Styles of Bassoon Playing?

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Home Forums Pedagogy Teaching – General: Solutions, Question, Tips Styles of Bassoon Playing?

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    Brian Hoaglund

    I wasn’t certain where this question fit, so I decided to put it here.

    I’d really like a decent overview of the different styles of bassoon playing. It’s quitedifficult to find resources describing the different styles of bassoon anything aside from that of reed styles. I’m curious as to the origins and pros and cons of different embouchures (As there are many styles) as well as different styles of playing. There is such a wide difference in the sound of different bassoonists, and that is something that I appreciate about the instrument, but I can’t find any places that describe these different styles, or how they are achieved. Recently my teacher told me about “Bel Canto” which I have discerned to be a stlye of Italian singing that has in some ways influenced legato playing on instruments, but I haven’t been able to find much else on playing styles, or even Bel Canto’s direct relation to the bassoon. I’m really rather lost on these subjects, but very curious. Any info is appreciated!


    Christopher Brodersen

    Have you read Jim Kopp’s book “The Bassoon” (Yale University Press, 2012)? It may not answer very many of your specific questions about playing styles, but with its excellent bibliography, it’s a great place to get started.

    As for ‘bel canto’, generally it’s a good idea to adopt a singing style with any instrument, not just the bassoon. The human voice should be every player’s model in cultivating an expressive, lyrical style. Frank Morelli gave a fascinating talk about just this idea, of emulating the great singers (in this case, Fritz Wunderlich) in a master class at the IDRS conference in Muncie in 2006. Talk to any prominent bassoonist (or oboist or clarinetist or horn player) in your area, and I’ll bet you’ll get an earful on the subject.

    David J. Bell

    I remember my teacher, Ken Pasmanick, insisting that if we couldn’t sing a passage (and clap its pattern), we wouldn’t be able to play it properly. BTW, I’ve found June Emerson’s arrangement for bassoon of Conccione’s vocal exercises very helpful. Having sung in choirs since an early age, I’ve found that singing informs my playing, as well as my playing informing my singing.

    David Bell
    Alexandria, VA

    Steve Harriswangler

    Steve Maxym always said his concept of sound and breathing came from watching singers at the Met. Frank Morelli also seems to play that way, I really liked his last CD. My wife went to Curtis and she also plays with a very singing style. I like what David says about singing in choirs, I always recommend it to my students. All of my children are in a choir too and I feel their sound on their instruments has benefitted. I have a singer/violinist, 2 bassoonists and a clarinet player. A little Alexander technique can also help. Being an American in Europe gives an interesting perspective. Besides the obvious of French and German system bassoons, I think there is less of a difference between European and American bassoon playing than oboe playing. Our contra player Alex said he felt that the “American style” could blend more easily with a European orchestra than a say German style bassoonist in an American orchestra. I think that can be a little general, I really enjoy the playing of bassoonists from both sides of the pond. I am not going to list them all but, I can think of Canadians, Americans, Germans, French, including French system, (some I would really love to sit with in a section), Italians, Dutch, and many more. Sorry Brian, as usual I tend to muddy the waters a bit, but I could find someone from any of these places that I would be comfortable sitting in a section and matching just fine. Bassoon is funny that way, sometimes two people from the same class can sound completely different, and two from different ends of the planet, a perfect match.

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