Topic: Health aspects of playing bassoon

Dear Dr.

I teach bassoon at the primary school and one parent asked me the question I really didn't know answer to. Are there any possible medical problems with a child of 8 years playinq bassoon (child bassoon of course). Are there any studies on how playing the bassoon can affect the health of
a child or adult.

Thank you for your answer

Dejan Ucakar
Slovenia, EU

Share

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

I don't know of any studies but I would not be surprised to find that it improves their pulmonary function.

Share

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

As with any musical instrument practiced for hours a day (or any somewhat repetitive activity, including playing video games and sports) comes the risk of overuse injury.  This is not a concern for most people since there is little that most of us do on a regular basis that doesn't contain some risk of that.  Anyone that uses a computer regularly is at risk.

I would say for a smaller student there is a higher risk of short term strain when playing the bassoon if the student is uncomfortable simply holding the instrument properly.  That would be my biggest concern, but since this is on a child sized bassoon, I can't imagine this being an issue.

I would look for studies pointing to the effects of how playing an instrument develops fine motor control (it does) and concentration/focus (it does).  There's also a very consistent correlation between kids that study music and their success in academia, and often in social settings as well.  I don't know of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure that Google can come up with a few for you.

~Trent

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: Health aspects of playing bassoon

A respiratory therapist told me that playing a wind instrument is very good for the health and fuctioning of one's lungs, and that it is quite similar to some therapys for improved respiratory health.

David Crispin
Crispin's Creations and Accessories
freelance oboist. Mississippi Symphony Orchestra
www.CrispinsCreations.com

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

In my professional life I am a clinical social worker, equivalent in Slovenia to a psychologist or similar.  There are  benefits to the development of the brain, the ability to "split brain functions" which leads to better memory retention, etc, to music for the young.  However, there are some very important issues that the family should be aware of encouraging the 8 year old to play the bassoon at this age.  A schedule for practice every day is excellent however, there should also be plenty of time to play outside with friends and to be and have friends in the neighborhood and at school.  The development of the fine motor muscles is excellent with the bassoon, however a child at this age needs to develop the large motor muscles in the legs, back and arms, not only to prepare them for life, but if they do continue to play, for concert playing with a full size and much heavier instrument.  Also the child, boy or girl should not necesarily be disuaded from group sports either.  Also if the child starts a more rigorous schedule, it is important that the family schedule them time to be a child.  This is also true for child athletes, and child performers in other areas.  This is also important for brain development in the social areas and to help the child develop the ability to spontaneously have fun and to learn how to have fun.
Peter Brower

Share

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

From a musculoskeletal standpoint, the only real consideration would be to avoid excessively stretching the fingers and hands to reach the keys.  With a child-sized instrument (?quint bassoon?) this would not be a problem, but the average 8-year old would not  have hand breadth and finger length to handle a bassoon with compacted keys like the Fox 51 or the small Moosmann.

In reviewing the medical literature for other possible problems, studies are conflicting, especially in the dental and facial areas. Children 11-13 developed significant anterior tooth movements with wind instruments, and others showed wider dental arches. Other studies found little or no effect on tooth position or bone height in the upper and lower jaws. I could find nothing on potential musculoskeletal or respiratory problems from playing.

Unless an elementary school age child is playing bassoon many hours a day (unlikely even in the US), I doubt that these findings would be significant.

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

Share

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

The short reach Fox is very comfortable for many young players as it allows them to fudge a little on the reach. My youngest son (who was tall for his age) started playing on one by 9. He also had been playing the piano since first grade and thus his hands had been "reaching" for some time. For my young players who have smaller hands, I will sometimes eliminate the crutch to aide their reach, but unless the child is unusually small, they adapt with a little patience. Most young band music doesn't require them to move quickly, so they are not straining to move overly fast anyway.
If the student is breathing correctly, it does enhance the pulmonary functions. My same bassoon-playing son is also a a runner (now in college) and he found that his breathing for distance running came with greater ease than some of his peers because he was already mastering a large capacity and controlled breathing style.
One more note - a few years ago I began to suffer from breathing problems not unlike asthma. I went to my allergist but when they ran the tests, it always came up negative for asthma. Finally it dawned on him that my "normal" air/blood ration was much higher in a relaxed state because of my many years of bassoon playing. So we tested it from that level and found that I was indeed suffering from early asthma.
He said that in his long career he has seen other musicians who had not been treated until they were later into the asthma because the doctors' failed to take into consideration the lung capacity of trained musicians.

Lori Putz
Bassoon/oboe

Share

Re: Health aspects of playing bassoon

The benefits almost certainly outweigh most possible problems, though I will say that, as a teenage bassoonist, I was apparently not blowing the correct way, for I constantly had chest muscle strains. Later in life, I developed a chronic inflammation of the rib cartilage, called costochondritis, which was often quite painful -- though my doctors at the time couldn't definitely link bassoon playing to that. In any case, I seem to have straightened all of this out later on, and am fine nowadays. Good luck! -Thom

Share