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Bassoon Facts

10 Interesting Facts About The Bassoon

The Bassoon is one of the main members of the woodwind family, which sees a lot of action in the modern orchestra. It plays a very important role, due to its versatility and relatively wide range compared to its siblings and cousins.

But despite this, not a lot of people are that aware of the Bassoon in general. Here are several interesting facts that will help you understand this instrument a little bit better.

Bassoon Facts

1. Not a lot of people can agree where the Bassoon actually came from

10 Interesting Facts About The Bassoon

This adds up to the instrument’s mysteries a little bit more! Some experts believe it’s the direct descendant of the dulcian, which is a double-reed woodwind instrument from the 14th century. Others state that it was the invention of the French composer and flutist Jacques-Martin Hoterrerre. Either way, the Bassoon is quite an old instrument that has a rich history. 

2. The Bassoon’s sound can closely resemble the singing of a baritone male vocalist

As humans, we are hardwired to consider anything that mimics human vocal quality as pleasant to the ears. The Bassoon’s distinctive range can sound like the voice of a baritone male, with its rich, full tone that can captivate an entire room. 

Interesting Bassoon Facts

3. A Bassoonist must possess a high level of dexterity

If you want to learn the Bassoon, you have to have equal strength and dexterity in both hands, because playing the instrument requires the use of all ten fingers, even the thumbs. For those who have to train their hands to be such, it might take years just to develop the ability!

4. The Bassoon is also the only instrument in an orchestra that you can’t play without using all your fingers

Bassoon Facts

Here’s a comparison: if you lose a digit due to a freak accident, you can still play a Clarinet or a Violin. But if you’re a Bassoonist and you suffer the same fate, you may have to move on to a new instrument, because playing the Bassoon with nine fingers is virtually impossible. 

5. A special type of Bassoon can play a note lower than any other instrument in the modern orchestra

That honour goes to the Contrabassoon, which is the lowest-pitched instrument in any given orchestra. Its standard range reaches a low Bb, but some come with an attachment to play a low A, and there is even an instrument in existence that can play a low Ab that is half a step below the low A on an 88-key Piano, which means the note is technically off the Piano. How low can you go?

6. You’ll need a bit of physical strength if you want to play the Bassoon well

We’ve already mentioned how much hand strength and coordination you need to play. But you also must know that the Bassoon is a bit heavy at around 7 ½ lbs (3.4 kg). Because of this weight, the Bassoonist will need a neck strap to hold the instrument properly, because if not, the arms wouldn’t be able to endure.

7. The Bassoon is quite long if not folded in on itself

In fact, if a Bassoon wasn’t folded, you wouldn’t be able to reach anything! A typical Bassoon is about 7 feet (2.1 metres) long if not folded. And the bigger Contrabassoon?  A whopping 16 feet (4.8 metres). To play that, you’ll have to stand on something like a ladder, but then you won’t reach the keys.

8. The Bassoon and the Oboe are two different instruments

A lot of people mistake the Bassoon for an Oboe, and that’s alright. But the thing is, a Bassoon is not an Oboe. The only thing similar about them is that they both play on double reeds. But other than that, nothing else is the same. So when someone asks you as a Bassoonist if you play the Oboe, please explain accordingly. 

Amazing Bassoon Facts

9. Many Bassoonists make their own reeds

Bassoon Reeds

If you’re learning to play the Bassoon you may also want to learn how to make your own reeds. They can be bought from a shop, but many players prefer to tailor make their own. They are often made from a specific type of plant called the arundo donax, or sometimes even in bamboo. So you don’t only have to be a good Bassoonist…you have to be a skilled woodworker too!

10. The earliest Bassoon-like ancestors can be traced back to the Middle Ages

This means that you can technically consider the Bassoon almost 2,000 years old, give or take. These predecessors were called shawms, and there was one shawm called the bombarde which looked much like the modern Bassoon. Due to this, you may consider the Bassoon the second-oldest instrument in the modern orchestra due to its predecessor.

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