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Thread: Bassoon vs. Sax

  1. #1
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    Default Bassoon vs. Sax

    Well I play saxophone but I'm looking to learn a double instrument and my teacher recommended bassoon because colleges will pay well for bassoon players and my long term band director sub is a phenomenal bassoonist.

    My question is, is it significantly harder to learn bassoon than to learn saxophone? How hard do you think it would be considering that I know saxophone rather well. By rather well I mean I'm currently working on pieces that are considered to be for college graduate students.

    That considered, any comments, feedback, or suggestions?

    P.S. My teacher also recommended clarinet as a double but I would prefer bassoon as I believe there would be more benefits.
    "When in doubt, pull it out" - High School assistant director during tuning

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    I am a bassoonist and have many friends who play saxophone merely because of the similarities between flute (fingering) and clarinet (embrochure). I have never tried playing a saxophone but i can asure you that there are undoubtably many differences between the two.

    Firstly, i may seem a little naive but i have tried playing a clarinet numerous times and i understand that the reed is similar to that of a saxophone. As a double reed player, i found the change in technique and embruchoure for sound production extrodinary and can honestly say that the technique for sound production through a double reed is very different.

    The bassoon however is a wonderful instrument to learn to a high standard. The oppurtunities as you say beat most other instruments. The only major problem is price. I spent almost £3,000 (Sterling) on my bassoon that is designed for amature/intermediate players. It is a very reliable and beautiful instrument to play but as you can expect, the quality of the instrument varies greatly with price. I think as an amature (that is not a freelance or employed orchestral player) one need pay no more than £4,000 for a bassoon. There are many different models well within that price range that would easily suffice as instruments for decades and serve well as beginners instruments.

    Also, I apologise if this sounds again naive or patronising but the fingerings for bassoon above middle D do become rather illogical and you will definatly have to play up there. That range of the instrument is unavoidable. Also, in the extreme high registers, different crooks are required aswell as different reeds that need to be changed, experimented with and decided upon. I understand that professional bassoonists will go through nearly a hundred reeds to find the one perfect for a particular passage.

    REEDS! - As an amature/Intermediate payer, you will not be expected to make your own reeds. In the british conservatoires, it is part of the practical course that you present the examiner in your practical exams with reeds made by yourself AND in special cases to perform pieces using that reed. Reed production is a lengthy, expensive, frustrating and process therefore, most amatures simply buy reeds from local music shops. Please note, you can expect to pay atleast £8 usually per reed. Bear in mind that one in every two reeds will not last you as long as desired or not suit you what so ever.

    Also as a bassoon player, you will have to be fluent in reading the Tenor clef and there is no easy way to do that except play in tenor clef. For example, rewiting passages in tenor clef or writing them an octave higher in tenor clef are two ways to do this. Lots of orchestral music for bassoon is in tenor clef and i would say sometimes, over half of some pieces - depending on the composer - will be in tenor clef for the first bassoon.

    I hope my littel review of the life of a bassoonist has given you guidance in deciding. I can honestly say, i have loved the basson ever since the moment i picked it up. There really are so many advantages to playing such a beautiful and rare instrument.

    One last thing, bottom Bb, nothing beats that!
    Mozart is sweet sunshine - Dvorak

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    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    Ibert33: As an oboe player I know that the quality of reeds you buy in a local music shop is only for the most very beginner. You have to scrape the reeds yourself so they can fit your style, body (respiratory, shape of mouth etc.) and instrument. And making good reeds takes a lot of development, practice, time and nerves.
    Playing on shop-bought reeds would only result in horrible tone that isn't worth buying a whole bassoon for.

    Haydn: I agree to that one last thing!

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    Well, I have signed up for lessons with my director. He makes reeds specifically for his students thankfully and he warned me that the fingerings would become totally different in certain registers. Thank you for your input though and I take it to consideration totally.

    Also, I'm used to store bought reeds being worthless, as a sax player I generally throw out 5+ reeds out of a box of 10. Sometimes as many as 8 from a box.
    "When in doubt, pull it out" - High School assistant director during tuning

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    A useful thread, thank you. I've always been interested in the Oboe/Bassoon but as a Clarinet/Sax' player I wasn't sure about the reed situation

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josef Haydn View Post

    One last thing, bottom Bb, nothing beats that!
    Amen! In particular on the contra!!

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    As a bassoonist/saxophonist, I may be able to shed some light. Bassoon is harder, but if you already play saxophone picking it up will be easier. It'll just take some time getting used to the feel of a double reed. I'd definitely recommend that you do it, the bassoon is wonderful (especially baroque bassoon )

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Thank you gentlemen for a very interesting thread!

    I much enjoy the sounds of the bassoon. I have been told though, that controlling that double column requires everyday practice, that it not an instrument that one can pick up once a month for a party.

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    Hey
    I play the bassoon and I would seriously recommend taking it on! Im also a viola player and these two instruments are in great demand - bassoons even more now. If you already read music (bass clef) picking it up shouldnt be to difficult. It did take me a while to perfect my technique with vibrato and tonguing - so that just takes time. Some fingerings of course are tricky esprecially the high ones. But i dont want to put you of it because it is an amazing instrument and you recommend you learn it

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    Senior Member dmg's Avatar
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    The other night I had a dream I played bassoon for a jazz band. I was quite the virtuoso...


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