Brand new bassoons from most of the manufacturers you could reasonably find two of the same model from at any given time (that is, you'll never have this opportunity with Heckel so they're out of the argument) you are probably not going to find too much variation between two of the identical spec model. There will be some of course, since every piece of wood is different. But modern manufacturing tolerances for the best bassoon manufacturers are INSANE. NASA could learn from Fox when it comes to sizing tolerances.
If I were buying a brand new Puchner or Fox, I would feel comfortable ordering a specific instrument special order with no trial from either of those manufacturers, having a solid idea of what those instruments play like. I have felt greater variation in the Moosmann bassoons, but that may be because the different models have more variable design characteristics and I don't know I've had a chance to play two or three otherwise identical of the same exact model and spec Moosmann side by side before. I have had this opportunity with Puchner and Fox.
The Renard bassoons from Fox are just as consistent in my estimation as the professional instruments. The bocals are a greater source of variety. Other people seem to find great variation between them, but I play multiple Renards every week and don't notice that much of a considerable difference.
I generally find a) the way you play the horn during the first few years and b) how the bassoon is broken in and c) how it inherently changes will change the bassoon much more than the variation between any two instruments brand new. In other words, the way two bassoons play brand new is not indicative of how they will play in three years given exactly the same break-in (which they won't have, of course).
Tangent: The question of how an instrument changes over time is interesting. You often hear of certain professionals having "really amazing" bassoons of whatever ilk. In particular I'm thinking of Michel Bettez that has a Moosmann bassoon from the late 1990's, which is apparently a fantastic instrument. I don't think he selected the instrument, he only ordered it. Likewise with many players with various Heckel bassoons. Is it that these professionals got lucky when they bought a new bassoon? Most of the time they are special custom orders and weren't purchased with any kind of trial between 5 or 6 bassoons for them to buy the best one. But years and years later their bassoon happens to be fantastic. I think it really does have to do with how the player plays the instrument. I once heard of a famous teacher (whom I've forgotten the name of) say that if you want a bassoon that plays in tune, buy a bassoon from a player that plays in tune.
Last edited by Trent (2015-04-24 10:31:50)
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