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Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008, 06:41 pm

Hey all I have a few problems again as usual.. I've been playing for 2 years now.
I started with the Bb Clarinet for a year then I switched to the bassoon.
1) I'm really used to this brand of reeds called 'Jones' and then now its unavailable.. My conductor orders other brands now and I'm finding it really difficult to get used to the other brand. Some reeds are smaller and softer and some reeds are bigger and harder.. Not used to them.. What should I do?
2) How do I know when my reeds are over-used and should not be used anymore?
3) My high notes sound kind of 'thin' and aren't really pleasant..
4) I lock my whisper key all the time.. Is that good or bad? Does it affect anything?
5) My notes keep cracking especially the higher notes.. And its really getting on my nerves..
6) Is there a way to solve bassoon intonation problems? (My conductor says the only way is to adjust the embouchure and the bocal should be pushed in completely..)
7) Is it a must to soak the reeds before and after playing?
8) My bassoon is starting to have a weird smell I don't know why. (I use vaseline as my cork grease is it related to the smell?)
9) If I practise long tones, how should I go about practising it? And how long would it take for me to notice any improvements?
10) Does the bassoon sound depend mostly on the quality of the reed?
11) How to I form a more relaxed embouchure?
12) I tend to tighten my embouchure when hitting the higher notes.. How do I solve this problem?
13) Is it a must to use the octave keys?
14) Do bassoons squeak? Because I think I do.. Lol.


Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)

1. Jones Reeds went out of business, so now every middle school/high school bassoonist who was used to them is in a scramble for a solution. I turned to local bassoonists, and got reeds from a teacher that I started taking lessons with.
2.If your reeds are black on the inside and turning brown on the outside, they have to go.
3. They are thin when you pinch your embouchure as opposed to using good air support and a reed and suits you.
4. You should only use whisper key lock if you are doing jumps from the low register to the middle register, or vice versa like in Percy Grainger's Children March.
5. Perhaps your whisper key locking is causing them to crack, but it's probably your pinching in the embouchure.
6. Everything leads back to the embouchure. Making sure that you're not playing up into the bocal helps though, and trying to push your air down through it makes it less sharp. Practicing with a tuner is also pretty standard.
7. Yes. Absolutely. The reed is completely different when not soaked. And just having it in your mouth for a while before playing will not help. When the reed comes in contact with water, the cane expands and the opening swells and the responsiveness alters, so you really can't shirk the responsibility of soaking it, and using your spit will just mold the reed faster and sometimes cause the cane to close up because there are acids in your saliva that can wear down the wood.
8. Vaseline has nothing to do with it. If you're using a school bassoon, it probably has years of disgusting build up. You might want to go to your local music store and have it cleaned or swab it out yourself. Just make sure you don't get water on the pads.
9. You practice long tones starting in the middle register, like F and you use a metronome, on a slow tempo (anywhere from 40-60) and you set a goal for how many clicks you can last before you have to take a breath, making sure to keep the tone steady and not wavering even as you are using your gut to push out air and to strain yourself as you run out of it. And it takes a while to notice. I don't think there was a day I ever noticed, it just occurred to be one day that it sounded better having practiced them.
10. Yes. And your embouchure is probably....70% of it.
11. The correct bassoon embouchure is debatable, but generally, you want a significantly larger amount of top lip over the reed than your bottom, kind of looking like you've lost your dentures. it looks silly, but it leaves the support in your lips rather than your cheeks or jaw, therefore relaxing it a bit. It takes a lot of dedication to switch embouchures, and it might be painful, but it makes a huge difference.
12. You solve it by a) getting better reeds than suit you, b) practicing using waaaaaaay more air in the higher register, and c) finding the best way to set your mouth on the reed
13. There generally aren't any octave keys on the bassoon....there are flick keys in your left thumb above the whisper key (a is the third key, Bb and B are the fourth and c can be used on the fifth key above whisper if you have that key on your bassoon). They are used to prevent the start of the note from cracking, seeing as those notes are not the best on the bassoon.
14. Yep!

Hope I helped. :)

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
instantparty: Hey thanks :)

Hey thanks a lot.. Thanks so much for going through all my problems lol I wouldn't have the patience to do so.. Ahh sigh seems like I've got a lot of work to do.. Lol.. (: I do swab after every practice and yeah my bassoon's pretty old I guess. Hmmm I think the biggest problem now should be my embouchure? Do you have any specific brands of reed to recommend? When I use a lot more air/faster air on my higher notes they tend to sound piercing..

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
invalidtag: Re: Hey thanks :)

Anything that has to do with sound is one of three major things:

1. air support
2. reeds
3. embouchure

I make my own reeds and get some from my teacher, but miller marketing company has decent reeds. And the piercing noise you're hearing is just motivation to make a change in any of those three things. :)

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)

Cherry picking the ones I have better help for... FWIW I played for 10 years but haven't in a few.

