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Wed, Feb. 28th, 2007, 07:37 pm

Hey bassoonists. I'm having some trouble with my whisper key. Its sticking down, and I can't seem to fix it. Its definitely NOT that the pad is super sticky, and its definitely not the whisper-key lock. The mechanism is well-oiled. The problem has something to do with the spring. Its not tense enough or something, because it just isn't forcing the whisper key back when I lift my thumb.

Does anyone know how I can fix this, or perhaps know another reason that could be causing this?

It's very urgent that I fix it, because I have a concert this weekend (and my whisper key sticking down is totally messing up my upper register). Unfortunately, my private teacher is out of town until next week, so I can't talk to him about it. And more unfortunately, I'm in college and I don't live around here, and neither does my bassoon repair guy.

If anyone has any ideas, I would be so greatfull to hear them!

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007 12:59 am (UTC)

Your repair guy might be able to advice you over the phone. I don't know about your bassoon, but my 'spring' is just a wire that puts tension on the key mechanism to open it up. On my bassoon, I could unhook the wire, bend it in the direction that will cause more tension, and then hook it back on. If this doesn't seem logical for your bassoon, definitely call the repair guy.

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007 01:16 am (UTC)

That is exactly what I did and it didn't do anything. I actually just called my repair guy a little while ago and it turns out he's on vacation and is unreachable!

I am in such a pickle. :\

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007 03:46 am (UTC)

You didn't mention where you are, or where you're in school? Is there another bassoonist in the area (private teacher wise or professional) that could take a look at your horn?

This sounds pretty desperate, so I might even take it to a local music shop and see if they had any ideas, if you trust them with your horn.

Baring that, noone in your studio is from the area and could give you any sort of idea where to take the instrument?

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007 03:07 pm (UTC)

If you live in an area with cold winters and lots of indoor heating, the lack of humidity often makes the wooden bassoon body shrink. The posts that hold the whisper key rod get a tiny bit closer together, binding the rod a bit. The spring is probably fine, but the rod isn't rotating as easily as it should. Try unhooking the spring and seeing if the whisper rod moves easily - it should be very easy.

This problem is more common on newer bassoons because the wood isn't old enough to have completely settled. There is no easy fix - it just takes 10 years or so before the wood calms down and stops changing every season.

I have an idea that might work as a temporary fix, as long as the rod isn't too binded up -- take a medium or big rubber band, cut it, and then once your bassoon is assembled, tie it around where the bottom of the whisper key rod protrusion goes over the top of the boot joint and connects to the pancake key lever. I hope that's clear. So you'll have a big rubber band going around the top of your boot and over that metal bit that's part of the whisper key rod assembly. That rubber band will hold that lever down, making the whisper key pad want to be open and its force will be counteracted when you push down on the key with your thumb while playing. The whisper key and pancake key might be a little harder to hold down than usual, but it will work.

If that doesn't do the trick until you can see a repair person, here's what the repair person would do (or you could do it if you're confident and adventurous).

The steps to repair it are:
1. First try putting more light oil on both sides of the rod where it meets the posts/pivot screws.

If that doesn't help:
2. You will need to remove the whole whisper key rod (unscrew the pivot screws holding it in at the posts - don't lose them! And if you remove both, make sure you remember which one came from which post.)
3. Check and make sure the posts aren't loose - you can try and turn them with your fingers. If they rotate, make sure they're totally straight - the hole going through the posts must be exactly lined up with the hole in the whisper key rod. If you rotated them a bit, try putting the key back and see if it's better. If this fixes it, you'll need to eventually have the posts glued in straight so they don't rotate out of whack again.
4. Most likely, that won't fix it - so this is the important part - you may have to sand some metal off the end of the whisper key rod. Take some off the bottom of the rod (not the end way up by the bocal). Take a TINY BIT using a fine sandpaper (like 400 grit). Put the key back on, add some oil, and try it. You just want to take off enough so that they key works properly. The issue with doing this is that in summer, when the bassoon body swells up again and the posts move further apart, the key rod might be a little bit loose. This isn't a problem with the whisper key, but with other keys it could potentially cause trouble.

Good luck!

Thu, Mar. 1st, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)

Holy crap, the humidity thing is TOTALLY the issue! Its gotta be. The ring on the end of my bell is loose too, which is clearly a result of the season. I didn't think to consider that a lack of humidity could have an effect on rods. Right now, all I have is a few cigar box humidifiers (the little cheap ones) in my case, and they aren't doing much good. Do you have any recommendations for keeping my bassoon humidified? When I'm at home I actually just keep a big humidifier in my room, but obviously I can't do that when I'm away at school.

I get what you're saying with the rubber band thing. I'll give that a shot today.

Thanks a lot!

Fri, Mar. 2nd, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC)

Yep, my bell ring is loose, too. It's a pain. I keep a home-made little humidifier in my case (small pill bottle with lots of holes drilled in it, filled with some bits of sponge I keep damp) but it doesn't take care of all the problems unfortunately. I don't think there's a total solution, but spring is coming!

I was thinking about the advice I gave you when I was practicing yesterday and realized that on my bassoon, it wouldn't work to put the rubber band where I said. Oops! But the general idea could be useful - find a place where you can tie a rubber band that will force the whisper key pad open. On my bassoon, it's actually up on the wing joint near where your thumb goes. There's a lever there that if you force down, it will keep the whisper key open. Tying a rubber band around the whole wing joint can cause problems because it won't fit properly against the long joint, but maybe you could tie the rubber band to something else on the wing - like another rod nearby. Something to experiment with...

Hope it works!