Topic: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

Hello Everyone!
I need some input:)
I've just had the pleasure of buying a 5K Heckel in beatiful condition.
The pitch in quite flat in general. Believe it or not but I'm working hard now to keep the low register sharp enough. I think I recall having read somewhere that these instruments where constructed for a pitch of 438?
The first thing I've done is to ream the reed more generously than I used to. I've also moved the first wire closer to the collar.
Does anyone else have experience with a situation like this?

Last edited by JBJ Bassoon (2013-10-18 10:49:49)

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Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

I had a student with a 4000 series I think (it has been a while) and she had to use a 0 bocal to get it up to pitch.  It may have even been a 00.  I have also heard of some cutting their bocal to make it shorter but this person knew what they were doing.  I am not encouraging you to do this smile.  But I suppose if after trying lots of bocals you can't find one you like better you might consider speaking with someone who knows what they are doing to see if that is a possibility.  I don't know what would change in the bocal other than the pitch.  It might be a big gamble.

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

Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

Thank you for the input!
You're right going for a shorter bocal is the next logical step for me.
I'm a bit worried though that my middle and high register will become to sharp, when I go for a shorther bocal. Is there anything I can do with my reeds to either lower the pitch of the higher register without affecting the low register so much, or to raise the pitch of the low register without affecting the high register? I'm open for changing tube lenght blade lenght, shape, reaming, gouge, profile ect.. of my reed:)

Last edited by JBJ Bassoon (2013-10-19 04:35:18)

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Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

I had a 5000 Heckel and experienced pitch problems but not always being flat. Do you have tone hole liners in the wing joint and first tone hole in the boot? Jimmy Keyes did a beautiful job for me and it greatly improved the pitch. It may be easier for you to change bocals than reed styles as you say the pitch in general is quite flat. If you are comfortable with your reeds, making drastic changes may be more difficult than just changing bocals.

Best wishes,
Dale Clark

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Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

Yes, I have the liners for the tone holes. The  instrument was fully modernized reccently.
After having played some more today I agree with you, Kent and Dale. I think a shorter bocal is the answer to my problems. When I stop looking at the tuner the balance between the registers is not a problem at all. When I played this instrument for different people during the trial period everyone remarked the exeptional intonation of this instrument.
My problems start when I try to raise the pitch to modern standards.

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Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

There is an earlier thread on this:

http://www.idrs.org/IDRSBBS/viewtopic.php?id=2922

I have played on a 5k Heckel bassoon for several years. At the time this bassoon was built, Heckel made bassoons to the pitches of 440, 435, and in between. As far as I know there is no particular serial number after which the pitch was raised.The bassoon I played on was pitched at 437.5. With the right bocal it was ok to play it at 442. I tried many bocals and chose in the end a flexible CDV1 bocal. I found it worked better than many Heckel 0 bocals I had tried. The instrument had a wonderful tone, that's why I stuck with it for so long, despite its idiosynchrasies.

Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

At that vintage any bassoon will be built at a lower pitch anywhere from 438 and lower possibly, although 440 is not out of the question if it was built for a German or Austrian orchestra. Heckel's methods for bringing the pitch up or down has never been very sophisticated. Even in the 70s and 80s, they would just shorten or lengthen the instrument without making any changes to the distance between the tone holes.

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Re: Pitch on a 5K Heckel

When I tried to find out about how the 5k Heckel bassoons were tuned, I was pointed to the article "The Heckelphone at 100" written by R. Howe and P. Hurd. There's a list of Heckelphones which shows that a substantial fraction was tuned to 440 Hz in the 20ies. I also tested a number of Heckel bassoons from the same time, some were at 440, others lower. So I do think that one can't generally assume that instruments were tuned lower than 440 Hz in the 20ies, although many were. Then there's the question of the temperature at which they tuned in the 20ies...

I found that my old 5k Heckel (@437.5) was ideal for playing 2nd bassoon, but I ended up replacing it with a more modern Heckel that's tuned to 440 Hz.  The modern instrument is more flexible in intonation. For a 5k instrument I would look for a bocal that has that flexibility.

/Bernhard