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.
Wire. #22 soft brass wire is best. Sometimes craft stores carry wire like this, but you may want to check the double reed shops.Plaque. 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.
File. 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.
We 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!
Duco is probably the most popular glue used to seal and waterproof the thread.
Baroquemusic.it 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.
Last 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!
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.
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?
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.