Leitzinger Contrabassoon Bocals

This week I had a few Leitzinger Contrabassoon Bocals on trial from Forrests Music. I had a Leitzinger NML2 bassoon bocal  a few years ago when I played on a Fox 601, but I sold it since it didn’t pair so well on my Heckel 10k. What I so appreciated about that bocal was the easy high note response and clarity in the tone. That bassoon had some funny pitch issues (saggy middle E) that the Leitzinger fixed immediately.

I have been using a Heckel C2 that suits the instrument well, so trying new bocals is just out of curiosity. Forrests has a large selection of Leitzinger contra bocals so I got to try each type and plating option, I ended up really liking a F2 Gold plated and an F2 platinum. Now that I have had them at home for a few days I have a sense of what these are able to do.

I notice almost no difference in response, pitch, or tone from the Heckel and the high notes are just as solid. The one improvement I do notice is when I use a light reed and play loud sfz attacks sometimes the pitch can sag with the Heckel, and the Leitzinger is more stable. However I do not like the bend, it angles down much more than I would like which forces me to change the instrument position. And lastly the price point is high. This thing comes in at $2,300 which is much more than a new Heckel bocal, without a huge sound difference. I am impressed by the sound and quality of this bocal but it’s a little too much for me!

New Contraforte Bocal

Contraforte Bocal

I received a new Contraforte bocal as a late Christmas present this year! When Wolf sends out a contraforte they send it out with one bocal, presumably something well matched to the instrument. This has been their system for a while and reflects in their period instruments as well. Since the instrument is custom made so is the bocal to match it.

One of the great aspects of playing bassoon and contrabassoon is that each player sounds different and unique, part of that is the player and part is the equipment. I also think that changing equipment/reed shape/bocals can make someones playing easier depending on what qualities they like to bring out in their playing. So having one bocal as my default bocal forever with no other option made me a little antsy. I contacted Wolf about 2 years ago and asked if they could make me a second bocal. At the time I was making shorter contraforte reeds and my pitch would travel a little high and so I asked for a longer bocal. Well they asked me why I would want another bocal and what I thought it would change. I honestly was just curious, anything slightly different would have its own characteristics, no two bocals are the same etc.

I was selling some bassoons through Midwest Musical Imports and I asked if they could email Wolf and get this started for me. And it just arrived! So far the obvious characteristics are a lower center of pitch and easier high register. This will be my primary bocal for now to figure out any other differences.

Romantic Contrabassoon

A few months ago I worked on a project that required a romantic era contrabassoon! The basis of the project was to track the development of the contra over time and play some of the music written for each instrument.

Here in the Bay Area we are very lucky to have David Granger who is a period bassoon expert. And he was generous enough to let me use one of his period contras for this project.

Romantic Contrabassoon

Although I ended up getting in a few practice sessions on it; I found that I’m not a great period player, and this instrument has much more potential than what I could perform. I was able to play some Beethoven and Brahms on it but I never was able to get a high Ab which is in Brahms’ 3rd Symphony.

Romantic Contrabassoon Bocal

Both of David’s period contrabassoons were made by Wolf in the style of the Viennese contras. This is a unique instrument because it can be tuned to A=415 or 440 with the use of two different lengths of bocals. The bocal looks similar to a bassoon bocal but has a drain and is upside down when assembled with the crook.

Romantic Contrabassoon Bocal

When I practiced different instruments in the same practice session I was getting frustrated with the Romantic instrument. I liked it on its own, but if I played a modern instrument and switched back to romantic then it seemed so unstable and difficult to play. Period bassoons in general have a less focused sound, and so I’ve never gotten into performing on them.

Bassoon Contraforte Contrabassoon Romantic Contrabassoon

The reeds here are supplied by Wolf and were made by Stefan Pantzier I tried my hand at making a few and they turned out okay. The shape is similar in dimensions to the Contraforte C2 shape but with a shorter tube. The thing I didn’t try was adjusting the gouge to something more appropriate to the era. In the time before gouging machines people gouged by hand and purposefully gouged the center thinner. This meant less work had to be done in profiling and finishing a blank.

Romantic Contrabassoon Reeds

Contrabassoon Contraforte Romantic Contrabassoon