to hear more about these unique bocal bends, too!


Thanks in advance =]

Felipe Morales-Torres

Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
BM Bassoon

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Felipe, Also consider sitting on a chair with a higher than normal chair seat in order to allow your legs to be more comfortable. A good test for that is to place a couple of flat boards under the chair legs to find the correct height.

Tall players can find comfort in using a bassoon spike or 'Dutch' leg rest in place of a seat strap. There are a number on the market now. Best wishes, Christopher Weait

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

Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

I had some similar problems, and I fixed them by pulling my bassoon up.  I sit on as tall a chair as I can find, and I put my bassoon all the way up to the top of the chair so that the boot is level with my legs (almost) and the bocal reaches my mouth.  Something you could try is bending your bocal up, or changing the angle of your reed.  That might give you more length.  As far as your fingers are concerned, try lowering your hands to a more relaxed position over the bassoon.  Make the LH ring finger bend more so that as you lift it it's closer to the keys.  This will probably help reduce the knots...  It's kind of tough to explain.  If I'm saying something wrong, please correct me...

Does anybody know if I could try one of those bassoon spikes or leg rests at the IDRS Conference?

A problem I've had, as my teacher has observed, is that I tend to lean to the left while I play.  Anybody have ideas to help fix that?

Tanner Holst
University Bassoonist
Utah

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Sit comfortably in your chair and always BRING the bassoon to you. Do think about the different bend especially if you are tall. I'm glad I don't have that problem but I have seen many that do. USE A PROPER CHAIR too when you are practising.

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Don't be afraid to experiment with alternate bocal shapes.  I'm fairly short for a guy, but even I find the straighter bends to be a nice, comfortable shape and can find them quite ergonomic, even when standing.

Just do yourself a favor and find bocals that are already bent that way or find someone that knows how much is too much when bending a bocal.  Don't do anything too extreme yourself.

M.M.A., D.M.A. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign: B.Mus. Lawrence University
Bassoon professor at University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire
Maker of the Little-Jake electric bassoon pickup and Weasel bassoon reeds

Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Dear tall players and others with discomfort while playing, The annual IDRS conferences are the very best place to try out spikes, bocals with unusual bends, etc. because the vendors often have them with them. Trent's advice is excellent - try bocals with unusual bends before doing anything to your own bocal and have a skilled person do the re-bending if you decide you need one. Chances are pretty good that there will be someone at the IDRS meeting that can re-bend you bocal for you. Best wishes, Christopher Weait

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

Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Thanks everyone!

As you might imagine, I've experimented with endless sitting positions. I find that if I pull my bassoon higher it helps my posture, but my hands become a pair of awkward Nancies, and eventually my bassoon will end up back where it started. (This could be a seat-strap issue, though.) Standing up has always been a bit of an issue for me--I've been called a pretzel in several instances--but I'm glad to see that some of you have found comfort in a straighter bend. My only concern ever was that a different bend would affect my tone, but from what I understand, the only significant change is in resistance.

And as for the convention, I only wish I could go this summer! I have some catch-up to play if I don't want to embarrass myself in Winstead's studio next fall =P

Felipe Morales-Torres

Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
BM Bassoon

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Think positive young man. If you are aware of the problem you WILL eventually deal with it.

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

I am actually an extroardinarily optimistic person! I just tend to get a little sarcastic =P

Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
BM Bassoon

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

It doesn't affect your performance in playing bassoon even if you are a tall. You must have to require a comfortable chair. So it would be better to have a proper chair while you are practicing.

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

I'm no Ogre, but I'm a decent 6"2' and I've found that changing to an "english bend' heckel bocal has helped with posture, in addition to using superior chairs and hitting the gym to strengthen my back muscles (which improves posture overall).

Hope something Helps.

Sincerely,
Matt.

" 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: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

"Think positive young man. If you are aware of the problem you WILL eventually deal with it."

I agree with this, always think positive and you can deal your problems easily.  God is always there to guide us.

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Re: Are you an ogre bassoonist?

Regardless of a player's height, the posture principle is always the same: Sit comfortably in your chair, with whatever length of leg you need to allow your feet to rest flat on the floor. Once in playing posture, BRING THE INSTRUMENT TO YOU, not the oppposite. Shoulders should be relaxed, not bunched up under your ears; in this position your hands should fall naturally on the keys, with elbows held somewhat away from you rbody, not squeezxed to your ribs.

Modifying chair height and/or bocal shape may help, but the first requjirement is to sit in proper posture. Head should be above the neck and shoulders, not pushed forward or drawn back into a "military" posture. Muscles should in general be relaxed, ready to be used to hold and play the instrument.

Hope this helps -- watch for an anticle on this in an upcoming Double Reed.

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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