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Strange place for a bocal

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#1
Suzy and I were at the Seattle Symphony yesterday and noticed, not for the first time either, that the bassoonist hung his bocal cork-side out from the top of his instrument as he moved from his chair to off stage. It moved freely, swinging and probably scratching the top of the instrument. Can anyone explain why he would tranport his instrument this way?
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#2
I've seen more than one symphonic player do this.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#3
Bassoon bocals tend to trap moisture on the curve just past the reed. The tip-down orientation, plus the vibration from the movement of the bocal might help to get rid of the water.

Plus when the bocal sticks out to the side of the horn, it's just asking for trouble.

I must admit that I've never seen the bassoon players I know do this, and I sit next to a lot of them.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#4
I've been known to do it now and again. As mentioned above, the bocal installed on the horn is an accident waiting to happen. The smooth contours of the curve of the bocal doesn't do any damage to the exterior of the instrument, and the bore in the bell is not as sensitive to minor scratches as such damage might be lower down.

The consequences of a collision with a bocal while installed on the horn in playing position can be severe, both for the bocal (the things are pretty soft compared to most metal objects, and they both bend and break easily) and for the person with whom they might collide (that little tip is both sharp and adept at punching holes, particularly in soft objects like eyeballs).
 

Heckelphone

Double Reed CE
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#5
Bocal care

Terry has the right answer: the main reason for putting the bocal in the bell is to protect the bocal. They are apt to catch on things like curtains, tuxes, etc., and bend, which leaves a crease that is impossible to remove. The bocal is never the same afterwards, and can't be restored to its original shape. Since they can cost several thousand $$, particularly for a "pre-war" Heckel, bassoonists take great care with them.

Hanging the bocal doesn't do much toward drying it out. The tip is small enough that moisture can collect there, but usually there is not enough to form a drop and fall out. The player just blows out the moisture (from the wide end), and this is sufficient to take care of 99% of the water.

The reed end of the bocal is tapered, so the "sharp" end is unlikely to contact the inside bore of the bell. You would have to deliberately gouge the inside of the bell in order to make a mark.

Enjoy!

Grant
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#6
Plus, when you sit down, it's fun to wiggle the fag and watch the bocal rotate around on the bell ring...

Those bassoon bells are useful in a number of different ways.

When my son was participating in one of the "contests" that kids get enrolled in down here, he was scheduled to meet his accompanist at the college where the performances took place. He waited outside for her to arrive while we sat in the waiting area inside holding his horn.

While waiting, I put one of his reeds on the horn (taking the bocal from the bell to do this - he learned the behavior from his teacher, a bassoonist of some twenty years experience) and gave the thing a test toot.

The tone was strangely muffled, and it puzzled me to no end as I could see no blocked tone holes, the reed squawked just fine and so forth. Only when the boy returned, pianist in tow, did he point out that his performance piece was rolled up and stuffed in the bell...something he also learned from his teacher.

I maintain that it's all of that retained air in the lungs that makes full time bassoonists a little nuts. Bad news for me, as I have a show coming up with a lot of bassoon in it...
 

Heckelphone

Double Reed CE
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#7
Strange place for it...

When I first got my Eb contrabass sarrusophone, it sounded a bit stuffy around the lowest half of the bottom register. The low Bb would barely play at all. Then I discovered that the previous owner had jammed a small cardboard box full of reeds down the bell, where it had lodged about a foot into the horn.

Played much better after that... :rolleyes:
 
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