The Bassoon


The bassoon is a woodwind instrument that produces sound in a low range, using a double reed, and has a distinctive shape, with a long tube that looks as though it has been folded in two.  It is know for its distinctive tone color, wide range, versatility, and virtuosity.

The bassoon is played by blowing air through the reed and into the instrument, and then using the fingers to cover and uncover the holes on the instrument’s body to produce different notes.   (A double reed is two pieces of cane that vibrate against each other to create sound.)
It is capable of producing notes from the lowest B-flat on the piano to the highest G above the treble staff.

It was first mentioned about 1540 in Italy as an instrument with both ascending and descending bores contained in a single piece of maple or pear wood. Its origins can be traced back to the 16th century, when it was developed from earlier instruments such as the shawm, rankett, and dulcian.

Famous bassoon songs include:

“The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky

“Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas.

It  is also used in other genres of music, such as jazz and rock.  Its unique sound makes it different from types of woodwind instruments.

FAQ: The Bassoon

1. What is a bassoon?

A bassoon is a woodwind instrument that belongs to the double reed family. It features a long, conical bore, and is known for its rich, deep tone.

2. How does a bassoon produce sound?

Sound is produced on a bassoon by blowing air through a double reed attached to a metal tube called the bocal. The vibrating reed creates sound waves, which resonate within the instrument’s bore, ultimately producing the desired sound.

3. What are the main parts of a bassoon?

The main parts of a bassoon include the bell, long joint, boot joint, wing joint, and bocal. Additionally, the bassoon features various keys and mechanisms used to change the pitch and produce different notes.

4. What type of music is the bassoon commonly used in?

The bassoon is versatile and can be found in a wide range of musical genres. It is commonly used in classical music, orchestral settings, chamber ensembles, wind bands, and even jazz and contemporary music.

5. What is the range of a bassoon?

The bassoon has a wide range, typically spanning from B♭1 to E♭5, though some advanced players can extend this range further through various techniques.

6. How difficult is it to learn to play the bassoon?

Learning to play the bassoon can be challenging due to its complex fingering system and the coordination required to produce a good sound. However, with dedication, patience, and proper instruction, many musicians successfully learn to play the instrument.

7. What are some famous bassoon pieces?

Some famous compositions featuring prominent bassoon parts include Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in E minor, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, among others.

8. What are some common maintenance practices for a bassoon?

Regular maintenance is essential for keeping a bassoon in good playing condition. This includes cleaning the instrument after each use, oiling the keys, and periodically checking for any adjustments needed to ensure proper functionality.

9. Can the bassoon be played standing or sitting?

Traditionally, the bassoon is played sitting down, with the instrument supported by a seat strap or harness. However, some players may choose to play standing up for certain performances or personal preference.

10. Are there different types of bassoons?

Yes, there are different types of bassoons, including the bassoon (sometimes called the “long” or “German” bassoon) and the smaller, higher-pitched bassoon known as the “tenoroon” or “short” bassoon. Additionally, there are historical variations such as the baroque bassoon.