4) If you do a lot of high notes it going to make it more difficult.
5) Have you heard of flicking? For A, B, Bb, (middle) C, and D you can use the high A key, the high C key, and the high D key (if you have one) with a quick touch at the beginning of your note. You can tell you are using the right key when holding it down instead of flicking doesn't changes the note. With practice, this isn't too hard and will give you a lot of confidence for sounding high notes. My old teacher had a paper on it.
6) You'll probably need to find a good teacher but you can learn how to scrap a reed to solve some intonation problems - especially E and Eb (below middle C).
7) before yes, but it doesn't take long. I wouldn't soak after. I swab it out with a pipe-cleaner, something I picked up from my teacher.
8) Do you have a swab? Might want to wash it and start using it every day if you aren't.
12) Flicking will give you confidence and help you relax.
13) I think of them as the A, C, and D key rather as they are not technically octave keys. Yes for flicking, not holding, unless you are slurring from the next note. Yes for the upper register where they are required in the fingerings.
14) I'd say its something we can grow out of. :)

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 01:21 pm (UTC)

invalidtag made a lot of great points; I just have a few additions.

1. I second the idea of getting reeds from local bassoonists -- or, if you're thinking you want to keep playing bassoon into college (or beyond), this might be a good time to start looking into making your own reeds. A friend of mine from school recently mentioned Roarty Reeds to me, and while I haven't tried them myself (I... attempt to make my own reeds), it might be worth a shot to buy a few and see how you like them.
6. Make sure that you are avoiding using your embouchure to adjust intonation! I used to do that and it's taken a year for me to really use my oral cavity (think of opening/closing your throat -- opening it will make notes flatter, closing will make them sharper) and the air support from my diaphragm to tune them. Your lesson teacher can be a huge help on this. If you don't have a teacher, it'd be a huge help!
7. I don't soak reeds after I play them, but you must soak them before, for at least a minute or two, if not more. I know some bassoonists that soak their reeds for even ten to fifteen minutes before playing. You can also experiment with water temperatures to see what you like best -- I have one friend that likes to soak her reeds in ice-cold water, and another who soaks them in boiling water, and they both sound great.
9. I practice long tones by setting my metronome at 60 BPM, turning on a tuner, and doing a crescendo over 17 beats, all while trying to keep the note perfectly in tune. This improves your soft attacks (so hard!) and your intonation over all ranges. If you do this for even ten minutes a day, you'll see a huge amount of improvement -- just remember to work on the entire range.
11. Practicing in front of a mirror helps. Form an embouchure on the reed, and then relax it. Just make sure you don't start leaking air!
14. Bassoons squeak most if your reed isn't properly soaked, so get soaking!

I hope some of this helps a little, and happy bassooning!! ♥

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)

Everyone else has already weighed in with great comments... I can't agree more with practicing in front of the mirror, and soaking the reeds.

Jones and reeds -- Apparently Jones is back in business (http://www.jonesdoublereed.com/) but it's unclear to me when they'll be vending again. I have liked the reeds I buy from Forrest's (http://www.forrestsmusic.com/), but any reeds I buy, I frequently end up tweaking with my own reed tools. Learning about reed making will help you evaluate reeds and narrow down what works best for you, even if someone else makes them.

Whisper key -- definitely do not lock it all the time; only when you are playing in the middle/low register and fingering would otherwise cause you to temporarily un-depress the key.

Flick keys -- I hate the flick keys, and yes, you must use them. When I don't use them, I am sorry, and all results are better when I do. I had a teacher who studied in France for many years, and he would say, "Pouce paresseux!" ("lazy thumb!") every time I should have been flicking and I didn't. Make it a permanent part of your technique. You'll be glad you did.

Good luck!

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)

If you're tightening your embouchure in the upper register, the only way to solve it is to just... not do it. Its one of those bad habits that you have to consciously make yourself not do. Tightening your embouchure up there will (obviously) make the notes not speak, or will sound choked, and might make you squeak. So when you're practicing your long tones up there, focus on keeping your embouchure loose and using A LOT more air.

As for solving intonation problems, well, a lot of time with a tuner will help. Get out your tuner and play notes that are typically out of tune for you, and experiment with your air support and the inside of your mouth (I think someone before me said 'mouth cavity') until the note settles in tune. A lot of intonation problems can be solved by just using more air. Once you get the note in tune, take your mouth off the reed and relax a moment, and then play again and try to get in tune quicker (or right away). Eventually your muscle and aural memory will start to kick in and you'll just know where you need to be to play in tune. Do this excersize without a tuner, too. Get with a piano (one thats in tune) and play notes and try to match them. This is a great way to train your ear for intonation issues.

Good luck!

Sun, Dec. 21st, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)

There are a lot of really great comments here already, but I hope I can help. (As you can see, I'm kind of late to the party.)

3. My high notes have a tendency to be really flat, especially middle C-D-E range. Holding the Eb key helps them raise their pitch. Definitely work with a tuner, and use a lot of air.

4. Like everyone else said, don't use it on the higher notes. It's also helpful to not use it in the extreme low register, so that the left thumb doesn't have to constantly switch back and forth. Relax your jaw and use a lot of air.

5. If your A's are cracking, I've found that covering the LH first finger hole about 3/4 of the way helps most of the time. Notes seem to crack more depending on the age of the reed.

8. Invest in a swab to clean the wing joint and boot joint after playing. I would also recommend to invest in a bocal cleaner, and you can use Q-tips to clean out the finger holes. (I should probably take my own advice...)

Have fun playing!

Tue, Jul. 13th, 2010 11:57 pm (UTC)

when the bassoon starts to sound really bad...its time to change the reed...and get rid of the one you were playing on and no its not a must to soak before and after but it is a must to soak b4 because you want to make sure that the whole reed is wet and the sound does somewhat depend on the reed if its really squeaky then the reed needs to be changed but if its a new reed it should have a nice full tone