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Stratford Festival 2014

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#2
Merlin,

How long and what kind of practice regimen did it take for you to become proficient enough on bassoon to play shows? I can get around just fine on sax & clarinet after 50+ years of playing, not so well on flute (mainly because I ignore it), and I'm picking up bass clarinet pretty quickly. I've never done the double reed thing though, and suspect it may be a steep learning curve for an old dog like me.
 

Merlin

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#3
I hacked away on bassoon from my early college days on and off. When the Producers was running in Toronto in 2003/04, I had to buckle down and get a bit more serious about it.

The biggest leap forward for me came a few years ago when I started making reeds as well.

My best advice for the prospective bassoonist:

1. Buy a Fox or Renard bassoon. Model 41 as a minimum, avoid the 51 (short reach model). The pro model plastic bassoons (model III and IV) are great value; I got my Model III on ebay for under $2000. If the bassoon you get doesn't have a whisper key lock, have one added.

2. Get Christopher Weait's reedmaking book. Get supplies from Miller Marketing. Learn to make reeds, or at the very least, adjust them. Miller sells some nice reeds as well. Midwest and Charles sell the ones I make.

3. If you're going to double in a show setting, get a WINC leghook.

4. Find a community band to play in to build up your chops in context.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#4
And work through the Practical Method for the Bassoon, by J. Weissenborn method as part of your
acclimation...

I've been off bassoon a couple of years now, and what I have found is that (despite starting on the fag back in high school, purely out of interest in the instrument - I was allowed to take one home over the summers) you've got to keep your hand in on a semi-permanent basis.

Of course, if you have the cash to spare, getting a high quality Fox or Renard horn is the way to go. (I once briefly owned a Heckel - sold it and made a ton on the deal.) But, just like a certain guy named Parker, if you buy the equivalent of a Grafton out of the bassoon world, and get the rest of the rig in good shape, you can make it work.

I try to keep ahead of the need for bassoon in the local theater (or is that "theatre"?) scene, so I know when a show with bassoon is coming up. I then spend some time working back into shape so I'm ready when the call comes. My lead alto is a superb bassoon player (even though one of the keys on his old bassoon was repaired with a finishing nail), so if the show is a pure bassoon operation, he will usually take the part. If it's mixed bass/baritone/bassoon (the three Bs), he'll handle the second part and I'll handle the Bs.

The leg bracket is probably one of the most significant developments in the bassoon world since the invention of the whisper key. Trying to change from baritone to bassoon in four bars of 4/4 time (as you have to do if you go all old school when playing The Pajama Game) will usually end up with a damaged reed at the best, and a hole through your lip at the worst, if using the traditional seat strap. That bracket has to halve the time needed to get hooked up and ready to go.
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#5
Good info, thanks. I'm not quite ready to dive into the pit yet, but is definitely part of my retirement plan. It seems like for at least some of the local productions around here, you can get in the door with just two Bs (BC and Bari) and the clarinet.
 
#6
What are you doing during the 'Bela, Bela, Bela' scene? That's a long space with no music....

I'm playing Crazy for You at the Stratford Festival for the 2014 season. We go up Apr. 21 and run 3-4 shows a week 'til October.

My book is Reed 5 (rental edition) - baritone sax/bass clarinet/bassoon.

 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#7
That's what books and coolers are for...

When I last did 1776, I was able to exit the pit, get in my car, drive to the local McDonald's, drive back, eat upstairs, and then get back into the pit between the two numbers with the L-O-N-G break.

It helped that there was a backstage ramp entry to the pit from backstage; all of us with large horns loved playing that place.
 
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