Topic: Sticky bocal

I have this bocal that I really like, and use a lot for my jazz/electric playing.  It's an unplated brass bocal made by Guntram Wolf.  I used this a lot with my Wolf bassoon and had this issue where the whisper key would stick to the vent nub on the bocal.  I always thought it was the pad on that bassoon.  For the last 5 years I've been using a Moosmann bocal with my Moosmann bassoon, but started using this Wolf bocal for my jazz playing like I said, and found that it's started to stick again.  So this leads me to think that it's the bocal and not the pad, since it's a different bassoon.

The pad does need to be replaced as it's showing some wear, but it seems like the bocal causes this issue.  Is there a reason that this might be happening?  Might moisture be getting through the whisper hole/nub?  The bocal recently saw some maintenance from Marvin Krantz, and he cleaned the thing so that it looked like a gold plated bocal, so I don't think it's an issue with the outside of the bocal... might there be debris in the nub that causes moisture?  Any other likely causes to this?

I have other whisper key related issues that need to be resolved, but this is one that is bugging me...  Cigarette paper seems to be a temporary solution, but I don't have this issue with other bocals that I've noticed.

Any pointers are welcome.

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: Sticky bocal

Hmm!
I play Wolf/Gurundmann T10 and have never had this problem.
Is the hole clean? Having cleaned my bocal I sometimes forget to clean it.
What about the diameter of the hole? A larger hole (0.9-1mm.) should be easier to clean/dry, and the attack in the middle register when the whisper key is open is more stabile.
Do you have any problems with moisture in the tone holes in the wing? After all the bocal is leaned to the left and the nipple is on the right side.

I'll keep thinking.

- Hubbe

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Re: Sticky bocal

Trent, As we play a tiny, but steady stream of air comes out of the bocal vent hole when it is open. I suspect the air stream is depositing a film of sticky stuff on the pad. So, clean the bocal and then the vent (a small feather but nothing metal), then clean the pad with alcohol. Best wishes, crw

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

Re: Sticky bocal

ChrisW wrote:

Trent, As we play a tiny, but steady stream of air comes out of the bocal vent hole when it is open. I suspect the air stream is depositing a film of sticky stuff on the pad. So, clean the bocal and then the vent (a small feather but nothing metal), then clean the pad with alcohol. Best wishes, crw

Trent, you must have sticky breath!  smile
Nancy

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Re: Sticky bocal

Hi Trent:

One thing that I have noticed with the bassoon pads in the last couple years is their tendency to stick. The majority of the pads being used are a line called Mypads drom the Pisoni company. There are 2 types ones that are bright white with maroon ariting on the cardboard backing, which is what most technicians seem to be using, and the buish grey colored ones with green writing on the cardboard backing which are the supposed waterproof pads. I found that almost all of the manufacturers of bassoons are using the waterproffed ones. These unfortunately seem to have the greatest tendency to stick due to the silicone film thats over the leather.  The best thing to do to keep it from sticking is to clean the pad with a sparing amount of alcohol, then "dust" the pad with an application of baby powder.

        The availability of good quality pads has actually become a real problem. his something that has been complained about by not only myself but 3 other well respected bassoon technicians. Years ago the pads used to be covered with a very thick leather that had been cured approriately for use as bassoon pads, and assembled with a slightly thinner felt. These were fabulous pads as they wer quieter, lasted longer, and were easier to work with in Heckel bassoons as Heckels have an exceptionally shallow pad cup. The current ones, have a much firmer, thicker felt, and thinner leather that has several different coatings on it. The different coatings attract dirt, particles, and get very dirty quite fast, furthermore they dont last nearly as long due to the thinner felt. This is mainly why the cost of repadding a Heckel is more expensive. You literally almost have to make the pads from scratch so they will fit well in the Heckel style padcups.  So no your not paying more because of the brand name, your paying more because theres about 2 more hours of labor involved in making a set of pads for a Heckel bassoon, and I personally dont like taking the extra time to make them, but it has to be done.

         I am currently working on getting pads with the exact specificationst that the consensus of the other techs, and myself need. I am very optimistic on this project as it will reduce the time, costs, and even moreso the frustrations with the current pads on the market, they just simply arent cutting it.

         Hope this helps. If you have any further questions or concerns, let me know.

                                                                     Best Regards,
                                                                         Chad

Taylor Bassoon Services
723 Steamboat Ct
Ottawa, IL 61350
PH-815-343-2492

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Re: Sticky bocal

As far as I know this is the original pad on the whisper key.  The instrument is about 7 years old now.  It's a Moosmann, and I was under the impression his pro horns used either cork or leather pads.  It does need replacing anyway, I've noticed it showing some wear.  The whole horn needs a good cleaning.

