Topic: Best bassoon swab?

I've recently acquired a nice bassoon and I am looking to get a new set of swabs.  My questions are: what is the best material for bassoon swabs? and what swabs do folks recommend?

I've done some experiments with silk, microfiber, and cotton swabs and for absorbency cotton is the clear winner.  I've used cotton in the past and have not had any problems with loose fibers or snagging.  So why do so many bassoonists use silk?  What about chamois (which I haven't tried but I would expect to be very absorbent)?

Thanks!

Nancy

"There are 2 means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats" - Albert Schweitzer

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Re: Best bassoon swab?

I have found silk to be much more absorbent than cotton. Maybe I was just using bad cotton swabs...

I have used a Hodge products silk swabs for boot and wing joint for years. They're cheap and do the job. I bought several at one time and in 5 years I'm on swab number 2, with somewhat regular cleanings. I'm not a fan of the suede like microfiber ones, although many people swear by them. I just don't like those or cotton because you have to deal with two different swabs, so the other plus for silk is that you only need one.

Just my preference. Any silk swab that's the right size should be fine for a long time.

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: Best bassoon swab?

I have a new  bassoon as well, and the swaps that came with it are reputed to be 'the best in the world'.  I think not.  To me, a swab must be absorbent and crushable, so that it can easily go through the bore, and press itself against the side of the bore to be able to absorb water effectively.  The best swabs that I have ever seen are chamois swabs that I made myself; they far outperformed any commercially made swabs that I have ever seen.  I had the same bassoon for 31 years, and I would pull my swabs through exactly once after practicing or playing.  In spite of that, I never had a hint of any humidity problems in my horn.
The problem that I see with silk is the fact that it does not actually absorb much water.  Silk is very similar to polyester in that it absorbs less than 3 percent of its weight in water.  Cotton can absorb as much as double its weight.  The all time champion is viscose (Sham-wow, hikers towels) which can absorb something like 9 times it's weight in water, and are quite crushable as well. 
If you decide to make a swab, make sure that you make it as a double pull style, which means that the string that you use (climbing accessory cord:  incredibly strong and abrasion resistant) is long enough that if it gets stuck in the bore, you can pull it back out.  Sew the cord for the entire length that it contacts the swab, and by trial and error, pull it into the bore of the bassoon.  If it jams, stop, pull it out backwards and cut some material off of the sides of the swab.  Try again, and again until it is the right length.  I will be making my own as soon as I visit my Mom, as she still has a sewing machine.  I will be using an old hiking towel to make it, but the weights might be a bit problematic.  Last time, I used a fishing sinker.  I do not want to do that with my new horn, though.  We'll see.

Last edited by Dean (2010-12-23 18:43:19)

Bassoonist Ordinaire, all around nice guy.
If anyone needs a damn fool, I'm your man!

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Re: Best bassoon swab?

I'm having excellent results with the Kölbl fine microfibre swabs "Microfibre De Luxe" (Püchner is providing them with their bassoons), they're pretty absorbent and the right size for my bassoon...
The wing joint has string in both ends though mine never got stuck.

Boot joint swab
Wing joint swab

Federico Sardi
Principal bassoon - Orquesta Filarmónica de Montevideo
Bassoonist - Orquesta Sinfónica del SODRE
Studying with Prof. Ole K. Dahl

Re: Best bassoon swab?

I've been using the Hodge silk swabs for years and years. Tried the cotton. Didn't care for it. I found the moisture tended to stay in the fibers longer (which is yucky). Also used to use the chamois type when I played clarinet.  I find them to be not so fantastic.

Oh, and the swab that I use is perfect for both joints, so I don't have to worry about getting one stuck in the tenor joint or having to unravel and ravel back up two separate swabs.

Congrats on the new bassoon!

You can follow me on Instagram @bbrmusic.

Re: Best bassoon swab?

I've had good results with the Koebl swabs.

David Bell
Alexandria, VA

David Bell
Alexandria, VA
amateur bassoon and contra bassoon

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Re: Best bassoon swab?

I use Moosmann cotton swabs. Does the job very good.

Re: Best bassoon swab?

Well I have used both Moosmann cotton and Koebl swabs which i found very good in work . I have decided to use  both continuously in the future too .

Torrian

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Re: Best bassoon swab?

My technician here in Vancouver says no matter what you use, one swipe is not going to get out all the moisture, and I tend to agree, since both silk and cotton do not absorb water immediately.  I try to solve that problem with a very slow swipe, letting the silk sit in the boot joint while I tend to "papering out" a couple of problem keys.  Mind you, this discussion with the tech was before the widespread use of chamois, so maybe I'm outdated now.  I use Moosmann microfiber for wing joint, silk (with chain weight) for boot joint.  They both seem to absorb better if washed frequently.

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