If you’re like most people who start playing the bassoon, you’re probably switching from another instrument, and if you’re switching from the flute, then keep reading and check out the video below to get started the right way!
Carrying the Bassoon (01:06)
It might seem simple to figure out how to carry the bassoon while you’re walking around, but there are actually some important things you need to know. Many beginning bassoonists make the mistake of holding it incorrectly, which can lead to instrument damage.
- Always hold the bassoon from the bottom joint (the boot joint) so that the upper joints won’t come apart while you’re carrying it
- Never walk around with the bocal (the metal piece that the reed fits onto) in the wing joint. The bocal is very fragile and prone to being dented if it is bumped into something. What you can do instead is place the smaller end of the bocal inside the very top of the bassoon (the bell) after you’ve blown out any existing water in it. Remember to take the reed off your bocal as well!
Putting the Bassoon Together (02:19)
While you are putting the bassoon together, the main thing you want to keep in mind is to only hold the joints of the bassoon in places where there is little to no keywork to avoid bending or breaking anything. The bassoon goes together in the following order:
- Boot joint
- Wing joint
- Long joint
- Hand Crutch (optional)
Watch the video above for more specific information about how the joints fit together!
Holding the Bassoon While Playing (05:30)
Make sure that you’re sitting in a comfortable, upright position and focus on bringing the bassoon to you. The key is learning how to balance the bassoon, not “holding” it. Follow this process for balancing the bassoon correctly:
- Make sure your seat strap is pushed right up to the edge of the chair
- Sit down and attach the seat strap to the boot joint on the bassoon
- Sit up straight with good posture
- Bring the bassoon across your body
- Adjust the height of the bassoon by using your left. hand to lower or raise the seat strap until the bocal comes in a sraight line to your mouth. You don’t want to have to raise or lower your head to be able to play the bassoon.
Bassoon uses what is called a “double reed.” All this means is that there are two pieces of cane (type of wood) that vibrate together to make sound. You must soak your reeds completely in water for a couple minutes before trying to play on them. Make sure that you are changing the water out of your reed soaker container at least once a day. You will periodically need to purchase new reeds because yours will wear out over time, depending on how often you’re playing on them. When you are finished playing, be sure to store the reeds in a case or container that is NOT airtight. There needs to be some sort of ventilation so that the reeds do not become moldy with so much moisture.
Follow these steps to make an embouchure:
- Make a whistling face
- Roll your bottom lip just slightly over your bottom teeth to create a cushion
- Make sure that your top lip is slightly in front of your bottom lip on the reed and that the corners of your mouth are pulled in
Your top lip will be somewhere around 2/3 of the way up the reed, but you shouldn’t feel the first wire while you’re playing.
Reading Bass Clef (11:26)
Switching to reading bass clef might be a challenge. To learn the names of the notes, use these phrases to label the lines and the spaces on a music staff:
- Lines: Good Boys Do Fine Always
- Spaces: All Cows Eat Grass
Watch the video to see what these phrases look like on the bass clef staff!
Taking the Bassoon Apart (11:56)
You’ll go in the exact opposite order that you put the bassoon together to take it apart, except this time you need to swab the boot joint and the wing joint to remove water from the instrument. Follow these steps:
- Remove the hand crutch (if you have one)
- Twist off the bocal to remove it, cover the little pip with your finger, and blow through the larger end to blow out water, place it in your case
- Twist off the bell
- Unlock the body lock between the long joint and wing joint (if you have one)
- Twist off the long joint by holding the boot joint with your left hand and twisting the long joint off with your right hand, place the long joint in your case
- Twist off the wing joint in a similar fashion as the long joint and temporarily place it in your case while you swab the boot joint
- Swab the boot joint by dropping the weighted end of the swab through the larger hole and bringing it around the bottom of the boot joint so that the weight comes out of the smaller hole, pull it all the way through. This can be tricky to learn at first, so watch the video to get a better idea of how to accomplish this. Place the boot joint in your case.
- Swab the wing joint by dropping the weighted end of the swab through the bottom of the wing joint (opposite of the side your bocal sits in). Pull it all the way through. Place the wing joint in your bassoon case.
I hope that these steps were helpful to you to get started. Learning all of this information can feel overwhelming, but I promise that it becomes easier as you practice!