I gave the bocal a good water pass through, including blowing a bocal full of water out the bocal vent.  I swabbed it out when I was done, but I don't have anything that will fit in the bocal vent to wipe it out; it's simply too small.

As for the water issue posted by Hubbe: I almost never have water issues down the front side of the instrument where the open tone holes are.  I do often get water on the D, C and A keys though, sometimes pretty bad, but it's not usually anything a little cigarette paper won't take care of.

We'll see if my cleaning process made any difference.  I would have assumed it would have a clean vent hole coming out of Marvin's shop, but who knows - it might have been and just coincidentally my whisper key pad was getting nasty enough to be sticky just as I started using this bocal again.

Thanks for the replies everyone!

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: Sticky bocal

Hiya Trent. You mention clearing water from your D, C, and A keys, and I assume you mean the speaker / octave keys? I've found something that helps is every time I disassemble my bassoon, I place a size "0" rubber stopper into my bocal receiver (you may need a size "00" or "1" depending on the size of your receiver), turn the wing joint around, cover the finger holes, and then suck air through he bottom bore, alternately opening the speaker keys a few times to create a vacuum action. Then run your swab through and voila, moisture-free speaker key vents! I do this during intermissions and even long rests, too. Much more effective, and cheaper, than cigarette paper. I learned this trick from Laine Bryce, but I don't know if she thought of it herself. I've never seen another bassoonist do it! My best, Thom

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Re: Sticky bocal

I have no idea to the issue on this but an EXTREMELY famous saxophone repair technician has a website that talks about cleaning saxophone necks and bassoon bocals. I no idea to why it would happen but I can tell you it has to be one of two things:


1. The inside has some sort of residue. Simple as that (I'll get into cleaning).
2. The whisper key bocal hole (don't know what it's called, I'm reffering to the very small hole on the bocal) is damaged in some way (cosmetically but it affects the grip) On a saxophone tone hole sometimes the metal wears over time and parts become somewhat jagged and nick into the pad just enough to slow down sleep. Possibly this is the issue where your whisper key hole is pricking the pad.


How to Fix This:
1. Easy as pie. Remove the cork on the bocal and stick a solid cork or anything that will seal liquids, into the smaller end of the bocal. Fill the other end of the bocal with boiling water for 30 minutes. No it will not do any harm, only good, but be wearing gloves while you pour the water because the bocal will get hot FAST. After it has had the boiled water for 30 minutes, any bacteria, disgusting residue (liquid or solid), and calcium deposits (big no, no. calcium deposits usually only develop when the bocal is not regularly swabbed and the deposits have to be cleaned using the process not by simply cleaning. The calcium can completely ruin the sound of the bocal unless cleaned) have died and/or lost bondage with the inside of the bocal. When you pour the water out you will see the residue poured out. Next step, boil a mild vinegar (it will stink but bioled vinegar is best. Non-boiled works too though) and go through the same process as with the water. The vinegar is stronger and will definitely remove any left over layers of gunk. The water gets off most of the basic coating which allows the vinegar to be most effective. I recommend you do this and I've tested this and people who work in big shops do this. I'm not guessing here. This stuff can only do good, and I recommend it at least once every 6 months no matter how the bocal plays. It always is better after the cleaning is done. After it has been cleaned swab the bocal out to remove the moisture.


2. I recommend you take this step to a tech but it should be apparent so I would guess this isn't your problem. Who knows.

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Re: Sticky bocal

ceolmoore wrote:

Hiya Trent. You mention clearing water from your D, C, and A keys, and I assume you mean the speaker / octave keys? I've found something that helps is every time I disassemble my bassoon, I place a size "0" rubber stopper into my bocal receiver (you may need a size "00" or "1" depending on the size of your receiver), turn the wing joint around, cover the finger holes, and then suck air through he bottom bore, alternately opening the speaker keys a few times to create a vacuum action. Then run your swab through and voila, moisture-free speaker key vents! I do this during intermissions and even long rests, too. Much more effective, and cheaper, than cigarette paper. I learned this trick from Laine Bryce, but I don't know if she thought of it herself. I've never seen another bassoonist do it! My best, Thom

