Extending the Life of Your Bassoon Reed

Merz-bassoon-reedBassoon reeds are expensive, either in terms of cost of buying a hand-made reed or in your own time for making your own. If you buy hand made reeds you are paying for not just the raw materials, but the years of experience of learning to make a good reed, and the time if takes to make that individual reed. If you make your own, you know how much effort and skill (and a bit of luck) goes into making a good reed. So naturally you want them to last as long as possible. Here are some really simple guidelines for extending the potential playing life of a bassoon reed.

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Used Instrument Warranty

When it's time to replace a musical instrument, sometimes purchasing a brand new instrument may not be an option. Midwest Musical Imports is pleased to offer a wide selection of high quality used instruments that will fit your needs.  We also offer a 1-year maintenance and crack warranty included with the purchase of select used oboes, bassoons, clarinets, and saxophones!

Call our instrument specialists at 612-331-4717 for further information and trial availability!

New Heckel Bocals

With our newest shipment of the most popular CC and CD bocals, our Heckel bocal inventory reaches nearly 100 new bocals! This is in addition to our currently rather large selection of excellent and gently used Heckel bocals.

We also have a new type in stock, a C-XL type. Only currently available in #1 length and silver plated, these are a perfect match for a Fox Renard 240, with more focus to the sound than a CD-XL, but more vibrancy than the CC-XL. Any of the XL bocals are highly recommended with any Fox bassoon.

Contact Trent or Jessica at 1-800-926-5587 to set up a trial.

Great Tips for Bassoon Reed Balancing and Adjusting

Jessica and I have long been fans of Christian Davidsson's really simple reed balancing guide.

Before you get to the finer details of the scraping points of the guide, if you're using Gouged, Shaped, and Profiled cane, the first thing you probably need to do is crape out of what Christian labels (18) on the reed. My strategy for scraping out of that area is to scrape against the grain of the reed from the center out towards the corner, like so: Read More...

Minnesota Bassoon Association presents Per Hannevold masterclass

World acclaimed bassoonist Per Hannevold will be presenting a Minnesota Bassoon Association sponsored bassoon masterclass on March 9, 2013 from 2 pm to 5 pm. The MBA inviting six people of any age or ability to play for him.
The masterclass will take place at the Lorenz Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN. Please click here for detailed directions.
The Per Hannevold masterclass is free to paid members of the Minnesota Bassoon Association and their families. If you have not paid dues since September, 2012, please plan to pay at the door:  $20 general, $10 students, and you will be an MBA member until September, 2013.  Ask for Ye Yu or John Miller, who will be happy to accept your membership fees.
Per Hannevold

Humidification of Woodwinds In Dry Weather

Humidification of Woodwinds in Dry Weather

With winter months upon us, a concern with many woodwind players is keeping their instrument properly maintained in dry weather. This is especially important for wood oboes, the instrument most prone to cracking in extreme conditions. Clarinets are less prone to cracking, and bassoons almost never do, and plastic instrument will never crack due to humidity, but they can still be negatively affected by extra dry weather. Potential symptoms of a dry instrument include binding or loose keys, dry pads that don't seal well, loose fitting joints and bell rings or body bands, and a general feeling that the instrument just isn't as resonant as it usually is. We suggest proper humidification of even plastic instruments in dry months.

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Introducing The Guntram Wolf Contraforte

Guntram Wolf Contraforte

The contrabassoon as we know it today is nearly the same design first developed by Heckel in the mid 19th century. It was a short design process too, done at the request of Wagner for his immediate needs.

What would happen if you were to take the concept of a modern bassoon, and modern acoustical research and technology, and re-design from the ground up a new contrabassoon? The goal would be to solve acoustical problems of inconsistency in intonation and tone color, put the tone holes all facing in the same direction (towards the audience) and point the bell up for the best possible projection, modernize the keywork design with ergonomics in mind, and make the range to low A a standard. The result is the Contraforte, the new instrument designed and coproduced by Guntram Wolf and Benedikt Eppelsheim (the designer of world renowned saxophones like the Tubax and the Sopraillo).

  • Compact design
  • Very comfortable and ergonomic keywork
  • Properly located register keys allowing for 4+ octaves of playable range with simple fingerings
  • Highest quality German materials and craftsmanship

Midwest Musical Imports is proud to be the first dealer in the United States to offer this instrument to American bassoonists.

Lewis Lipnick of the National Symphony Orchestra is now advocating for the instrument, and no longer plays a traditional contrabassoon. He recently performed the Aho concerto for contrabassoon (it was written for him) in Helsinki, Finland, and gave an interview demonstrating and talking about the instrument.

Bassoon Keywork Options

The bassoon, possibly more than any other instrument, has a huge selection of possible key options.  Determining the differences between some similar keys, or if you need a particular option, can be a daunting task.  Here I will attempt to break down the most popular options for Heckel and Fox bassoons.  Some keys conflict with others either due to the placement of the key itself or associated levers or in the way that the hole must be drilled.  Please don't hesitate to call Midwest Musical Imports and ask for a bassoon specialist to discuss any of the options.  This list is not comprehensive!

