Bocal Majority Tuesday: The Bocalphone & Beautiful Tone

Exploration Questions

  1. What is the bocalphone?

  2. What are the five elements of beautiful tone production on the bassoon?

  3. What is the difference between air pressure & volume?

  4. How can the bocalphone be used to diagnose and fix problems with embouchure, support, intonation and style?

On Tuesday we explored the Bocalphone and a variety of exercises you can use to improve your tone. In addition we briefly the covered the Five Elements of Tone Production.


  1. Play C# with just the reed and the Bocal (the Bocalphone) and hold for 4-8 counts. Play with a full, stable sound.
  2. Play C# on the Bocalphone and try tonguing different patterns without changing the pitch.
  3. Play C# on the Bocalphone with your lips covering the whole reed.
  4. Play C# on your Bocalphone, drop your jaw to lower the pitch, increase your air to raise your pitch. Don't use your lips to change the pitch!
  5. Play C or C# on the Bocalphone at different dynamics. Try crescendos and diminuendos and see if you can keep them in tune. Play as soft as you can, play as loud as you can with a good tone.

Quotes From Class

"The bassoon is a wind instrument, not a lip instrument"
"The reed is the instrument, the bassoon is just the amplifier"

Five Elements of Tone Production

Breathing: how we inhale and prepare to play

  • Relax shoulders and jaw, breathe calmly and deeply through the mouth.
  • Breathe in a way that complements the music, create space to breathe.
  • Anchor the reed on one lip (I prefer bottom lip) to create a stable foundation and reset faster.
  • Breathing exercises can slow your heart rate and reduce anxiety!

Embouchure: how we connect our lips to the reed

  • Avoid north south pressure on the reed, use more east-west pressure
  • Lips are round, corners firm
  • Exercise: Play F on the Reed, Play C# on the Bocal

Support: pressurizing the air in a way that works for the register in which you are playing

  • Pressure = air speed, how fast is the air
  • Volume = air quantity, how much air
  • Low notes use big, slow, warm air
  • High notes use small, fast, cold air
  • Exercise: Play C# on the bocal, relax jaw and drop to C, use air to raise it up to C# again

Vowel: the shape of the inside of your mouth

  • "OO" -focused and "OH" - open are great for most notes
  • Use "EE" if you need to raise the pitch and faster air isn't enough
  • Use "AH" or "OH" to lower the pitch and for low notes
  • Changing the vowel can change the response and intonation of a note

Fingerings: the combinations of keys and fingers we use

  • Select fingerings that match other notes well, play in tune and work with your music
  • Use a good fingering chart
  • Half Hole G: Always use the resonance key!
  • E-flat: use the "long" fingering with left and right hands