Topic: Metal tone inserts

Hello,

I realised I probably posted this on the wrong section of the forum previously, so here it is again:

Can someone give me their ideas/opinions on having metal tone inserts on the bassoon please?  Specifically do instruments that have metal inserts require more air to play compared to instruments with rubber-tone hole inserts?  What are the advantages/disadvantages of metal over the rubber-tone hole tubes?  Do they alter the sound?
Thanks!

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Re: Metal tone inserts

They will be a different sound than rubber, but it's hard to quantify exactly in what way. If you want to compare with "all other things being equal" the Puchner model 5000 will normally come with metal tubes, but the model 4000 will have rubber tubes. Same bore, wood, everything else (some keys different) so you can maybe see how they will play differently.

That said, it is easier and more common now to see metal tubes.

I don't think tubes of any nature will change the inherent resistance of an instrument. If they are done badly they can alter the sound and intonation and feeling of the instrument in a negative way, but if they are done well they can improve all facets of the instrument. It depends on who does the work!

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: Metal tone inserts

Tubes help in two ways.  They help keep moisture from getting into the tone holes to help prevent unintended changes in the pitch of the notes while playing from water bubbles and I feel more importantly they keep water from getting into the wood of the tone hole.   This will cause the tone holes over time to swell and cause the pitch and resonance of the various notes to get flat and stuffy.  It can also lead to liner separation in sever cases.

Plastic inserts can break and sometimes do not go into the bore, thus giving you only one of the benefits from above.  Heckel inserts are made from sterling silver, a difficult metal to machine compared to the nickel silver tubes that Fox uses.  Fox has started using silver tubes on an "on demand" basis.  The cost is significantly more expensive then nickel silver but silver seems to be a bit better acoustically ( I don't know why) and does not wear as quickly as nickel silver.  Last year I had my two 601's switched out to silver tubes at the factory and am very happy with the results.  One of the reasons I had this done was that some of my tubes were too short because as I played on the new horns the wood swelled from moisture and drew the tubes out of the bore.  I know Keith Bowen and Ken Potsic both prefer silver and make their own tubes.

Bob Williams

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Re: Metal tone inserts

Thank you Trent and Bob so much!  They are both really helpful and insightful replies and really answer my questions well.  Sounds like metal is a positive.  Many thanks again for taking the time to reply!

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Re: Metal tone inserts

In discussing the relative merits of metal vs. plastic, it seems to me that both Bob and Trent have overlooked one basic difference. If a bassoon is fitted with plastic/rubber tone hole inserts--as is common, I believe, in Europe--then that material will wear more quickly each time a swab is pulled through--relatively speaking, of course. The metal, whether sterling silver or nickel silver, will have a better chance of standing up to the abrasive action of the swab.

I'm sure there are bassoon techs who can speak to this more authoritatively than I can, but I imagine that after a goodly amount of time the portion of the rubber insert that projects inside the bore will get rounded over and shortened--or in extreme cases broken off, as Bob mentions--which has to affect the acoustics of the note in question.

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

Re: Metal tone inserts

If you want to get into the nitty gritty of how long a water tube will last, my guess is that plastic (nobody uses this, it's usually rubber) will last "long enough" under most common use. Your metal U-tube probably has a large number of tiny dents in it caused by your swab as well, so it's not like metal is a cure-all.

Honestly, I can't think of any plastic water tube made bassoons that would be old enough to show enough wear to be of concern. But ultimately the only higher end instruments you'll find where it's even worth discussion won't use plastic inserts anyway (plastic tone hole liners? yes, maybe)

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