Balance Hanger

Ortwein Balance Hanger

Back when I played on my Fox 601 I relied on my Fox balance hanger to take some of the stress off of my left forearm. But the Fox balance hanger only fits Fox bassoons, and so now on my Heckel my old one doesn’t fit.

I just found a balance hanger made by Mark Ortwein which fits Heckel bassoons. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and it has made my bassoon lighter on my left hand. This bassoon is heavier than my last one so that’s really a big help.

These can be found at ortweinwoodwinds.com

Fox 601 For Sale

I am selling my Fox 601 bassoon. I am continuing to downsize my bassoon collection so that I can afford a new horn for myself. This is an amazing instrument that has been used in symphony orchestra for years. I have had this bassoon for 10 years now and it got me through the San Francisco Conservatory and many of my first gigs in San Francisco. My reason for selling this is simply that I like to change my sound every few years and I am looking for something new.

I have found that this bassoon is very flexible and change sounds with different bocals and reed shapes. I can blend with older Heckel bassoons and project for solo playing. I have been most successful with Heckel and Leitzinger bocals with Hertzberg and the Fox #2 shapes. I am selling this with 4 bocals and the Wiseman case; the horn has a little finger whisper key, A flick key to whisper bridge, Ab-Bb trill key and roller on thumb F# and Bb.

Selling for $18,500 or best offer. Feel free to send me an email through the Musical Chairs listing

Musical Chairs Fox 601

Fox 601

Fox 601
Fox 601

The Vonk

The Vonk

The Vonk is a bassoon support system created by Maarten Vonk. The system is designed to be used in place of a seat strap, leg hook, or floor peg and is unique because of it’s design and weight distribution. Essentially there is no weight put on the player’s hands when using the Vonk as long as you adjust it to the correct height. I have been using the Vonk for many years now and really enjoy it. They were popular in the Los Angeles area in the mid 2000s and I know many people who swear by them. I primarily use a seat strap for daily playing, but I bring the Vonk out for days with over 5 hours of playing. For some opera productions there will be a morning service/run through, lunch, and another run through. This is too much playing for me on top of my regular practice, so this system saves my hands.

The Vonk

The Vonk has two metal bars that attach to the base tripod. At the other end is a nob used to tighten the boot cap into the clamp. Depending on your bassoon, the boot cap might come loose, so test this area of the bassoon to make sure that you bassoon will stay up. If the boot cap comes loose, the bassoon fill fall off. The clamp tightens at a moderate pressure, too tight might dent the boot cap and too loose might cause the bassoon to slip. I have never had a problem with this. I play on a Fox 601 and it is very sturdy, however I can see how this could be a problem for some bassoons.

The Vonk

The real piece of engineering that sets this system apart is the tight ball in socket joint. This joint is the counterbalance for the weight of the bassoon. With the gold section engaged the Vonk becomes a bassoon stand. It disengages the ball in socket joint and so the bassoon stands vertical (see top photo)

The Vonk

When the gold section is brought down, the joint it engaged. This gives a large range of motion and is adjustable. Not only is the position and angle of bassoon changeable but also the height, so it is usable with most chair heights. When the system in engaged and in position, the bassoon just floats in front of you. The Vonk is available online at Bassoon.com

The Vonk

Little finger whisper key

french whisper key

The little finger whisper key, or french whisper key; should become a standard key on the bassoon. It adds an extra option besides the whisper key lock and reduces fatigue in the repeated transition from low note thumb position to the flick key thumb position. The first example  comes from Robert Rønnes book “12 Virtouso Studies” in the first study “Warming Up” This passage is a good example of the low register to middle register thumb shift. The left thumb need to shift from the low C key across to the whisper key. However  with the little finger whisper key, you can hold down the whisper key for the entire measure. This allows the left thumb to stay in the low register position and play low C as it comes. By using the french whisper key there is the option of quickly removing it, unlike the whisper key lock. It can be added or removed during a fast passage without a reach or shifting.

Rønnes

The next example comes from Simon Kovar’s “24 Daily Exercises” and is a more common issue on the bassoon, the shift from the whisper key to flick keys. The usual technique is to leave the whisper key slightly early in order to get to the flick key in time. With a french whisper key a passage like this takes minimal energy with greater accuracy.

Kovar

Leitzinger Bocal

I get a big kick out of experimenting with my setup and trying different options. Leitzinger bocals have been around for a few years now, and I have only heard good things about them. I play a Fox 601 which has the benefit of being very flexible, the bocal that I use completely changes the instrument.

I’m very spoiled in that I live in San Francisco and pretty close to Forrests Music. I picked up a few Leitzinger bocals to play test for the week and I decided to try different platings and different alloys. When I try bocals, two bocals of the same model and size sound so different.  I don’t usually try different platings because I can’t tell if the difference is between the platings or just different bocals. I ended up with a N ML 1

Leitzinger Bocal

IDRS 2013

This year will be my first year attending an International Double Reed Society conference. I have always wanted to go to one but they have a been so far away. This year however, it is being hosted at the University of Redlands in Los Angeles from June 25-29. The schedule is packed with masterclasses, concerts, workshops and lectures from many of the biggest double reed artists currently active. I have already squirreled away a budget for the event and Im sure there will be many new products to try out.

I am particularly looking forward to Frank Morelli’s master class playing Sluka’s sonata, John Millers excerpt class, and the exhibit hall. There are events happening each day and a concert every evening. The two performances that I am looking forward to are Martin Kuuskmann performing Steve Paulson’s concerto for bassoon and Frank Morelli performing the Mozart.

