Bassoons—choosing the instrument of your dreams!

Question: I’ve found a couple Fox 601 and Fox 660s online for sale used that seem pretty good, I know that the 660 is a short bore and 601 is a long bore, and both are thick wall. Is there a benefit one way or the other?

Answer: This really is a matter of personal preference. The 601 model tends toward a darker/warmer sound with a terrific low register, and the 660 model tends to sing more in the “money” register above the staff. That said, you really don’t sacrifice either way—you can’t go wrong with the pro models made by Fox. I play a 601 and love it, and I’ve recently tried a new 660 and thought is was a wonderful instrument. I don’t think any manufacturer of professional bassoons does a better job with the keywork and the ergonomics. And, the scale—Fox bassoons play in tune! I’ve never had any discomfort playing a Fox bassoon, but I have had trouble with other instruments requiring awkward hand position, etc. Since Fox is so close by, any used Fox bassoon you buy can be serviced and even improved by experts at the factory. To familiarize yourself with the differences between models, I’d suggest a trip to the factory—let them know you’re coming and they’ll make sure there are instruments to try. There is no better way to go than to purchase a Fox bassoon, in my opinion!

Question: I also looked at Yamaha bassoons a little, I’ve never played on one, and I really don’t know too much about them. I’ve read through the IDRS forum and found some people really like them, others had issues with higher notes, but I wasn’t sure if maybe you had some insight on them.

Answer: I tried several different Yamaha pro bassoons a few years ago. I really tried to like them, but I think there were reasons they didn’t quite do it for me. While they are well made, they seem to lack the personality I value in a good bassoon. I do own a high note Superbocal (PN-2) and really like it, though. (I think Douglas Spaniol at Butler is a Yamaha artist, and he would be in a much better position to speak to the pros and cons of the Yamaha bassoons.)

Question: I’ve also noticed that Puchner has a model 4000 that is supposed to be the same as the 6000 just with less keywork. I’ve only ever played on a Puchner for a couple months, it worked fine, but I don’t know much about the newer Puchners. Also, I see a lot of used Puchners online, how would I know how to choose a good used Puchner since they date back so far?

Answer: I know there are a few professionals who absolutely love Puchner bassoons, but I haven’t had much luck with them. I think they are based on a short-bore Heckel (6000 series?) and tend toward a brighter and smaller sound. We had experience with a newer Puchner a few years ago that had serious flaws in the bore. I’d be very wary of the Puchner bassoons for that reason. As with any used instrument, the only way to really evaluate an older bassoon is to play it and test it thoroughly. I’d even take a used bassoon to a qualified repair technician for an assessment. It would be well worth the money. If it were necessary to do the assessment without help, I’d spend time playing all of the major excerpts and solo pieces, I’d extensively check the instrument with a tuner (probably with a variety of reeds and bocals), and I’d have friends/colleagues listen to and try the instrument to see what they think.

There are other bassoons that are attracting attention. Of special note would be modern bassoons by Guntram Wolf (known for historical instruments, but I understand that people love the modern model) and Moosmann (there are some who really love these instruments—I owned one for a while a number of years ago, but went back to Fox). I’ve heard some people have high hopes for the Takeda bassoons, but I tried a mid-range model and was very disappointed. Besides, these other instruments are not made in Indiana! So many new instruments are very expensive, but they don’t compare to the ca. $50,000 price tag of a new custom Heckel!

Update: Here is a detailed response to questions about which bassoon to buy by the bassoon editor of the IDRS Double Reed journal, Ryan Romine: Choosing a Bassoon.pdf

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EMU Clinic Day 2014

It’s that time of the year—EMU Winds & Percussion Clinic Day will take place on the campus of Eastern Michigan University on Saturday, November 22, 2014. High school bassoonists can expect two afternoon sessions for help with everything bassoon, followed by a recital featuring our EMU faculty. This year, the program will include a movement from a very beautiful quartet for clarinet, bassoon, horn & piano by Daniel Baldwin, the Gigue from Irving Fine’s Partita for wind quintet, and a terrific arrangement of early 20th-century popular music for wind quintet by Dr. Willard Zirk, one of our EMU faculty composers.

