West Side Story

The IDRS Forum is an archived resource. Some boards will remain open for discussions. Visit the Marketplace to list items for sale, or the Community Events and Openings page to list and search job openings, community shared events, and educational openings. Visit the IDRS Fingering page to search and suggest fingerings.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #99241

    I actually have a high F key, and I borrowed a special high-note bocal from my teacher, but while the E pops right out (using LH: high E + low E-flat/resonance; RH: 3 C# Bb Ab), adding the F key only works a fraction of the time. Is the preferred fingering different? Or does it require some magic combination of the perfect reed, embouchure, breath, many hours of practice, and alignment of the planets?

    Frank Watson

    I did a week of the touring company of West Side Story a few years ago. Had prepared for the infamous high F with a high note Polisi bocal, reeds that would pop out high Es and Fs all day, planned on using the long fingering (1/2, 2,3 C3/1,2,3 with various resonance keys) and was raring to go, only to discover that this particular set of parts had placed that famous high F in one of the Sax parts. When I asked the conductor about it, he replied that they took it out of the Bassoon part because it was so often missed. You may not have to play the high F at all, depending on which set of parts you wind up using.

    Steve Harriswangler

    The best high F fingering for me is the Hugh Cooper fingering. Here is the link, http://www.idrs.org/resources/BSNFING/note/heckf5.htm
    The first of the second set listed, but you may find a better one for you on this list. I have no idea why, but very few makers get the high F key correct, I think I have only found it to work on a few Moosmann horns that I have tried ( meaning Moosmann is doing it correctly). Try the F key alone. You could also try a different combination like, normal high D fingering in the left with the F key ( with or without the E and Eb), hand and change around the right hand fingerings, like, just F# RH thumb and (or without), C# trill key. Or just pinky Ab and ( or without) the C# trill. This change in the RH works great for certain slurs (and raises the pitch for the normally flat high E fingering), to high E with the E key, it could also work for the high F.
    I also break the slur for the second high F, I find it is easier to tongue the F than slur it, but each to their own, it might be better slurred for you.
    I always switch to my Allgood bocal and a firmer reed before and back after, it’s a difficult switch back, but it’s possible.
    We are performing it again this year, I think. Here is our last performance in the outdoor plaza Maria Pita, from last summer. The Allgood is quite a powerful bocal and I am playing quite loud but you can barely hear it at minute 2:36(?).
    It’s not an easy thing to play under stress, part of it is memorization of the fingerings under pressure, but it does get easier.
    Best of luck and have fun!!!!

    Trent Jacobs

    The “voicing” for high F using the high F key is difficult, and requires some substantial practice before you can really get it consistently. By “voicing” I mean what you are doing with embouchure and air stream in order to get the note to speak. It’s not just the same voicing as high E. The harmonic fingering posted by marydoob is the most reliable on most instruments. I can pop one out on a Fox Renard model 41 student bassoon with a Fox C bocal using that fingering. Maybe not in context of the WSS excerpt, but that’s a different matter of course.

    For the record, I have a high F on my Moosmann bassoon, and it’s what I’ll usually use because it’s technically easier when you’re already up there, but the harmonic fingering is more reliable once you work that one out.

    Oh, one more thing. You’re doubling principal trumpet on that high F in WSS if I remember right, so there’s little stress for you to actually nail it.

    Mark Ortwein

    Alto Sax plays it as well. I usually play Alto on the piece, but when I do play Principal bassoon I will switch to a high note bocal for that section.


    Christopher Brodersen

    There is actually a new rental edition of WSS out that takes that section for Reed 5 down an octave. Maybe this is taking the ‘coward’s way’ out, but it sure makes life easier.


    just finished working on the Harbison wind quintet, which opens with the whole first page in the high stratospheric bassoon, although nothing higher than E(?!). I have real reservations about why a composer writes in that range. I am inclined to suspect sadism, or ignorance of the actual working range of the instrument. The Harbison is clearly not for amateurs!

    William Safford

    I asked Harbison why he wrote the high notes in the quintet as he did. He told me that he was inspired by the Ravel Piano Concerto in G.

    Steve Harriswangler

    Bassoon has a unique tone color in that range, contra bassoon even more so. I think, when its pulled of has a surreal quality.

    William Safford

    I love playing in the fourth octave on my contrabassoon.

    Steve Harriswangler

    Yes, I love that range! Contra has an almost English horn quality up high, it adds an interesting color to bassoon quartets.

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)

The forum ‘Bassoon and Contra Bassoon Fingerings’ is closed to new topics and replies.