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From bassoon to ???, from ??? to bassoon


Old King Log
Staff member
Once again, this spring finds me playing a show that has a clarinet/baritone sax/bassoon book. While all of the parts are scored for both baritone sax and bassoon (which might lead to some odd tone colors), and while I could transpose the bassoon part on the bass clarinet, I'd still rather do it on the bassoon.

However, the last three times that I tried this, I had no end of trouble making the swaps. I have a seat strap setup on the horn, with a nifty seat strap (slick on top, suede on the bottom (courtesy of a local S&M leather shop), and I cannot abide plastic reeds.

I've taken some of the lost motion out of the changes (bassoon on the left side of the stand, baritone on the right, reed in a water pot screwed to a pot holder on the music stand), but I still find it hard to get it all done in the seven or eight bars that I am often allowed.

I've considered one of those spike stands, but in turn that would require a new bassoon stand (probably one of those K & M monsters). Other than that, I can't see any other timesavers that would allow it to "work".

(Incidentally, all four shows had huge amounts of bassoon in them - Crazy For You, that one with Tea For Two in it, The Music Man and now (shudder) L'll Abner.)

Any other ideas?
It may sound crazy but how about doing a Bassoon Peg?
I've seen several bassoons lately with a curved leg rest on the bassoon. I believe Winc is one of the brand names.

Last time I had fast bassoon to bari changes, I played the bassoon on a strap, and rested in my lap when I played the bari on the stand.
I was thinking Bassoon peg with a strap. I've seen some interesting strap configurations on Bassoon. It seems like Bassoon needs to come in from your left with Bari always on the right. If you could play Bassoon with it between your legs you'd be fine :D
I've used the lap approach occasionally for horn changes to and from the bassoon during a single number. I've got my seat straps (the Sado-Masochistic ones, which are really, really nice - my wife and I have ended up taking all sorts of leather work to the guys, even if visiting their shop is a bit much) set up so that I can pick up or drop the ring through the bottom of the boot quickly enough, and the horn just barely will balance on my lap with the ring engaged.

I do the same sort of thing with the bass. On tunes where I've got both bass clarinet and baritone, I play the bass over the bari, with the baritone up on my lap. Then, for a horn change, it's stab the bass down in its bracket, and then slide the baritone into place. I can manage this in about four beats of moderate time. Going the other way takes a bit more time and effort, though, as you've got to move the baritone up on your lap before grabbing at the bass.

I've never thought about putting a stand on my left for it. A good way to piss off the tenor player, I would imagine...

My instrument stand is somewhat different from most. It's a wooden "H" base, with stations for the horns spaced across the extended center bar of the letter. For this next show, I'll set it up for baritone, bassoon, bass clarinet and clarinet, but it can just as easily accommodate my alto or a tenor, or the flutes and small clarinets. If I figure out the photo capability here, I'll post a photo of same.

The bassoon stand that is installed on the base is the upper half of a Fox one, purchased from the junk bin at H & H's Dallas warehouse for all of $5.00. One of my better musical bargains.

All of the curved leg brackets that I've seen are a bit on the pricey side. I hate to shell out that much without trying one first. All I have to do is find a Bassoons 'R' Us, and I can make the comparison...
I'd forgotten you keep your bassoon on the right, Terry.

I keep mine on the left. Most of the shows I've been doing lately have the WW section in two or three ranks, so the back row left is the spot I've ended up in - no one on my left to worry about.
Once more into the breech...

This spring, it's a lash-up production of Seussical, with lots of baritone, a heap of bassoon, some very poignant clarinet solos (very, very exposed) and enough flute to keep me pissed off as I try to hack the part (They've got a very nice flute lady who does all of the flute and piccolo heavy lifting from all three woodwind books.)

Aside from the absurd metrics used in the part (like alternating bars of 3/4 and 4/4 - apparently they never heard of 7/4 time) and the incessant modulation (one two page "tune" goes through no less than seven key changes), the arrangers have combined their effort to make the various bassoon parts as impossible to play as they could.

