Topic: Mercury in The Planets

The fast, staccato passage at measure 205 (starting on high G) is just killing me - I haven't been able to figure out how to make this consistently sound clean, partly because my current bocal is much less forgiving of leaving the whisper key off on G/Ab.  Is there a trick fingering that will at least make it easier to transition smoothly between notes?  (The later passage starting on F# is much less awful for some reason.)  Or alternately, what can I do to my reads to make the articulation cleaner (in combination with several hours practicing the standard fingerings with a metronome)?

Last edited by natechols (2017-05-08 17:39:47)

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Re: Mercury in The Planets

What is the specific set of notes giving you the problem? Is it the overall response in that register or is it a particular note that's causing the most problems? Try to identify the very specific cause of the problem and see if even just identifying that can help. And report back with your thoughts, I have some ideas, but I don't know if they will solve the problems you're facing because I'm not entirely sure what the actual problem is.

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: Mercury in The Planets

It's really measure 206 that is the problem - G-Ab-G Ab-Bb-Ab.  I've been having an awfully hard time getting the high G and Ab to articulate cleanly anyway, which of course could be my reeds, my bocal, my embouchure, or my instrument being out of adjustment, but it's especially difficult here because it's difficult to engage the whisper key at the correct times.  I have the right hand whisper key so it ought to be possible at least (the lock is definitely not going to work for the notes below G), but I haven't been able to get the combination of that and the alternating G/Ab fingerings working together at tempo (quarter=132).

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Re: Mercury in The Planets

Honestly, in that passage I'd cheat a bit and think about using an alternate Ab fingering. I can't remember what I did the last time I played it, but you can play Ab with your pinky on the F key like the G, just add the Bb key with the right thumb to bring the pitch back up. It might respond differently. That will help with the right hand technique for the Ab-Bb-Ab bit.

Other thought is that it's not the whisper key that's giving you issues, it's your half hole. Pay careful attention to the half hole and see if you find some solution in that.

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: Mercury in The Planets

I have an Articulated A/G# first finger right hand ring key on my Fox 601 bassoon that lets me play a very good high A and G# using just the F key.  This lets you avoid the cross fingering going from high G to A or Ab to Bb or B or C!  I've had this key on every professional bassoon I have ever owned and it really didn't work well until I had Keith Bowen install the key on an earlier 601 that I had forgotten to order the key on.  Keith used a tube that was much larger (I believe it is the same tube as used in the open F tone hole) then on earlier 601's and on the Heckel bassoons I previously owned.  The A and Ab are in tune or only slightly flatter then the normal fingering using only the G key.  I played on a recent Heckel with the key factory installed the it was still very flat.  In the Fox lineup of bassoons this key is only available on their professional bassoons and it is a very useful key for fast passages in the upper register.  This fingering is also useful for slurring down to the Eb below without getting the "wolf" tone that happens with normal fingerings.

Bob Williams

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Re: Mercury in The Planets

I've been debating whether to get the extra ring key added for a while now - the only thing stopping me has been the desire to save up for a contrabassoon, but I'm not sure I have time to practice more than one instrument anyway.  I don't understand why this key isn't more common; I keep running into similar fast high passages recently and the slur down to Eb seems fundamentally broken by design.

The F+Bb combination for Ab does indeed sound acceptable, the only problem is that I can't do this and use the RH whisper key, so then I have to worry about my left thumb instead.  However after several more days of struggling I think the reeds and articulation are ultimately my bigger problem anyway.

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Re: Mercury in The Planets

I have heard from other players that the A-Ring key can seriously throw off the intonation on notes around middle C (even if the pad seats properly). That, and there's just more mechanism to keep in adjustment, as it has to be lined up with the G-ring key as well.

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: Mercury in The Planets

I had problems sometimes with the adjustments of this key with my Heckel bassoons because the pads were made with real cork and it would sometimes swell or shrink with humidity changes.  I never had pitch problems with the key.  Fox uses synthetic cork pads on both the G and G# ring and the adjustment seems very stable.  If it does go out there is an adjustment screw on the G# ring that makes it very easy to get the adjustment of the key correct.

Bob Williams

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Re: Mercury in The Planets

Natechols, would using the F plus the *alternate* Bb key (ring finger, right hand) for the Ab fingering work for you in this passage? Just a thought.

Like Bob Williams, I also have had the G# ring key on my last two instruments. It is a welcome addition. It makes certain passages (such as this one, and measure 121 in Jupiter) and slurs (such as measure 21 in Neptune) much easier. On my current instrument it is tuned just a couple cents flatter than the standard fingering, so it can come in handy when trying to voice a chord, yet it still is in tune for rapid passages.

On my previous instrument, the mechanism went out of adjustment just once. I had a local woodwind repairman get it working well enough for the short term, then had a bassoon specialist put it back in order. On my current instrument it has given me no trouble.

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