Bocal Bend – seeking alternatives for overbite

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    Philip Murphy

    I’m a woodwind doubler and I’ve been lately looking at the possibility, for all of my instruments, to not settle for a horn that doesn’t really fit my shape, which in this case is means a decent sized overbite, as well as maybe a slightly larger than average height (6′), if that matters. For bassoon, I’ve considered the balance hanger as a way to flatten out the instrument in an effort to change the bocal angle, and I still like to use the hanger, but using it to lean the instrument forward as much as I would like messes a bit with my hands, so I’m looking for an alternative.

    I know that Heckel now makes a flatter bocal shape, and I’ve tried it, but I’d still like to try out a bit more of a flat or even “upward” angle. I know that there is the Grundmann shape, and also that some players, most notably David McGill, (yes, Prof. McGill?) use a bocal that has been bent upward. Can most repair guys to this well?

    I’m sure there is plenty of info out there. Any input is appreciated.

    New York City

    Trent Jacobs

    You probably don’t want to change a bocal that already is made, changing the bend will definitely change the way the bocal plays.

    Every major manufacturer (Puchner, Fox, Leitzinger, Moosmann, Heckel, Wolf) has a flat bend of some kind, they’re all different. Puchner is the least different in terms of where the reed enters your mouth, Moosmann and Heckel next, then Fox’s flat bend is very high by comparison. Leitzinger’s is unique in that it’s *really* straight (completely) until you get to the standard curve where it takes a sudden bend upwards. And then Wolf has the patented unique Grundmann bend, which wasn’t designed for ergonomics like the others, but for acoustic/air flow reasons – the ergonomic was a by-product. The Waterhouse bend, which I think was done after-market to an existing bocal, is basically just straight up and then out. Very dramatic, and you could probably custom order that from Heckel, but you wouldn’t get a chance to try many of these. *

    The “Chicago” bend is a normal S bend bocal that has been curved to point farther up, mostly to force the angle into the mouth in a particular way, but in doing this it actually puts the bassoon closer to your body than any of the flat/straight/British bocal bend styles.

    I bought my flat/straight bend Leitzinger from Forrests. They don’t carry many, but it was at least one of two they had (and I picked mine out of a batch also including those available from Leitzinger directly at the IDRS conference in NYC a few years back). Midwest Musical Imports regularly carries straight bend bocals from Fox, Heckel, Puchner, and is the exclusive distributor of the Grundmann bend bocals. Justin Miller carries a selection of straight Moosmann bocals. I can’t speak to any other double reed shop and what they carry.

    *Hank Skolnick told me he owns Waterhouse’s old bocal. He says it’s junk! He doesn’t know how Bill played on the thing. :-D

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