Topic: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Has anyone had any experience with any method or keywork design that allows for venting of the "short" fingering for C#4? I know of the Weisberg system, which does this automatically, and makes that note as stable as a vented C-natural. But what about on a bassoon without the Weisberg system?

I've been trying to brainstorm an idea for an alternate touch for the D key, to enable venting on this note. Nothing particularly promising has come up yet. Someone else must have thought of this though. I really don't like the sound or technical requirements of the longer C# fingerings.

Try this experiment if you're not sure what I mean though: Play C#4 like the lower octave, but without the whisper key, and use your right hand to hold down the D key. It's a good and appropriate vent for the note and improves it greatly. Just how to do this without massive reorganization of keywork is escaping me.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

You have just given the reason why the fingering for C# just above middle C should be  xxx  0xx F
                                                                                                                                  C#

Or                                                                                                                           xxx xxx F
                                                                                                                                  C#   Bb

The short fingering you mention is listed in the Heckel fingering chart as a PP fingering.  It balks when you play short repeated notes FF and should not be the standard C# fingering on the instrument.  If you need to play PP or flat it is a great fingering.

Bob Williams

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Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Yeah, I like the xxx/oxxF fingering, great for slurs from high A too. Interesting idea though, I bet you could make a simple arc bridge like the one Felix Rauch has from the low Bb key, I assume for low D and Eb. http://www.woodwind.at, it's in the 5th line of photos, not to mention, he makes a really cool LH whisper key mechanism. The bridge would probably need to be above the other keys to avoid clicking against the other key work. You could probably create new high note combinations with combinations with the high A and C# keys, maybe and even better high F fingering? I have always wanted a French whisper key, not only for the obvious uses, but also to use for high B.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

I agree that playing FF on that note isn't good. But it's a technical limitation of fingerings and a critically awkward tone hole for C# that causes this, not an inherent design that C# be played with the fingering you give.

Of course when I have to rearticulate FF on that note I'll use the long fingering because it's better than the alternative, but I don't accept that this fingering system was be design. If it was, we'd play C natural by fingering low F and overblowing the 12th - that matches the tone color of the long C#.

On some bassoons this C# is worse than others. On mine the C# in both octaves is particularly obnoxious unless the reed is so stiff as to render the lowest 4th of the bassoon too sharp and resistant.

However, I will always use the short C# in standard passages because it simply matches the rest of the notes around it better, and logically so, because it's acoustically more similar than inserting one cross-fingered note into a region of the instrument where all the other notes are plain fingerings (overblown octaves).

Edit: I also don't take Heckel's official fingering chart as gospel. Their opinion on the C# in the next octave is very odd in my estimation, as an example.

Last edited by Trent (2014-06-25 14:44:01)

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Sorry, I wasn't clear on my last post, my standard fingering is the short fingering. The long fingering with the C# key on my horn is quite sharp and nasal. I have my students play what they sound best at, here in Spain many bassoonists use the long one. I like to keep an open mind for each situation. If it sounds good, do it, I don't fix it. I still like the Rauch page, you should check it out.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

The Rauch page is interesting. That extended Bb key looks like a slick way to handle the problem of having the alt low C and still be able to do a muted/flattened low D. I also think that whisper lock is really slick.

I'm still not sure how one would put an extension tab on the high D that would be reachable by the thumb when it's depressing the low D and C# keys and not get in the way all the rest of the time. Was thinking a pinky mechanism (would conflict with a pinky whisper) would be plausible but it would be a lot of extra metal and mechanic to the bassoon.

I've come up with a design for a possible automatic mechanism, but it would be far too complicated to be practical (involves multiple reverse springing mechanisms and defeating keys). Might as well get a Weisberg system at that point.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

How about an alternate high D key for the pinky on the other side of the wing? It would entail a new hole, but maybe a simpler mechanism.

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.

Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

That would be simple. A pinky vent hole. based on the higher of the two Weisberg vent positions. But I was hoping for not-quite-so-major surgery. :-) It's a good option.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Bob:
I can see now why you are very firm in your assessment of these fingerings. I just had an opportunity to play a very lovely 601. The kind with black finish and gold hardware, if you get my drift. I believe you play a 601 as well. I hadn't had a chance to play one in some time (most of our Fox bassoons here have been short bore), and it strikes me that the short C# is much weaker on this bassoon than on most of the short bore Fox, or my own Moosmann bassoon. Conversely, the long C# does't bother me nearly as much on this bassoon as it does on my own instrument.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

I have played on the thick wall style  11K Heckels and Fox 601's (for the past 21 years) all of my professional life.  As I stated previously when I got my first Heckel I went to the fingering chart that came with the horn to try to find a C# fingering that would work on the horn and settled on the  XXX OXX F. 
                                                        C#

My previous bassoon was a Schreiber that didn't seem to have the note on the horn!

When I studied with Norman Herzberg he would not let his students use the "short" fingering ever!!   I have used it on occasion when matching pitch with flat oboes or having to play extremely soft on the note. 

