“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.
Kingbassoonreeds.com is now more affordable for contra players! The Price of Contrabassoon reeds and Contraforte reeds has dropped due to a great turnout of harvested cane from last spring. So Now there is no penalty for being a contra player!
This is mostly only going to interest me, I just got a contraforte gig bag. The case that the CF came in is a large aluminum travel case and I have been trying to get a gig bag for a few months. I tried to do some research into this gig bag; not only are there no pictures anywhere, it is not listed on the Wolf website. I was lucky enough to buy this through Midwest Musical Imports, who is the only Wolf distributor in the U.S. So here are the two cases..
The aluminum travel case is similar to what Maurice Rouillard makes at rouillardcases.com in Canada. However this case has rotating closures and wheels. The firm foam holds the CF in place, there are interior pouches for bocals and small accessories. This has been a great case but it is very large and heavy, I don’t need it for everyday use.
I just received the contraforte gig bag this week and so far it has been very easy to commute with. It has very thick interior padding and is lined with felt. The exterior has a music pouch, accessories pouch and backpack straps. The case does not have interior bocal storage so I’ve been keeping the bocal in an extra Fox bocal box in the front.
This isn’t an IDRS journal but I think it is still an appropriate place to post reed dimensions. I have only had a few months with the contraforte so far I have come to two styles of reed. One wider and one narrower, the wider shape is a real robust contraforte sound and the narrow shape is a simpler contrabassoon sound.
The wide shape is using the Reiger contraforte shape (23.25mm wide) and formed on a Reiger contraforte mandrel.
35mm blade (collar to tip)
45mm tube (collar to end)
5mm from first wire to second wire
The narrow reed is shaped on a Reiger K1 contrabassoon shape, it’s important to use a fold-over shaper for this since I still use 160mm cane. 160mm cane will not fit into a contrabassoon straight shaper which is meant to hold 150mm cane, but on a fold over shaper the tube continues further. Using this extra tube length also allows the reed to be formed on a contraforte mandrel. Besides using a different shape all of the dimensions are the same.
35mm blade (collar to tip)
45mm tube (collar to end)
5mm from first wire to second wire
The narrow reed is essential to making the CF work in every situation. This style produces a simple, dryer sound, requiring less air, and achieves an easy pianissimo response.
This is a post that I have dreaded doing for a long time. I debated whether this was necessary and useful to people, or if it would just be obnoxious. I realized that when I myself was buying reed tools there was very little information on a consumer level about how these machines stacked up against each other. If I was starting all over again in buying reed machines, I would have liked to have seen more information about them. So that’s the basis of including this aspect of my reed desk equipment.
Reiger Bassoon Gouger
This gouger was a recent acquisition, it was a graduation gift from my uncle. Outside of this gouger I have only used the Reeds ‘n Stuff gouger, and I do really prefer the Reiger. The guillotine (which is included, and a big reason for choosing this machine) is very easy to use and cuts to a perfect fit to the cane bed. Once the cane is at that 120mm length, it fits right into the cane bed and never slips out. I have had some problems with other gougers where the cane jumps off of the machine once you use a little strength.
This machine is an ANTIQUE! It is very old and I found it on eBay from an oboe player who had it in his closet for a few decades. This machine represents a very simple single barrel profiler with two basic adjustment screws, a removable blade, and no measurement systems whatsoever. There are many simple machines like this still being done by a few companies. What I like is that it is very easy to use, easy to remove the blade to sharpen myself and easy to adjust. I don’t like that when I adjust the profile I have to waste a few pieces of cane on trial and error experiments with no way of knowing what my current settings are. I found this for $300 and it works great, if you can find a cheap simple profiler you can probably get a good blade fit to it and get it working. Otherwise I would suggest finding something newer and more sophisticated.
Reeds ‘n Stuff Tip Profiler
This tip profiler I also found used. This is the only thing that I own by Reeds ‘n Stuff and I’m quite sure that he now makes a fancier version of this. However this is very similar to the Reiger tip profiler and it makes all reed finishing a dream. Every tip is the same every time. I cannot enough stress how much this machine changed my reed making and my consistency of sound. I know that they also make oboe tip profilers, that is most of what I hear oboe reed makers complain about is creating an even tip. I have also had some luck using this with contrabassoon reeds without even having to adjust it. If I just put the reed on and keep it a few millimeters shy of the guideline, I get a great tip.