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Eastern Winds & Friends

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Popkin-Glickman Bassoon Camp

The Popkin-Glickman Bassoon Camp is a great way to focus on all things bassoon for ten days in the beautiful mountains of Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Our friend, James Poe is the reed making expert at the camp.

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Mozart: Bassoon Concerto KV 191

The authoritative edition of Mozart’s bassoon concerto KV 191 is published by Bärenreiter with cadenzas by Jane Gower. One of the most popular performing editions was edited by Walter Guetter and is published by TrevCo. A classic edition is published by Universal, edited with cadenzas by Milan Turkovic. There are many editions and cadenzas available from TrevCo-Varner Music.

For recordings, the classics include Sherman Walt with the Boston Symphony, Klaus Thunemann with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Bernard Garfield with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Willard Elliot with the Chicago Symphony, Maurice Allard with the Mozart Academy Orchestra in Salzburg, and Leonard Sharrow with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony.

Danny Bond’s subtle classical bassoon version with the Academy of Ancient Music is a delight, as is Jane Gower’s elegant performance. Any chance to hear Concertgebouw, especially with the virtuoso Gustavo Núñez is essential. Frank Morelli recorded a crystal clear rendition with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The consummate technique of the young David McGill with the Cleveland Orchestra is not to be missed. And, Dag Jensen is always a pleasure to hear.

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Here are some iTunes links:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-clarinet-bassoon-concertos/id4356711

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-clarinet-concerto-flute/id4567639

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-wind-concertos/id76539537

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-horn-concertos-nos./id252099622

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-the-wind-concertos/id73413989

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-oboe-concerto-bassoon/id263087650

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-die-letzten-symphonien/id628080395

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mozart-bassoon-concerto-k./id313536039

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New concerto for bassoon and wind ensemble by James Stephenson

Coming up this week—Friday, October 17, 2014 @ 8:00 PM in Pease Auditorium:

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New reeds

Using the first five reeds made with Neuranter gouged cane and Rieger 1A shaper. They sing! Really happy with the tone and agility. The cane isn’t too hard, but not so soft that it sounds mushy. Great when cane vibrates . . . just ordered more Neuranter cane–a winner!

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Protec Reed Case

The Protec bassoon reed case is a very nice inexpensive alternative. Five reeds are held in place with dense foam. The case is made of high quality durable plastic, and is designed with excellent ventilation to allow the reeds to dry thoroughly. A spring latch securely keeps the case closed. 

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Exciting news from Meridian Winds!

Meridian Winds has a huge inventory of bassoons available for sale! Most of these are Walter Kroner bassoons. The “Walter Kroner” label was a store brand of Custom Music Inc. These are bassoons made in workshops in the Vogtland region in Germany. Some of these bassoons were produced before the reunification, and some just after. They are fully equipped and play very well. Here is the item from Meridian Winds:

Attention Music Educators, Bassoonists, Bassoon Teachers/Instructors, Bassoon students . . . Meridian Winds has recently acquired several dozen top quality Hard Rock Maple bassoons from German makers, Adler, Kroner/Adler, Walter Kroner / B&S, Schreiber, Muller, Sonare, Puchner, Kohlert and Amati. These bassoons are all in excellent condition, have been checked over as needed in our shop by our bassoon specialist and are in excellent playing condition. Recently noted Music Educator, Adjudicator and Bassoonist David Fitts spent the day at Meridian Winds play testing each instrument and selecting the best bocal for each instrument. These fine instruments are New / Old stock and are all in like new condition. If you, your school or your student/s are looking for a great selection of quality instruments from which to choose you will want to make an appointment to stop by the shop or call and we can select an instrument for you. These instruments are priced to sell and are all in the $2500 to $4000 price range. All are in excellent condition cases with a case cover and new bocals as needed, with crutch and seat strap.

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Just released

New recording for Music Minus One:

http://musicminusone.com/woodwinds/bassoon/festival-and-contest-solos-for-bassoon-piano.html

These are the old standards that every student should know! A great deal–sheet music solo parts for twelve pieces, plus accompaniment CD.

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