Standing While Playing the Bassoon
April 24th, 2014 by Trent
If you’re an American trained bassoonist, chances are your first bassoon came with a seat strap, and you were taught to play sitting down with a seat strap. As far as I have observed, this is a purely American way of holding the bassoon while playing. It’s also clearly only something that bassoonists can do – no other instrument in the orchestra or band has a seat strap method of support. The seat strap is nice for sitting in long rehearsals; you get no stress on your neck or shoulders like the saxophonists suffer. Although the disadvantage is clear: there’s no way to stand and play with a seat strap. The positioning of the bassoon relative to your body is going to be different when standing, so making a transition to standing while playing can be difficult for many young (or older) players.
I first started my journey to stand while playing about 10 years ago, when I decided that I wanted to perform all of my future recitals standing. I was tired of seeing my friends on flute, clarinet, or violin able to be so much more physically involved, and have a stronger presence on stage while performing, while I felt stuck in a chair.
My first choice harness was a Kolbl harness, which I used for many years. They are very comfortable, and don’t require extensive adjustment for comfort. You can also hide them under a suit coat, jacket, or even under your shirt, so for fashion they’re great!
There are some other harness style options like the Kolbl available, most popular is probably the harness by BG, which is very adjustable and sits on the body a bit differently. We also started carrying a saxophone harness called the SaxHolder, which can be easily modified for use with bassoon. This is a rigid aluminum harness that is quite unique and very comfortable.
I also used a quite fancy neck strap for many years. I don’t usually find most people like these, but they can be used very effectively. I actually found it very comfortable. There are a few different options available specifically for bassoon. Most saxophone things won’t fit the bassoon right, and will be an inappropriate length (although some can be retrofit to work).
In addition to the harness or strap itself, I personally find it very important to have proper supports on the bassoon itself so you maintain proper control over the bassoon without impeding your technique. First and foremost is a right hand crutch! While many bassoonists shun these (“my hands are too small!”) I find them vital for properly handling the instrument, especially when standing up. A properly positioned crutch allows your right hand to brace the instrument in a way that prevents it from sliding back, and will keep your technique intact since your fingers won’t be involved in holding the instrument itself.
A balance hanger is also almost a prerequisite for standing while playing. A long enough balance hanger positions the center of gravity in the middle of the bassoon, reducing stress on the left hand, and allowing the right hand to have an easier time controlling the angle and position (through use of the right hand crutch).
The bocal angle can also be a big factor in your comfort standing up. While I don’t suggest bending your existing bocal, buying one that is a straighter bend, or has a higher overall curve to it, will allow you to lower the position of the bassoon relative to your body, giving you greater control over the center of gravity on the instrument. This can be especially effective if you are a taller individual.
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