High D key – This is an expected standard key for a modern intermediate or professional bassoon.  Useful for flicking and to hit notes from C5 and up.

High E key – also known as a G trill key.  Facilitates F3-G3 trill, and to play high E.  Typically this is positioned above the 1st finger on the left hand.  It can also be placed “above” the Eb key between the 1st and 2nd finger.

Plateau key for third finger left hand – This is an option usually reserved for student instruments, as it shortens the reach between the 2nd and 3rd fingers of the left hand, but can hamper the tone or intonation of some notes.  The “normal” configuration of this is the Third Finger Ring Key.

"Crown” style pancake key – This option changes the shape of the low E key (or “Pancake” key) from a totally round shape to a more square shape, which can facilitate the movement from the Bb key or the F# key to the E key.  This can be done on only one side of the key if requested (but this is quite rare).

Rollers – Rollers can be placed on just about any key.  Typically they are placed in pairs between adjacent keys, but this does not need to be the case.  Besides the standard four rollers for the two pinky keys, popular places for rollers are:

  • On any combination of keys for the right thumb (except for any Ab/Bb trill key)
  • On the front F# key (especially when the Double Wide F# key is requested)
  • On Low C and D
  • On the Whisper key and C# keys

A-Whisper Bridge – A very simple mechanism that links the “A” key (for the left thumb) with the whisper key.  This helps the pitch and stability and response of A4 and Bb4.

Whisper Locks – There are many different kinds of whisper lock mechanisms.  Either the left or right thumb operates the mechanism to keep the whisper key closed.  Please ask for details on the different kinds of locks offered.

Double Wide F# key – This option extends the from F# key across both the F and Ab keys, allowing for easier movement between all of those keys.

Offset Eb/E keys – This option takes the Eb and high E keys and shifts them down the instrument so that they Eb key is between the 2nd and 3rd fingers of the left hand, and the E key is between the 1st and 2nd finger.

High F key – Like the high E key, to facilitate a simple fingering for high F.  There are several positions this key can be placed in over the left hand, depending on how the high E key is configured.

Eb Trill key – This is used to facilitate the trill from D3-Eb3.  This can be placed either between the 2nd and 3rd finger on the left hand (the 3rd finger trills the key) or on the boot joint above the 1st finger of the right hand (the 1st finger trills the key).  Depending on which version is selected, other keys may need to be moved from their typical locations.

Ab/Bb Trill – There are several ways in which an Ab2-Bb2 trill can be accomplished on the bassoon.  Most commonly a key is placed on the boot above the back F# and G# keys for the right thumb.  The technical way in which the mechanism works varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the player plays Ab, and trills the added key.  There is an “Articulated” mechanism for this trill as well, in which the fingerings for Ab is used with an added key and the 3rd finger of the right hand accomplishes the trill (as if playing G-A, this becomes G#-A#).  This articulated variety is quite uncommon.

Extra low C key – This is simply an added touch for low C positioned to the right (from the perspective of the player) of the low D key.  This adds more fluid motion from lowest C-Bb without having to leverage the thumb over the low B key.

Pinky, or “French” whisper key – This is a mechanism to close the whisper key with the left hand 4th finger, placed near the low Db/C# key.

A Ring Key – The ring key standard on all modern bassoons for the 3rd finger of the right hand allows for the proper pitch of G4 by opening a second tone hole automatically.  A second ring for the 1st finger of the right hand can allow an extra tone hole to open above the 1st finger to open automatically.  This allows for Ab4 and A4 to be played with the low F key (4th finger right hand) instead of the need for the G key (3rd finger right hand) while maintaining proper pitch.  The mechanism is automatic and allows for easier technique in the upper register.  Many players still prefer the tone color of the 3rd finger version, and this option does not prevent that fingering.

Db-Eb (C#-D#) mechanisms – These are mechanisms that allow for easier movement between the lowest Db and Eb on the bassoon.  The simplest mechanism is an extra touch for the left thumb that operates the Db key, freeing up the 4th finger left hand to trill the Eb key.  This is only useful for a normally impossible trill.  There are many ways Heckel and Fox can accomplish this particular task, so please ask us which one might be right for you.  The more complicated “Articulated” mechanisms allow for one key to be used for both the low Db and low Eb, so the movement between the two notes is accomplished by just the movement of the thumb from the low C to D keys; the 4th finger does not need to move.  Again, there are several ways in which this can be accomplished.  The least common way this is accomplished is with an extra touch for low Eb for the left thumb, near the D key.

Gentleman's” Model, or Divided Long Joint – This option positions the split between the long joint and the bell equal to the top of the wing joint.  This means that the bell, long joint and wing joint are more similar in length, so the case for the bassoon can be made more square.