I do this after almost every playing session, although not with the rubber stopper, I just figured out a way to do it with my fingers.  I always swab, but I don't always do the sucking thing.  If I've noticed any moisture in those keys during the playing session I do it.  After seeing so many players do something like this but blowing the moisture out I thought, "that seems counter-productive, I want moisture away from my keys, not blown at them!"  So I started sucking the moisture in.  You can't do that when you only have 8 bars of rest though.  smile

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: Sticky bocal

You mean you take your wing joint right off in session?  I think I would have to have 98 bars rest in order to be able to do that............How do you get your wing joint off without taking the others off first?  (I know you have a Moosmann, same as me, Trent)

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Re: Sticky bocal

NancyDuncan wrote:

You mean you take your wing joint right off in session?  I think I would have to have 98 bars rest in order to be able to do that............How do you get your wing joint off without taking the others off first?  (I know you have a Moosmann, same as me, Trent)

my teacher had to take off the long joint with the bell still connected as part of a song because there is a bassoon artificial didgeridoo part. basically you blow into the long joint like you would a tuba and it works big_smile i've done it

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Re: Sticky bocal

Taking the long joint out is easy enough, but taking just the wing joint out and swabbing it without a third and fourth hand is quite tricky.

By the way, the didgeridoo thing has two pitches, the fundamental is Ab, the overblown is a 10th above that (sounds like a higher pitched boat horn).

(edited to fix glaring mistake)

Last edited by Trent (2009-09-05 21:34:25)

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: Sticky bocal

Yes, but I don't think I could take my wing joint off without taking the long joint off first - too hard to do while in session, I should think.  Wouldn't you think?  Or maybe you can just pull yours off straight without twisting?

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Re: Sticky bocal

I certainly can't.  I don't think Thom was suggesting this anyway.

What you can do while you're instrument is still together is this:  Plug the bell with a rubber stopper.  Take your horn to a hardware store to find one that fits.  Mine is marked "9 1/2" on the top... maybe that's mm?  Anyway, Plug the bell.  Finger low Bb and suck in (no reed makes this work better).  You can take your left thumb off the keys and the pads will stay down as long as your instrument is sealing properly anyway.  You can then touch the speaker keys briefly to suck in moisture from them.

Don't forget to take out the plug!  I had left mine in before playing a concerto and was reminded, literally seconds before STARTING the piece by the front row that the plug was still in the bell.  Right in front of the audience and everything.  Slightly embarrassing.

Last edited by Trent (2009-09-05 16:38:32)

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: Sticky bocal

Trent wrote:

Taking the long joint out is easy enough, but taking just the long joint out and swabbing it without a third and fourth hand is quite tricky.

By the way, the didgeridoo thing has two pitches, the fundamental is Ab, the overblown is a 10th above that (sounds like a higher pitched boat horn).

Hi Trent,
   I may be misreading this but there is absolutely no reason to swab the long joint of a bassoon. To keep the inside of your bocal and the pip clean, just run a stream of hot water through it in the bathtub every few months. No need for any bocal swab (I hate those things) or bocal brush.(hate those also) I wouldn't use anything that can dry sticky to clean out the bocal. It seems to me that vinegar will become sticky if not cleaned out completely.
Jim Kirker

www.kirkerbassoonrepair.com

Re: Sticky bocal

Sorry, mistyped.  Should have read:

Taking the long joint out is easy enough, but taking just the wing joint out and swabbing it without a third and fourth hand is quite tricky.

It happens when you post to three or four different boards at once.  Brain didn't communicate with Hands very well there.

Last edited by Trent (2009-09-05 21:33:54)

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: Sticky bocal

I'm curious if you ever found a solution to your sticky bocal. I recently acquired a new Heckel unplated brass bocal and have the same problem. My bassoon was just overhauled with all new pads last December and I don't have this problem with my other bocals (Fox and/or Heckel). Any suggestions?

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Re: Sticky bocal

It sounds like a reaction between the bare brass & the pad. This happens often on saxes. I put Prstini kangaroo skin pads on the octave keys on my bari sax & the problem went away for far longer than with the leather Pisoni pads used by the maker. I sometimes use synthetic pads (from Kraus) on the whisper key with good results.

Re: Sticky bocal

Myztique,

Sorry I guess this isn't terribly relevant to me these days, since I haven't used that bocal regularly for at least two years now. When this comes up more frequently now I just use some powdered cigarette paper (get talc powder on the pad) and the problem goes away.

Using a synthetic pad as Ian suggests is a good option though.

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: Sticky bocal

Yes, great Ian. I put Valentino pads on my kids horns (whisper keys), after they ripped off their leather ones and yes, as you say, they have the added benefit of not sticking.

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