Congratulations, you're a bassoonist or, more likely, the parent of one! Bassoon is a challenging but incredibly fun and rewarding instrument. Here is everything you need to know about starting off right including required supplies, how to practice, and helpful videos for you and your student.
For starters, what is the bassoon? What makes it special? How does it make a sound? Check out the video below to hear some beautiful bassoon playing and learn all about it!
Required Supplies & Materials
Every beginning bassoonist should have the following supplies. All of these items can be found on amazon.com or you may purchase them locally at Strait Music.
- 3 Handmade Reeds: I make and sell reeds for $16 each (discounted for my students). You will receive reeds at your first lesson.
- Silk Bassoon Swab: doesn't get stuck as often as cotton.
- Bocal Brush: to clean the inside of the bocal where most of the grime accumulates.
- Cork Grease: any brand is fine
- Plastic Reed Case: must have holes for ventilation, pegs not recommended
- Water Container: must fit the entire reed
- Music Stand: for practicing at home and performing events
- Metronome/Tuner: for tracking tempos, practicing rhythms, and checking tuning.
- Seat Strap: most bassoons come with a strap, so no need to purchase another one if you already have it
Your bassoonist will need to bring there instrument to and from school every day to practice. It can be heavy, so I recommend wrapping the handle in a cushion tape or using a rolling luggage cart if they find it too heavy.
Rules of Reed Care
- Always soak the reed. In clean water. Every time you play. Reeds are fragile and brittle. Soaking keeps them clean and makes them more flexible and durable.
- Store the reeds in a case with ventilation like this one. Reeds get moldy and chip very easily.
- Understand the lifecycle of a reed, which is fairly short. If the reed still looks good, it can be adjusted by the teacher. If it looks old and gross, throw it out. Most students need a new reed about once a month.
- Have three working reeds at all times. Students should have 3 good, working reeds at all times so if their favorite reed breaks, they still have 2 other choices.
- The reed goes in your mouth or in the reed case. Never put it on the floor or anywhere else it might get smashed, dirty or lost.
How to Assemble the Bassoon
My #1 rule is the bassoon always sits on the ground during assembly. If it slips, there is less distance to the floor. Never assemble the bassoon standing up or with the case sitting on a table, counter or bed. Don't force the parts together, if they don't go all the way in, that's ok as long as the bassoon isn't loose or falling apart.
Here is a great video detailing how to assemble the bassoon. To disassemble the bassoon, just do everything in reverse making sure to be especially gentle with the reed and bocal.
How & What Practice at Home
To practice you'll need: a flat chair with no arms, a music stand, your music book/binder, a pencil, and a metronome/tuner. Optional: small mirror.
Beginners should aim to practice 10-15 minutes every day, or every other day until your band director tells them to practice more. It's best to practice a little at a time to avoid forming bad habits and getting tired.
Soak the reed in clean water, then practice playing a single note on the reed. This should match F on the tuner. The note should be stable and in tune.
Next practice playing the bocal and reed together. Try holding it as long as possible without wobbling. Keep your lips set and air steady. If you have a mirror, check to make sure your embouchure looks good.
After warming up, try holding a single note on the bassoon and trying to make the best sound you can make. Then you are ready to move on to your lesson assignments and other music.
Students receive lesson notes at every lesson, so feel free to read those to see what they have been assigned.
Bassoon Rules & Guidelines
Here are some helpful tips I like to share with new bassoonists! These are a lot of the issues, concerns and questions that may arise over the course of your bassoon journey.
Only the bassoonist gets to play the bassoon. Friends and siblings should not touch the bassoon since it is a very fragile and expensive instrument!
The bassoon always goes back in the case. Never store the bassoon out or anywhere it could get knocked over.
The bocal and reed are the most fragile pieces, so they should only ever be on the music stand, on the bassoon or in the case.
Never store a bassoon in a car. Instruments are routinely stolen from cars, not to mention the damage caused by heat or cold outdoors.
If something breaks, let me know! I am trained in repair and most issues are easily fixable. Anything that is more extensive can be repaired professionally. Never try to fix it yourself, you will do more harm than good.
Students break and wear out reeds regularly. You can expect them to need a new reed at least monthly, which is why they are included in lessons during the school year.
If a reed is broken or moldy, throw it out. Reeds have a relatively short lifecycle since they are made of wood. Dirty reeds are gross, spread germs and also don't work that well. Just ask for a replacement and get rid of the old ones!
Practice is important. The more students practice at home, the more we get to do in lessons. Students who don't practice will struggle to keep up with new assignments since everything builds on what we learn in the beginning.
Lessons are important. Most band directors didn't specialize in bassoon, so lessons are our time to ask questions, get help with difficult techniques and learn all the tips and tricks a professional bassoonist has to offer. Students who take lessons tend to be more successful at auditions and enjoy band more. Most bassoonists need and want to take lessons every year that they play, even through 12th grade.