Bassoon – Third Space E Too Low

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Home Forums Pedagogy Teaching – General: Solutions, Question, Tips Bassoon – Third Space E Too Low

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    Wai Kit Leung

    My bassoon students has a flat E. The interval from E to F (in the stave) is too wide. That has been the case with a rental Schreiber as well as a brand new Fox 222 Plus. When I try using the same kind of reed I don’t get as much of that problem (sometimes a little). Is that a reed issue? Too soft?

    James Jeter

    Try adding the 3rd finger (G key) in the right hand – usually raises the E.

    Trent Jacobs

    Is the E flat or sagging? Or is the F sharp?

    Third space E is a really fussy note, prone to instability. It can often be a problem with a poorly tuned bassoon, and I would expect it from an older not-so-good Schreiber, but if a new Fox 222 is giving that student problems I would say it’s either the reed being too soft or unbalanced, or the student not supporting the instrument properly. On a newer Fox bassoon you shouldn’t need to add anything to third space E to make it play in tune.

    Vincent Ellin

    I’ll bet your reed is too soft in the front third of the blade, probably in the middle as well. Try one of your own reeds on the student’s instrument and see if the problem goes away. You could also possibly have a loose first wire as well.

    Wai Kit Leung

    Thank Trent and Vincent so much for your insight. The student is a 12-year old beginner. He has been taking lessons from me for 2 months. He is using medium-soft student reeds. If it is the reed, I probably have to live with the problem until he develops more strength and moves on to harder reeds.


    Many beginners have trouble playing flat in their early days of study. I have a college beginner (composer) who started taking lessons yesterday. He had trouble keeping the pitch up on an instrument and reed that both worked very well when I tested them. Once his facial muscles get toned he should have little trouble. The e2 on most instruments has the tendency to fall to eb and if the student is having problems with endurance it will be the first note to go. I have seen students get nervous and lose their embouchure control on their first recital and the e may go flat when they haven’t had trouble for months.


    Neville Forsythe

    Do check the breath pressure being applied – obviously not enough support can fail to raise the pitch, but with some soft reeds, the E can actually be forced down by too-intense breath pressure – this is usually the situation where adding RH3 lifts the pitch back up.

    A small clip across the tip of the reed of around 2mm (I always use “end-cutters”) may correct the profile enough to solve the flatness. I believe this is due to the “new” tip being slightly thicker rather than the reed being shorter thus sharper.

    The 3rd finger is a good strategy for a quick fix (say in ensemble playing, assessments etc), but do keep returning to the regular “short” fingering in lessons rather than have it become a permanent fix.

    With inexperienced players, try to avoid conductors telling them they are “too loud” – it may result in clamping down on the reed and being too sharp – or blowing too softly and not reaching supported pitch. Generally speaking “too loud” in a beginner means “out of tune” – a generously supported dynamic is actually welcome if in tune – so focus on pitch rather than volume.

    Good luck. Neville

Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)

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