Milde op. 24

I like Ludwig Milde’s Twenty-Four Scale and Arpeggio Studies, op. 24. These etudes are great for daily maintenance and workout. I don’t know what it is, but I really like #8–it’s probably because the upper middle register slurs are good vitamins, especially in D major!

Milde_op24_p11IMSLP has a link to the Sibley Library copy of the the Hofmeister edition of Milde op. 24. There are a few wrong notes in this edition (easily corrected), but it’s nice to have a convenient electronic copy for your bassoon music archive.

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First tools for reed making/adjusting

Here’s a quick shopping list for the (few) tools needed for beginning reed making/adjusting:

Mandrel. I recommend the forming mandrel #2130 sold by Womble Williams. You can make your own holding mandrel with a mandrel pin and a do-it-yourself handle.


Pliers. I made many reeds with a pair of 6-inch needle-nose pliers I purchased at Ace Hardware in 1970. Just be sure your pliers have a built-in wire cutter.

pliersWire. #22 soft brass wire is best. Sometimes craft stores carry wire like this, but you may want to check the double reed shops.22brasswirePlaque. It is important to protect the reed when you are working on it. I like a traditional arrow-head contoured plaque–available at double reed shops.

plaqueFile. I like my Grobet files, but any 4-inch warding file will do the trick.


Sandpaper. #400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper is very handy. I use it to sand the reed tip (to improve response) and for fine finishing of the reed blades.

sandpaperWe like to use cotton thread to wrap bassoon reeds. Nylon thread tends to stretch and squeeze the tube closed. Cotton #10 crochet thread is an inexpensive alternative to the various specialty string available for wrapping reeds, and it’s available in many colors!

aunt-lydia-s-classic-crochet-cotton-size-10-6Duco is probably the most popular glue used to seal and waterproof the thread.


Posted in Reeds & Reedmaking | Leave a comment is a terrific resource! There are a few solo pieces for bassoon (including two Vivaldi concertos—RV501 and RV487—and the Boismortier concerto in D) and considerable chamber music with prominent bassoon parts (e.g. Zelenka trio sonata #5, ZWV 181). A special favorite of mine is Biagio Marini’s Affetti Musicali (1617) which features great early Baroque writing for bassoon. The scores are immaculate, many produced directly from manuscripts. MIDI files are included. We used the MIDI files for a concerto in Garageband to easily create a handy accompaniment (muting the solo track and adjusting the tempo) for practicing. The editions are also indexed and linked through IMSLP.

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Paul Nordby Bassoon Repair

nordbyLast week, I had the great good fortune to have my bassoon adjusted by Paul Nordby in Indianapolis. What a genuinely nice man and wonderful bassoon specialist! My bassoon plays better than ever! In the 1970s, I had taken a bassoon to James Laslie, the terrific bassoon repair expert with whom Paul apprenticed. I think Mr. Nordby is every bit the skilled craftsman and artist Mr. Laslie was—what an outstanding legacy! It takes about four months lead time to schedule an appointment with Paul Nordby, and it is well worth it. I thought I knew what needed attention, but when Paul was finished, he had eliminated numerous leaks and plenty of key slop. I’m such a jock, I just play the instrument I have in front of me. Mr. Nordby knew what I REALLY needed to make my instrument EXCELLENT!

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Caprices by Karl (Carl) Jacobi

An early edition of Karl Jacobi’s Six Caprices op. 16 (1836) is available on IMSLP. These technical etudes are challenging, virtuosic, and enjoyable to play! The Caprices make great reading material, and they allow for ample expression in addition to requiring considerable technical facility. In his 1980 dissertation, A Biographical Dictionary of Bassoonists Born Before 1825, Woodrow Hodges explains that Karl (Carl) Jacobi was a bassoonist, composer, and teacher whose compositions were popular with bassoonists in the first half of the 19th century.

