Here is the holiday live stream! If you watch the video on youtube there is a program listing with time stamps in the description.
Happy 2018! I now have Contrabassoon swabs available. These are made from silk and are used like a push through swab. After playing, remove the tuning slide and insert the swab into the wooden “wing joint” to remove moisture.
Find them here
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!
King Bassoon Reeds is now offering GSP for bassoon. The bassoon gouged, shaped, and profiled cane sells very fast and so is hard to keep supplying, but now with the school year out (less orders) we have more time to process cane.
This cane is made using traditional Herzberg measurements and the Herzberg shape. This is all made with California cane which has a medium hard density.
I have had been on a trip to Vienna for the last few weeks. The Hofburg palace houses an antique instrument museum which to my surprise had many bassoons and contrabassoons! So here are a few but not all of the instruments on display
Entrance to Antique Instrument Museum
This Contrabassoon was built by Bradka in Vienna, this was his standard model in 1870.
This bassoon was built by Johann Stehle who at the time was considered to be one of the finest instrument makers in the German speaking regions. This instrument was an experiment as it has a tuning slide on the wing joint to lengthen the bore between the register vents and tones holes. This bassoon also has an split bell to add on a low A attachment.
This Contrabassoon was built by Bradka for the Viennese Jubilee crafts exhibition in 1888. This design differs from his previous models because of the rounded U-tubes to create less air resistance. “Bradka seems to have oriented this to a model from 1976 by Alfred Morton” (the contrabassophone maker)
The bassoon is a Heckel from the 1880s.
I have just started working with a new batch of cane and it is very high quality. This is cane that was cut 2 years ago and is on the harder side. It seems more middle of the road and has been great with the Fox 2 shape for bassoon and Reiger K1 on contrabassoon. If you are interested in some reeds head over to King Bassoon Reeds or email me if you are interested in cane.
The usable range of the Contraforte is from A0-C5. This is an improvement on the contrabassoon range by a few steps. Although I know some very talented contra players that can play almost as high as any contraforte. Im mostly posting this so that composers are able to hear the timbre change of the different registers.
The Contraforte does not have a dependable high D but it is possible. Here I play the opening bassoon solo from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, at actually pitch. I used an extremely thick reed with a lot of resistance.
Contrabass versions exist for almost every instrument now. Most of the newer instruments are scarcely written for and are mainly used in new music. There are a few newer companies making wind instruments that can go lower and lower. Eppelsheim makes my contraforte, as well as a very well received contrabass clarinet, tubax, and contrabass sax. Hogenhuis is popular making contrabass flutes.
Contrabass Clarinet – Eppelsheim
Sometimes as professional players we hit road blocks in our repertoire. As good as we think we are, and as prepared as we may be, there will always be a passage lurking out there which will require some work. So much of being a bassoon player is about playing in an appropriate and handsome way and blending with an orchestra. I have recently chosen a piece of music for an upcoming recital that is pushing my limits, I will be playing the Franck Cello Sonata on Contraforte. The recital is in about three months and I have in working on this piece for the last three weeks. At this point all of the “fun music” has been rehearsed as much as it needs to be and the technical passages now need to be “woodshed.”
(I had to repair some of the slurs)
I chose the Franck Cello Sonata because it really shows off the upper register of the Contraforte. I’m finding that I’m able to play extreme high note passages in an easier way than on the bassoon. This passage that I selected is one that I am finding to be particularly difficult to get up to tempo. It is getting better each day, but I think it is only due to switching up my practice techniques and thinking about the note groupings in new ways.
For this passage the beginning of measure 4 is a tricky spot, mostly this has to do with the fingering system on the Contraforte. These are the ways that I use to practice it:
These are the ways that I first use to learn a difficult spot of music. If after a few days the passage is still unplayable then I use a few different rhythms to add in. As a side note, I find practicing to be stressful. By micromanaging difficult passages like this, one can create “baby steps” that are achievable everyday. These rhythm studies are a way of taking the notes out of musical context and playing them as a mechanical technical exercise.
This second set of excercises is designed to focus on the notes. These help me when I am having trouble concentrating, or am practicing in the morning and still half asleep. Playing staccato isolated notes is a memorization technique. The sixteenth slurred pattern isolates the finger movement between the notes, I try to have “lightening fast” fingers. Play the note full length and then move to the next fingering as fast and efficiently as possible.
Some other things that I try to keep in mind when I practice, in order to make my sessions as efficient as possible…
-Have a good reed
-Warm up with both long tone and technical exercises
-Have a tuner and metronome on whenever you are playing alone
-Don’t allow yourself to get away with cracked notes or sloppy fingers
“The bassoon family” is a bassoon lesson that I teach when a student is in a slump. Too many weeks on etudes or a concerto often makes high schoolers lose interest. So I give them a contra lesson, or for the students that have lessons in my home, an introduction to the bassoon family. I have two high school seniors this year, and contrabassoon will definitely be a part of college orchestra playing.
The start of each lesson is playing through the circle of fifths, 12 major scales. This is a nice way to get into contrabassoon and introduce the vent keys and the Eb keys. The student can get a small taste of standard orchestra excerpts like the Contrabassoon solos written by Ravel in his Piano Concerto in G, and Ma Mère l’Oye. Contrabassoon comes quickly to many bassoonists, and Contraforte come quickly to bassoonists who also play sax. The simple octave keys on the Contraforte make it a closer match to high woodwinds.
It’s also interesting to introduce students to the Baroque bassoon. I make a point to have students learn a baroque piece every year, since honor orchestras and college auditions ask for pieces from contrasting eras. The basic scale of the baroque bassoon is the same as modern bassoon, so a few Vivaldi concertos translate well to the baroque bassoon. This also provides a useful insight into the instrument that the piece was written for, and how lucky we are to have a modernized bassoon.
The french bassoon is mostly for informational use. To learn the lowest octave chromatically and play a few scales. I don’t teach much French repertoire to high schoolers so it’s an instrument with no direct connection to their experiences. But I Play a few recordings of french bassoon players, explain the Paris Conservatory, and the school of French players that still exist throughout the world.