It's not that the music is that hard per se - other than a pair of broken chromatic runs, it all lies under the hands well. It's just that, in a "through-sung" work such as this, the music comes at you fast and furious, and bassoon playing, at least the way that I attempt to do it, is not suited to a "grab the horn off of the stand and start playing RIGHT NOW" approach.

I have my carefully prepared binder with the parts for this year's musicals all carefully assembled. (As this particular show is only performed six times, I've not gone all out and assembled "fold out charts" for the bad spots, which would ease some of my troubles.) In three or four places, the arranger has me moving from baritone to bassoon with only a brief applause interval or a couple of bars rest to make the change.

Now, in a show, some horn changes are problematic. Flipping a heavy tenor or baritone on and off of the stand is a risky maneuver, and not all horn stands are up to the challenge. But, even with my massive H-bar arrangement, throwing a bassoon into the mix makes for an evening of horror rather than of paid enjoyment.

Over the past five years, over half of the shows that I have done use the faggotte, and I approach every one with a sense of trepidation. From the cornball Pajama Game through a rearrangement of The Music Man and now to this (Seusical, it's almost as if people are trying to get to me.

So far, I've dealt with a dried out reed (forgot to put it in the pot after the last horn change), one reed stab next to my nose (with slight skin penetration, caused by a too quick hoisting of the horn with the reed in place - it's hard to believe that Napoleonic military bandsmen marched with these stupid things), nearly had the whole bassoon roll off my lap (dropped it there to play clarinet, and shifted in my seat a bit too much to get a good view of the conductor), and drank my reed bottle water by mistake (I dumped it into an almost empty water bottle during teardown, and then picked up the wrong water bottle for a quick drink). And, that's just over two nights - who knows what tonight will bring?

And, one time, with my "perfect" reed carefully placed on the bocal and a deep exhale and inhale to make ready, I waited for the "off the beat" entry point, made an embouchure, and - nothing! It was if someone had super-glued the reed shut. Two bars of panic later, the same reed performed flawlessly. Go figure...

Don't get me wrong - the bassoon is a wonderful instrument, with a lovely, varied tone and a rich history. It's just that it's not like a flute where you lift it to your lips and let fly.

I'm not much on the mechanics of the thing. The little reed work that I know I learned from my son when he played the bassoon over five years back in the 1990's, plus what I picked up from books on the subject. So, I take care to buy decent reeds in bulk, and go easy with the pliers and reed knife. And, the amount of extra junk that you have to tote around is a real pain - a minimal kit just barely can be jammed into the small compartment in the case. (Most dedicated bassoonists - like a friend of mine (and his brother, who married my wife's daughter) - carry around a fishing tackle box to manage it all.)

Still, there is that look of admiration in the eyes of others when you pick it up after a hundred bars of "hot" saxophone playing and start in on ornamented parts that are 180° out of phase with what you just played. It makes it all worthwhile.

I paid $333.33 (the net tax deduction worth for the horn - the owner got a new bassoon and was going to donate it to a school when I made him the cash now offer) for my horn, and put another seven hundred or so into it for overhaul and improvement costs (whisper key lock, rigging the boot for a ring, and fixing a long neglected crack in the long joint). All in all, it was money well spent, although I avoid playing it unless I have something in the offing. And, I should have had the keywork silver plated when I had the chance.

I just wish that the horn changes from baritone to bassoon, or bassoon to baritone, didn't always come up with a page turn as a bonus...
a nifty seat strap (slick on top, suede on the bottom (courtesy of a local S&M leather shop))

SOTSDO said:
I just wish that the horn changes from baritone to bassoon, or bassoon to baritone, didn't always come up with a page turn as a bonus...
Masochistic tendencies, Terry? :p

...the place has relocated, and they don't seem to be answering their phone any longer. I've had a couple of people who liked my seat strap, but I can't refer them to the shop any longer.

There were some interesting things on display at the old shop, I tell you what. Even my lovely wife was somewhat shocked, and she is widely considered un-shockable.
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