The contrabassoon, also known as the double bassoon, is a larger version of the bassoon, sounding an octave lower. Its technique is similar to its smaller cousin, with a few notable differences. The reed is considerably larger than the bassoon’s, at 65–75 mm (2.6–3.0 in) in total length (and 20 mm (0.8 in) in width) compared with 53–58 mm (2.1–2.3 in) for most bassoon reeds. The large blades allow ample vibration that produces the low register of the instrument. Contrabassoons feature a slightly simplified version of bassoon keywork, though all open toneholes on bassoon have necessarily been replaced with keys and pads due to the physical distances. In the lower register, its fingerings are nearly identical to bassoon. However, the octave mechanism used to play in the middle register works differently than on bassoon, and the upper register fingerings are often completely unrelated. The instrument is twice as long as the bassoon, curves around on itself twice and, due to its weight and shape, is supported by an endpin rather than a seat strap. Additional support is sometimes provided by a strap around the player’s neck. A wider hand position is also required, as the primary finger keys are widely spaced. The contrabassoon has a water key to expel condensation and a tuning slide for gross pitch adjustments. The instrument comes in a few pieces (plus bocal ); some models cannot be disassembled without a screwdriver. Sometimes, the bell can be detached, and instruments with a low A extension often come in two parts 1.
The contrabassoon is a very deep-sounding woodwind instrument that plays in the same sub-bass register as the tuba, double bass, or contrabass clarinet. It has a sounding range beginning at B ♭0 (or A 0, on some instruments) and extending up over three octaves to D 4, though the highest fourth is rarely scored for. Contrabassoon parts are notated an octave above sounding pitch, and most often use bass clef. Like bassoon, extended high-register passages may use tenor clef, though this is rarely necessary due to the rarity of such passages. The use of treble clef is even less common, and is only necessary for the most ambitious solo repertoire. Tonally, it sounds similar to the bassoon, but at all parts of its compass is distinctly different in tone from it 1.
The first useful contrabassoon, or double bassoon, sounding an octave lower than the bassoon and much employed in large scores, was developed in Vienna and used occasionally by the classical composers. The modern contrabassoon follows Heckel’s design of approximately 1870, with the tubing doubled back four times and… 2.
The contrabassoon is a supplementary orchestral instrument and is most frequently found in larger symphonic works, often doubling the bass trombone or tuba at the octave. Frequent exponents of such scoring were Brahms and Mahler, as well as Richard Strauss, and Dmitri Shostakovich 1.
Some of the most famous songs that feature contrabassoon include “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev, and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas 3. The contrabassoon is also prominently included in ‘The Planets’ by Gustav Holst, particularly in the movement of ‘Mars, the bringer of War’ 4.
In conclusion, the contrabassoon is a very deep-sounding woodwind instrument that plays in the same sub-bass register as the tuba, double bass, or contrabass clarinet. It has a sounding range beginning at B ♭0 (or A 0, on some instruments) and extending up over three octaves to D 4, though the highest fourth is rarely scored for. The contrabassoon is a supplementary orchestral instrument and is most frequently found in larger symphonic works, often doubling the bass trombone or tuba at the octave. It has been used in various genres of music, including classical, jazz, rock, and pop. It is often used to provide the rhythmic foundation for a band, playing a repetitive bassline that helps to keep the other instruments in time. It is also used to play solos and melodies, and to add depth and complexity to the sound of a band.