These Reeds & Tools machines are my newest additions, just over a month old. They represent the fanciest machines with flexibility and technology and controlled results. The gouger I currently have set up for processing contraforte cane, this means that I am using a 160mm long 30mm diameter cane bed with a 30mm diameter blade. The cane beds on this machine are interchangeable, so I also have a contrabassoon length bed (150mm) that I can slide use. I also have a 28mm diameter blade and carriage If I want to have eccentrically gouged cane instead of concentric. This machine can also fit a bassoon cane bed, so for doublers who only want one machine to process both instruments’ cane this may be a good choice. Again the guillotine has been great and the bed hold cane firmly.
This is an example of the gouge from this machine.
Reeds & Tools Profiler
This machine is a blast to use! So easy and fast. I have two scoring blades so I can score the collar and the center line of the cane. Chris van O’s was also nice enough to include a spare blade and a dial indicator for adjustments. Unlike my bassoon profiler, this machine has it all. I can accurately change my profile by hundredths of a millimeter by using the attachable micrometer…
This pair of machines make cane processing fast and accurate, and I would recommend them. So far Reeds & Tools is the only company making equipment for contraforte. The machines that I have are for cane up to 160mm in length but he is also making machines at 170mm and 180mm for contraforte player who want to experiment with longer tubes or blades.
The next few entries that I would like to post have to do with my reed desk. I firmly believe that the quality and reliability of someone’s reeds is directly affected by the quality of their reed tools. Generally I have found that people who have great reeds on a daily basis without any “reed panic” days tend to have great reed tools that are sharp and in adjustment.
I would like to post a few entires on a consumer level giving detailed reviews of some of my machines and products. This will be bassoon, contrabassoon, contraforte, or general purpose double reed equipment. I have no affiliation with any company but have chosen my equipment based on reviews, function and the recommendation of my teachers.
After a few weeks of having the contraforte I am having a recital! I am very excited about the program, and if you are in the bay area you should definately come. March 8 at 8pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of music. This is an all contraforte recital featuring
Mozart’s Contraforte Concerto (possibly known as an oboe concerto)
I just bought a Snark tuner to try out. Many of my colleagues have it and they have nothing but positive things to say about it. I have had clip on tuners before, or at least an extension to plug in to my regular tuner.
The Snark is very quick and responsive, there is no lag time waiting for the tuner to focus on the pitch. There are settings to either pick up vibrations directly from the instrument or to pick up sound through the microphone. The pitch level can be calibrated from 415-466.
This tuner is great for bassoonists because it can easily clip onto the bocal, or onto a oboe/clarinet bell. I actually purchased this tuner for my contraforte and like most tuners it cannot register the lowest octave. That would be my only drawback.
This year was my first IDRS conference yet and it was amazing! I met so many legendary players and nice people. There was an entire room of vendors and instruments to try as well as a room full of music provided by trevco. The bassoon selection was impressive and included:
and oboes were brought by
It was odd that even though there were Loree oboes and Heckel bassoon at the conference. Loree and Heckel were not there only their used instruments were sold through other sellers.
Legère reeds were there and many more bassoons were hooked onto some synthetic reeds. Other innovations were brought by Guntram Wolf. They brought a Lupophon and the Contraforte.
Now this is particularly interesting to me because I have been seriously getting into contrabassoon and I feel a strong pull towards the contraforte. I am now raising funds to buy a contraforte to take auditions with. I have a list of repertoire to perform and record on it and was a great treat to get to play another one this week. If you ever get a chence to get your hands on a contraforte, test it! the dynamics, range, note connection is all much easier.
Woodwind players often try new things to “spice up” their playing. Even new instruments emerge with the amount of experimentation, new compositions, technology, and new materials available. Here are a few of my favorite double reed innovations of the last ten years.
German bassoon system add ons:
Moosmann low A bell
wing joint system to high G
more about Robert’s bassoon can be found at his website