LMC Wednesday: Playing with Style

Music Selections

#14 Shepherds Hey from Blue Moon Bassoon Songbook

#13 Oh Danny Boy from Blue Moon Bassoon Songbook

Herzberg Long Tones


  • Dynamics are the relative volume at which we play our music
    • To play loud without going sharp, relax your lips or use a wider vowel
    • To play soft without going flat, firm your corners, use lips to cushion (not close) the reed, and use a small stream of very fast air
  • Default dynamics = get louder as notes go higher, get softer as they get lower
    • This adds contrast and shape to music that might not otherwise have dynamics marked
    • Use your judgement to decide if this works for your phrasing
  • Dynamics "tell the story" of the piece and convey our ideas and emotions! They also: 
    • Enhance the music and highlight phrasing
    • Define the form of the piece
    • Help us balance with others

Articulation & Style

  • Articulations dictate how we begin and end our notes.
    • Slur: notes are connected without tonguing, unaccented initial tongue, final note held full value
    • Staccato: "separated" leave space between the notes. A round, bouncy style is typically preferred.
    • Accent: accented initial tongue, note held full value for shorter notes, but often separated for longer notes like bell tones. Use a stronger tongue and faster air to start the note.
    • Tenuto: "held" unaccented initial tongue, note held full value. 
    • Marcato: "marked"  heavily accented initial tongue, shorter than an accent.
  • Style is determined by the markings on the page and also the history and context of the piece.

Using Vibrato in Music

  • Vibrato is used frequently by bassoonists to:
    • Draw attention to special notes or phrases
    • Enhance tone quality and sometimes intonation
    • Help with blending and smoothing note transitions
    • Strengthen dynamics and phrasing
  • The best times to use vibrato are longer notes, connected phrases, and solos
    • Low notes = warmer, slower vibrato
    • High notes = faster, more intense vibrato
  • Remember to use your air to create pulses and keep the note centered


Exploration Questions

  1. What are “default dynamics”?
  2. What is the difference between articulations and dynamics?
  3. How do long tones help us improve our playing?
  4. How is performing music like acting in a play?