This link contains all of the IDRS convention information for this year

idrs2013.org

 

Bassoon Manufacturing

One thing that sets the bassoon apart from other members of the orchestra and even the woodwind family is the price of the instrument. I don’t know a single bassoonist who bought their own first professional instrument. It seems like bassoons are also becoming more expensive, I remember when i was in high school looking at a new Renard 240. 7 years ago they retailed for a little under $6,000, and now nearly $9,000.

I usually thought it was either market inflation or just greedy business owners, but now after having additions done to my own bassoon I can see the amount of work involved. I found a series of videos on youtube about the manufacturing of fox bassoons. This was a video put out by fox a few years ago and posted over a series of videos by someone online. Im sure if anyone had an interest they would already have found these anyways but here they are.

Bocals

Bocal Collection

Like many players, I am always on the hunt for another bocal. When I was first getting good at the bassoon I was very happy with my sound and then i tried a new bocal and my sound was all of the sudden SO much better. I think that experience created new way of thinking, that there is always a richer more vibrant sound that i can achieve.

So now I have a bit of a bocal collection going. I really only use one bocal everyday and then I have some specialty bocals. I have: Fox *CVX*R2, *CVX*2, CVC2, CVC3, C and then a few no name bocals that came with my student instruments. I am not a very big fan of Fox bocals but when i try a batch of them i usually find a good match in there. Fox bocals have also in my experience been the most consistent. I have had a few used Heckel bocals sent to me on consignment and there is a drastic different between two bocals of the same model.

I purchased a Fox *CVX* R2 last spring and so far it has been the best bocal I have paired with my Fox 601. It has very little resistance and great pitch control for low notes. The high notes are a little harder to get out than on my *CVX*2 which is the only reason i have a *CVX*2. My two CVC bocals came with my current bassoon and for me they aren’t as vibrant as i would like them to be, they tend to be a little muffled and don’t have the high notes.

I am VERY lucky to work down the street from Forrests Music. After work or on lunch breaks I often go over to test used instruments and bocals. I have gotten the chance to try out the Paraschos bocals and the Leitzinger bocals.  The Paraschos bocal comes in two forms, one as basically solid wood and the other lined with metal. In my experience the Paraschos lined with metal seems to be more resonant and the solid wood version muffles my sound. These bocals are also new so I’m not sure how long their live expectancy is (cracks etc.) Now the Leitzinger bocal is another recent addition or at least in the last few years. There are so many different specifications for these bocals; alloys, length, bend, plating and taper. I haven’t gotten to try all of the different options by far but for the few bocals I tried they seem to be very open and vibrant. Easy playing in all ranges but again i think certain models are better suited for the highest playing. Id seriously consider a Leitzinger as my next new bocal.

Last week I tried the Leitzinger bassoon as well, it seemed to me like more of a gimmick. Like they have great bocals and now they made a “bassoon to match.” It’s priced “competitively” at $24,000. I only got a few minutes with one, and I know that we are all used to our own instruments but the pitch and projection wasn’t even as good as a Fox 240. The f# and g# keys also must have been drilled incorrectly because anything involving those two keys was uncontrollably sharp and had far too much resistance.

These bocals can be found new or used (on consignment):

http://www.forrestsmusic.com

http://www.rdgwoodwinds.com

http://www.charlesmusic.com

http://www.millermarketingco.com

 

School Audition Season

practice

For all orchestral musicians and music students it is well known that late february/early March is school audition season. This is the time that all of the music schools hold auditions for instruments to determine who will be attending the next fall semester. I am now applying for grad schools and am right in the middle of a few auditions. I took an audition at the New England Conservatory two weekends ago and this weekend will be the Manhattan school of music and the Juilliard school. Now all of the school ask for some similar pieces but some are a little different. For example at Juilliard and NEC I am applying for a bassoon performance degree, where as at MSM I am applying for an orchestral studies degree. So Juilliard and NEC are asking for more solo repertoire and MSM is more a bunch of orchestral excerpts. I graduated from my undergrad last spring so i have enjoyed a few months of to prepare for these auditions but even still there are VERY talented people applying for these degrees and I’m excited just to hear some of them and see the schools! here are the lists

Manhattan School Of Music

Orchestral performance degree

Solo Works

Mozart Concerto, K. 191.

Hindemith sonata

Excerpts

Beethoven Symphony No. 4, last mvt.

Mozart The Marriage of Figaro, Overture

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring, opening solo

Ravel Bolero

Ravel Piano concerto

Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade, solo & cadenzas

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, mvts. 1,2 & 4

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6, mvts. 1 & 4

Juilliard

        

Two complete works of contrasting styles and periods; one must be a concerto.

Four or more standard orchestral excerpts.

Mozart

Saint Saens

Scheherazade

Ravel piano Concerto

Bolero

Tchaik 4

Brahms 3

New England Conservatory

Graduate:

Two contrasting movements from a Baroque, Classical, or Early Romantic sonata or concerto.

Mozart

Two contrasting movements from a Classical or Romantic sonata or concerto.

Saint Saens

Two contrasting movements from a contemporary sonata, concerto, or unaccompanied piece (or a one-movement work in its entirety).

Hindemith

Four orchestral excerpts of your choice.

Scheherazade

Ravel piano concerto in G

Bolero

Tchaikovsky 4