Topic: Low G on bassoons

Does anyone have a tendency to crack when tonguing this note? Mine cracks fast, slow, soft and loud; however, the notes around it do not have this tendency. I've had this happen on multiple instruments.



Re: Low G on bassoons

Yeah. That's "one of those notes" that often give us trouble. Usually the problem is when you have to hit it fairly strongly directly after coming from pitches substantially (a 5th or more) higher, a too tight embouchure makes that note splatter. Like most things, the responsiveness of the reed in the lower register and the proper embouchure preparation are the keys to success.

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: Low G on bassoons

Take care with the application of fingers cleanly and together - no late arrivals. Soften the embouchure but you should be able to give it a solid blow if fff is required.
Also remember that upper E is nearly fingered the same way - don't play too far down the reed towards the wire.

All notes from the lowest octave or so, require the soft embouchure with no bite - that's why we bassoonists have that busy jaw action - we are releasing the bite just as the note begins - just float the lips with no positive teeth contact - for these notes the pressure is so light you almost get air leaking from the lips. Indeed some players allow this, although, for aesthetic reasons, my preference is to keep the air pressure just below that escape point.

Experiment and repeat the actions till you have worked out all the parameters, in balance, to give a rich woody tone. Watch the note ends that they don't fall in pitch - that requires a last moment application of bite as the air pressure drops away - always maintain good pitch.

Start with tapering long notes (say 8 seconds) and reduce their length progressively by half till you are making staccato notes. 2 whole notes tied, 1 whole note, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16.

(Try to have the windpipe open at the end of notes - this will give a resonance noticeably absent when a player makes a glottal stop).

It is a skill that requires patience and perseverance but gives amazing returns.

Regards Neville

P.S. I am sometimes bemused at my occasional student who does not realise that a "long note" may well need to be several seconds in duration in order for the note to establish and maintain with a constancy; and for the player to have time to analyse what is going on, in all the different parameters. Long notes are our most valuable tool of exploration of tone, intonation, control etc.

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor