Instrumentation notes – Bassoon

  • Bass of the woodwind choir
  • Single reed made of maple
  • Family:
    Bassoon – sounds as written
    Contrabassoon – sounds an octave lower than written
  • Written range of family:
    basson range
  • Sound:
    Lower: brittle and dry, very rich harmonic structure. Soft and pp almost impossible in this range
    Mid: G-sharp (bottom line of stave) to middle C-sharp is horn-like and transparent, blends well
    High: D next to middle C upwards the tone is very focused, bright and nasally. Great solo quality. Doesn’t penetrate well so needs delicate accompaniment
  • Character: Agile, double/triple/flutter tonguing all possible. Rapid notes not possible in lowest 5th of range (B-flat to F) and above high G. Wide leaps and rapid tonguing idiomatic.
  • Technique: Very loud or very low passages need frequent breaths; allow for with rests. Single tonguing usual technique but double/triple and flutter all possible. Trills and tremolos impossible below low G-flat.  Trills all impossible on all D-flats, E-flats or G-flats and high A. Avoid rapid technical passages below low F; if needed, split between performers. Embouchure changes can affect control intonation so may need to change bocal in middle of performance.

Reference:
Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 116-119

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