Heckel Bocal Information

Heckel Bassoon Bocal Information

Changing bocals can make a dramatic difference on any bassoon.  Many acoustic problems can be minimized or solved with the correct type of bocal.  Heckel is one of the lead suppliers of bassoon bocals in the world.  They offer many different types to suit each player's style and set-up. (Click here for information on Puchner bocals)

Here is a "cheat sheet" of the primary characteristics of the bocals we typically stock:

C – “hard” German Silver alloy (“Z” alloy)

  • More high partials in the sound.

CC – “soft” German Silver alloy (“N” alloy)

  • More balanced set of partials in the sound
  • More blending and “warmer”

D – indicates Thin Wall construction - .5mm average thickness instead of .6mm

  • More immediate response, especially in the lower register.
  • Less stable with softer reeds
  • More vibrant sound

Vdifferently tapered bore version of the C bore

  • Adjusts intonation across range of instrument
  • Especially well suited to older bore designs
  • Tends to raise pitch of tenor register

XLlarger bore version of primary bore

  • Heckel’s modern version of the pre-war bocal bore
  • Excellent on Fox bassoons, especially Renards!
  • Specifically designed for <8000 series Heckels

R – new process for forming metal

  • Non-traditional brand and type stamping (below cork)
  • More compressed metal promotes properties of harder alloys

Silver or Nickel Plating

  • Silver (softer) or Nickel (harder) promotes the qualities associated with the softer or harder base metal types

Length

  • 1:  A=442            (roughly equal to Fox #2 length)
  • 2:  A=440            (roughly equal to Fox #3 length)

Still want more information?

If you still want more information, this is our "old" guide with more info on the types we carry, and on the other options available from Heckel.

Below is a rough guideline in choosing the correct bocal.  Bocal compatibility depends on many factors—reed type, instrument, the way an individual blows air into the horn, and the musician's overall individuality.

BASE METAL

Most of our Heckel bocals are made of the German Silver (soft and hard). Other base metals can be special ordered upon request.  The labeling of the base metal is located directly above the cork.

Base Metal Sound Quality Labeling above the cork
German Silver, soft Standard Type N*
German Silver, hard Harder Sound than the soft German Silver Z**
Gold Brass Mellow and quiet sound for chamber music G
Sterling Silver 925 Bright and quiet sound AG
Gold 8 Karat (333) Mellow but direct sound AU
Gold 14 Karat (585) Noticeably mellower sound 14kt
Gold 18 Karat (750) Similar to the 14kt but even more mellow 18kt
Palladium Hard sound PD***

*Usually used with all thick wall bocals except the C type

**Usually used with all thin wall bocals and the C (thick wall) bocals

***Developed for people with allergies to the German silver alloy

WALL THICKNESS

All Heckel bocals are available in two thicknesses:  0.6mm (thick wall) and 0.5mm (thin wall).  All of the thin wall bocals will be labeled with the letter “D” as the second letter and thick wall bocals will have the letter “C”.  Thin wall bocals tend to have a richer sound, good response, and more flexibility, but are not as stable as the thick wall bocals.  They are usually made of the hard German Silver (Z).  The thick wall bocals are usually made of the soft German Silver (N).

A standard bocal with the CC bore is made of soft German Silver (N).  The standard bocal with the C bore is made of hard German Silver (Z).  Thus, the only difference between the C and CC bocals is the type of base metal.

Thick wall

Thin Wall

Properties 
C, CC CD Standard type for new Heckel bassoonsWell balanced intonation, good response
CE, CCE CDE Narrower tip opening
VC, VCC VCD Good high register, balances intonation problems in the middle range.  Works particularly well with older Heckel bassoons.
VCE, VCCE VCDE Combination of V and E types
B BD Very light and responsive high register, terrible intonation in the middle register!
BB BBD Light and responsive high register, terrible intonation in the middle register!

LENGTHS

Heckel bocals are available in different lengths to manipulate the overall tuning.  We typically carry lengths 1 and 2, but others can be special ordered upon request.

00

0

1

2

3

446 Hz

444 Hz

442 Hz

440 Hz

438 Hz

PLATINGS

We typically carry silver and nickel plated bocals, but others can be special ordered upon request.

Unplated Specific sound of the relevant base metal
Silver Plated Sweeter sound
Nickel Plated Brighter sound
Gold Plated Increased stability with gold brass bocals

R BOCALS

All Heckel bocals are available in R types.  With R bocals, the metal is compressed more strongly and evenly.  This leads to a better response and a wider sound spectrum.  R bocals have no visible stamp on the tube portion of the bocal, they are labeled exclusively on the visible strip of metal on the end of the tube below the cork.

XL BOCALS

XL bocals are specially designed to be compatible with Pre-War design bassoon, and improve response and resonance in the higher register.  They can come in any type, but we typically only carry CC-XL and CD-XL bocals.

BENDS

All bocals are made with the traditional S bend.  Flat bends (British bend) and custom bends are available upon request.  We only carry the S bend Heckel bocals, but can special order any other bend upon request. Contact MMI for help selecting and ordering a bocal.