5. Upgrading Your Bassoon

Usually, a short-reach bassoon will not last a student forever, and as their hands grow, they will eventually need a ‘professional’ model. Student models will also need upgrading as their inadequacies in tone and key-work are exposed once a child is playing more difficult music (around Grade 5 level and beyond). The cost involved can be substantial, with fully professional models costing anywhere between six and eighteen thousand pounds. However, if a student has no aspiration to play professionally, then there is no need to buy a very expensive bassoon. Nearly all reputable manufacturers make a range of models, and often the main differences between them are involved with the key-work, for example additional rollers between close keys, thumb locks, and extra trill keys. Such additions are only rendered necessary if the player is performing professionally - simpler models are more than adequate for the keen amateur, which in many cases are lighter as a result of less metal being used, and still capable of a beautiful dark bassoon sound.

Whichever model you choose, the sound and playability will vary from instrument to instrument, whoever the manufacturer. A problem for the bassoonist though, is that the instrument is not the only factor involved in the sound produced - reeds and crooks can also be changed and this can confuse the selection process. For this reason, it is advisable to keep as many constants as you can when trying different instruments, against which you can compare the variables.

The main constant is the reed. A good starting point is to try your favourite reed on everything first where possible. If it works well on all of them - as often happens if all the potential instruments are by the same manufacturer - then you will be able to compare instruments easily as the only variant is the instrument itself. However, some instruments may respond better to a different reed from the one that works best on your old instrument. Get a small selection of reeds to cater for this, some hard and some soft - don’t dismiss an instrument simply because your favourite reed doesn’t work too well on it, as it may be that it just requires a different ‘set-up’ to the one you’re used to. Once you’re happy you have a relatively suitable reed for the instrument, try not to keep changing, as you will otherwise find that you are paying too much attention to the reeds, and not enough to the instrument itself.

Another good constant is the music that you play on each instrument. Choose a section of a piece you know well, and play it on each instrument, ensuring a direct comparison between them. Also, make sure you cover the whole range of notes, articulation and dynamics. No bassoon is perfectly in tune, but there should be no ‘wild notes’ that you really have to fight to get in tune with the rest of the instrument.

Choosing a new instrument is not a process that can be rushed, and Thomann’s 30-day money back guarantee ensures that you can always be confident that you have made the right decision. Always ask for your teacher’s help throughout the process - the fact that they know both you and the range of instruments on offer can make their advice invaluable! As with any new instrument, it is important not to play it too much at first. Start with a quarter of an hour each day, and then gradually increase the time over the first few weeks. This should avoid the bassoon ‘blowing-in’ too quickly, which can lead to the wood cracking by being exposed to too much moisture and movement - this can be a very expensive problem to repair.

The cost of a bassoon has long been a reason why it is a relatively rare instrument amongst children, but there are numerous trusts and schemes that can help to ease finances. The Internet is a good source of information, and a teacher may also be able to help.

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