LMC Tuesday: Special Bassoon Techniques

Music Selections

Star Spangled Banner #36 from the Blue Moon Bassoon Songbook

Half Holing

  • By half holing, we release a small amount of air which raises the register of the note
  • Roll your finger open to maintain contact with the tone hole
  • The size of the half hole can affect the tone quality and pitch
  • Some notes require more or less half hole, for me:
    • A-flat requires a very tiny half hole (mostly covered)
    • F-sharp requires a very large half hole (mostly open)
    • G requires a moderate half hole


  • Flicking helps improve response, articulation and register changes
  • Venting is a technique where you hold the key down instead of tapping it. It may work better on some bassoons but may also affect pitch.

Intonation Adjustments

  • The bassoon has many common pitch problems which are affected by your bassoon, your reed, your bocal and your air/embouchure/vowel.
    • Low F Down= Sharp
    • Half Hole Notes = Sharp
    • High D-F = Flat
    • High  F# Up=Sharp
  • Intonation is a collaborative listening skill
  • Tuners are great but they only help you diagnose problems, not solve them
  • Pitch problems may be improved by several factors
    • Hear and predict what the note will sound like
    • To lower the pitch drop your jaw, soften your lips, take less reed in your mouth
    • To raise the pitch pull corners in, speed up your air, take more reed in your mouth, or use a more narrow vowel (like "OO" or "EE")
    •  Consider switching or adjusting your reed
    • Try using a different bocal length

Introduction to Vibrato

  • Vibrato is created by pulsing the air not using the jaw or lips
  • Practice pulsing quarter notes on and off the bassoon 
  • Vibrato exercises help us strengthen our pulses and practice keeping the note in tune

Exploration Questions

  1. Why are flicking and half holing used on the bassoon?
  2. What is the difference between flicking and venting?
  3. Which notes are generally sharp or flat on the bassoon?
  4. How can I improve tuning on the bassoon?
  5. How is vibrato created?