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Musical solutions to technical problems

The concept of solving technical problems by applying musical solutions (dynamics, rubato, expression) is not new. Very often, focusing on a musical goal makes the technique challenges fade by comparison. But, how does one decide on the particular musical approach that will be the key to the technique in a passage?

One method is to determine the technical need, then build a musical concept around it. In this example (Bordeaux, Premier Solo), there is both a tendency to rush at the top of the figure, and a challenging fingering pattern E-flat, F-sharp, G, A-flat, G, E-flat:


Our solution is to take time at the top of the figure, around the A-flat. Musically, to make the A-flat the target (goal) of the phrase is effective, and a slight stretch (rubato) on the A-flat will not only sound expressive, it will counteract the tendency to rush and stumble through the pattern.

Often, modifying the articulation of a passage will both clear up a muddy technique as well as clarify the musical intent. In this passage from the first movement of Vivaldi’s concerto in a minor, F VIII no 7, we find that emphasizing a melodic pattern and playing the decorative notes lighter and fainter, helps to keep the fingers “organized” and improves the musical intelligibility of the phrase:


Bringing out the numbered notes helps to focus the technique into manageable patterns, and the resulting melody is musically interesting. In addition, articulating the numbered notes longer, and the unnumbered notes shorter, enhances the musicality of the passage while improving the reliability of the technique. Finally, phrasing each 1-2-3-1 pattern with a crescendo helps to build the passage to a climax on the downbeat of the sixth measure, then subsiding from that point to the end of the phrase is helpfully coherent.

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Repertoire for the IDRS Young Artist 2015 Bassoon Competition

The repertoire for the preliminary stage of the International Double Reed Society Young Artist 2015 Bassoon Competition includes:

Jan Antonín Koželuh, Concerto in C Major (movement 1)


Camille Saint Saëns, Sonata for Bassoon and Piano (movement 3)


and, four of the 16 Waltzes for Solo Bassoon by Francisco Mignone (Pattapiada, Apanhei-te meu fagotinho, A Boa Páscoa Para Vocé Devos!, and Valsa-Choro)


Benjamin Coelho has written a very thorough article on the Mignone waltzes. He gives extensive historical background, stylistic information, and performance notes.

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Bassoonist composers

In 2001, Michael Burns wrote an article entitled, “Music Written for Bassoon by Bassoonists.” [Double Reed, vol. 24 no. 2] He identifies a number of accomplished bassoonists who were also composers—some writing music (etudes and solos) for their students, others composing concert music and chamber music. We are familiar with, for example, Julius Weissenborn (1837-1888), who was bassoon professor at the Leipzig Conservatory and prolific composer of etudes, short character pieces for bassoon and piano, and a delightful bassoon trio.

Two more recent bassoonist/composers who have made their music available on the web (either free or at very low cost) are Ray Pizzi and Robert Rønnes. Mr. Pizzi is an amazing jazz musician and spectacular bassoonist who has worked in Hollywood for many years. He was a student of Simon Kovar. Robert Rønnes is an acclaimed bassoonist who is principal bassoonist with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and teaches at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Norway.

Who can resist Pizzi’s solo bassoon piece, Ode to a Toad, or Rønnes’ Dragon’s Teeth for bassoon and timpani?

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Daily Exercises

There are at least two purposes for daily exercises: to perfect an etude for audition (lesson or other performance . . . ) or to maintain technique. It helps to read —through— etudes for a good/productive daily workout. Among my favorites are the Giampieri 16 Daily Studies. I especially like #4 for flexibility and agility—it can make a great daily warmup. I like to practice each pattern s-l-o-w-l-y first, then repeat with quicker tempo. Sometimes, multiple repetitions help to iron out the technical wrinkles.


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Fox Model 680

Had a chance to try several Fox Model 680 bassoons at the factory this week—very impressive! I was struck by the ease of response, the vibrant sound, and the rich low register.

New Fox Model 680

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