When I took my first 11K to Hans Moennig he opened the C# tone hole up and I found I could not comfortably play the note with the above fingering until I closed it back up to its previous dimensions.  As a "flicker" I am opposed to using the "short" fingering because you can't vent the note so that it comes out cleanly in certain situations.   Your thumb is on the C# key so flicking or venting the C key is not an option unless you want to use your right hand.

The fingering I use works very well on all of the Fox bassoons I have tried as long as the C# tone hole is not opened up as it has been on many bassoons over the years.  As far as I know the black and gold 601 you tried (mine is reddish brown and gold!) has not had the C# key opened so it works very well.  I will see the owner of that horn this summer and find out!!

Bob Williams

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Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what Bob and Trent are saying, I gather that it boils down to whether the C# hole has been enlarged or not. The wall thickness evidently isn't that big of a factor, probably because the C# vent hole is such a long chimney to begin with.

I use the long C# fingering (cuz that's what Bob taught me!) on my Moosmann 150AP, and it works reasonably well. The short C# isn't very good at all on my horn. Stuffy and flat. Yeah, the long fingering is a little sharp, but easily voiced down, and it has nice resonance, which is important.

Somebody did a survey recently on the IDRS Forum and on FB, asking bassoonists which fingering for the upper octave C# they use (Trent, was that you?). I was surprised to see how many preferred the short fingering--it might have been in the majority.

Coming from the oboe, I have to say that the C# on the bassoon is the most ridiculous fingering even conceived on a woodwind. On the oboe (and flute), for the equivalent note G# you play G and press the G# spatula with your left hand picky or right index finger (there are two G# keys on the oboe). On the bassoon, of course, in the lower octave you have to mash down three keys with your left thumb. Heckel came up with this hair-brained fingering, of course, as an 'improvement' over the baroque/classical fingering of xxo/xoo. If you play Figaro with this fingering on a classical bassoon (so they tell me), you can go like a bat out of hell. Go figure.

Last edited by C.B. (2014-07-08 06:41:22)

Christopher Brodersen
Maker of Historical Keyboard Instruments
Reviewer/contributor - Fanfare Magazine
Amateur bassoonist, baroque oboist, baroque bassoonist

Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

Bob, I can totally see where you're coming from and respect your rationale. I do prefer the way the longer C# fingerings respond and they're certainly louder, but I just can't get over how different the tone color is. So I stick with the short C#. Again though, this wasn't even the question, as Christopher mentioned, I did an informal survey here and on several Facebook groups about what C#4 fingering you use. He's right, it's about 55/45 for those that use the short fingering versus those that use longer fingerings.

But it returns to my initial question. It seems like even those that prefer the long fingering would be fine with a short C# if you could vent it (and the tone hole were the right size... why is it too small? Is it for tuning on the high A and Bb? This doesn't make sense to me). The Weisberg system uses the upper vent to "flick" this note. The closest we have normally is the D key, which does much better than the C key for flicking/venting this note.

A pinky D key would seem to be the only option. How to tie it into the mechanism is a bit of a trick, of course.

I totally agree with Christopher that the whole concept of how we play C# on the bassoon is just wacky. The tone hole is incorrect, the key is in the wrong place ergonomically compared to every other conceived woodwind.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

I spoke to my noted bassoon repair friend Keith Bowen in Seattle last week about bassoon tone hole placement and he stated that if we put the tone holes on a bassoon where they need to be we would all be playing saxophone!!!

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Re: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

I happened to check my Heckel fingering chart and it appears they may have changed things compared to a previous chart, if yours is maybe older. This chart (from the last 5 years) lists the short fingering first, the longer fingering second, with no textual notations as to the use of either. There are three fingerings for E-flat, with textual notations on when to use them, so it's not like they stripped that entirely out of the chart.

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: "Flicking" or "venting" overblown C#?

I have been reading old journals of the double reed from the beginning and I am up to 2004. I was inspired by the Allard tribute articles to get my old Allard scale book out again. In working on the chromatic scales at the back of the book, that C# you refer to  is a challenge when slurring large intervals downward .  I tried all of the above mentioned fingerings and found the most consistent (100%), was not the long fingerings ( with or without the C# key, they all occasionally squeak from high A or high Bb for me, especially bad is my usual short  only left hand fingering. I often use the long, no C# key fingering and that is the second best). I actually found that using the right hand C# trill key ( instead of the LH C# key), coming off the thumb A key+ C# key combination notes (high a and Bb), was more stable, with the low D key as recommended by Chip Owen. There are a few modern concertos with those leaps and the fingering works quite well, even with my displaced C# trill key (RH2), because of the Eb trill key. Perhaps that can eliminate a need for a C# flick, it's quite stable on my Heckel. This is a pretty jumbled post, but I hope it makes sense.
-Steve

Principal bassoonist, Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia, A Coruña, Spain. Bassoonist, bassoon dad, bassoon husband, bassoon uncle, bassoon brother and bassoon son.