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Thread: To Bassoon, or not to Bassoon…

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    Default To Bassoon, or not to Bassoon…

    I am (unfortunately) switching high schools. The school that I'm switching to does not have an orchestra (I'm a cellist), and thus I will have to learn to play a new instrument to fulfill my music credits for graduation. The three instruments that I'm interested in are the bassoon, oboe, and clarinet.

    The bassoon is the instrument whose tone I enjoy the most (the Weber and Mozart concertos give me chills), and it's a non-transposing instrument, and I read its clef most proficiently out of all the clefs. But I worry about the double reed, and the difficulty associated with it, as well as the cost of a good student bassoon, as my parents and I are trying to juggle purchasing a college level cello for my university/conservatory education.

    I'm interested in the oboe, though not as much as I am the bassoon. I'm attracted to is portability (relative to the bassoon), and the repertoire is just tantalizing (Schumann Romances, Britten Ovid Metamorphoses, and the Mozart Concerto). I love the instrument, but am confused about the reed situation (is it double or single?), and am slightly worried about the transition to treble.

    The clarinet is an instrument that I've always admired, but that I'm terrified of because of its being a transposing instrument. The repertoire is very expansive, and I love the clarinet's involvement in the chamber music repertoire. I'm also slightly confused as to the transposing of the instrument, and as I don't know the band instructor of the school I'm going into, I don't know what transposition of clarinet he requires of his clarinetists, though I suspect he'll want a Bb soprano or an Eb (sopranino).

    Any information on brands would also be useful, as I know nothing about such things (other than the legendary Heckels, which are obviously a little out of reach and necessity).

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    The oboe is a double-reed instrument; my informant says it requires constant practice to avoid sounding like a fool. If you resemble the other young people I know, you very much do not wish to sound like a fool.
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Bassoons and oboes are both more expensive and more difficult to play than clarinet, and bassoons are particularly expensive. And if you get serious about it, you pretty much have to make your own reeds, which is a hassle that my double reed-player friends complain about all the time. You're right that they're beautiful instruments, but it's a lot easier to get a good-quality clarinet without breaking the bank, and you will spend less time whittling away at tiny pieces of cane.

    The fact that it is a transposing instrument is really not a scary thing. Clarinet parts are written in the key of the clarinet on which they're supposed to be played, so it's not like you'll be doing a lot of sight-transposing. (For instance - if you look at the clarinet part for the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, which is an A major work, you will see that it is written in C because it is to be played on an A clarinet.) I have played clarinet in bands, orchestras, and chamber groups for almost 10 years. I have had to sight-transpose only rarely in orchestras and never in bands. Bb clarinets are the standard for bands.

    As far as brands, Buffets are generally considered the finest clarinets, but Selmers are good too, and less expensive. I have a Buffet now, but I played on Selmers for my first eight years.

    Also, I'm sorry you have to switch to a school without an orchestra! My high school didn't have an orchestra, so I played in a youth orchestra outside of school. Is anything like that available to you?
    Last edited by Meaghan; May-24-2012 at 18:03.

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    Senior Member SuperTonic's Avatar
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    Regarding the clef situation, to play the cello you will need to learn treble clef eventually anyway. A lot of the solo repertoire and even some orchestral cello parts do use it occasionally. It sounds like you want to continue playing the cello in college and beyond, so it will only help you to go ahead and learn it now.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    I have a problem understanding motivation here.

    1) The OP has the cello as his chosen instrument. The new high school has no orchestra, so no place for cello.

    2) the potential (band) alternatives (bassoon, oboe, clarinet) are not amenable to 'casual messing around with'. If he sticks with the cello, he will never be proficient enough with any of those other instruments to get real enjoyment from playing them.

    3) So... why mess around with band?

    It seems obvious that I am missing something important here. What?
    I spent a fortune on deodorant before I realized that people don't like me anyway.

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    I have a problem understanding motivation here.

    1) The OP has the cello as his chosen instrument. The new high school has no orchestra, so no place for cello.

    2) the potential (band) alternatives (bassoon, oboe, clarinet) are not amenable to 'casual messing around with'. If he sticks with the cello, he will never be proficient enough with any of those other instruments to get real enjoyment from playing them.

    3) So... why mess around with band?

    It seems obvious that I am missing something important here. What?
    This:

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkJackson View Post
    I am (unfortunately) switching high schools. The school that I'm switching to does not have an orchestra (I'm a cellist), and thus I will have to learn to play a new instrument to fulfill my music credits for graduation.
    And I think it is possible, while labor-intensive and sometimes difficult to balance in terms of time management, to become proficient on two serious classical instruments. I play advanced repertoire on both clarinet and piano (though I have no hopes with going pro with either). Then again, he is starting his second instrument a bit later than I did mine (I was in middle school when I took up clarinet) but I think not so late as to preclude proficiency. I dunno. If he's considering a career as a cellist, the wind instrument might (and probably should) go by the wayside in college, but he can probably play it in high school without jeopardizing his chances on his primary instrument. I have friends at conservatories who played two instruments in high school and were good at both, though they're now focused on one.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Excellent point. But why a wind instrument, if the credits are the only significant motive? Glockenspiel maybe?

    Besides the misunderstanding, I have another motive. The cello is not only one of my favorite instruments, I feel that it is under-utilized. It should be a part of 'grass bands and jazz ensembles. It should be heard everywhere! If MJ has to divide his learning time, another potential missionary may never materialize.
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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Excellent point. But why a wind instrument, if the credits are the only significant motive? Glockenspiel maybe?

    Besides the misunderstanding, I have another motive. The cello is not only one of my favorite instruments, I feel that it is under-utilized. It should be a part of 'grass bands and jazz ensembles. It should be heard everywhere! If MJ has to divide his learning time, another potential missionary may never materialize.
    Ha! I agree about cello. It is one of my favorites as well, which is why I briefly tried to learn it in high school, but stopped when I realized I would never be a great cellist and had no desire to be a less-than-great cellist (not that I think everybody should think this way!). But clarinet is under-utilized too, in my (biased) opinion. It's a terrifically versatile instrument, as one can hear if one listens to a recording of, say, the Mozart quintet followed by a recording of a klezmer band. It is a sad loss to jazz bands that clarinets are no longer the staple they once were.
    Last edited by Meaghan; May-24-2012 at 19:37.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meaghan View Post
    [...]
    It is a sad loss to jazz bands that clarinets are no longer the staple they once were.
    Amen, sister. I suppose there aren't that many potential jazz clarinetists who have heard Mr. Fröst work the limits of what the instrument can do, but surely they have heard recordings of Mr. Fountain, so have a notion of what some of the music made in jazz Heaven sounds like.
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    Double bass, can be played in wind bands, it isn't the same as the cello, but people do seem to manage to play both.

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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaws View Post
    Double bass, can be played in wind bands, it isn't the same as the cello, but people do seem to manage to play both.
    I could be wrong (unlikely of course), but in the US most school 'bands' are at least theoretically marching bands.
    Last edited by Ukko; May-24-2012 at 23:04.
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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Double bass is tuned in fourths rather than fifths. I'm not sure it this will put you off, plus it's not very portable. My son's college wind ensemble has a double bass player.

    Bassoons come apart to store in a surprisingly compact case. If the school has a bassoon, that's a bonus (unless it is crappy).
    Contact the band director of your new school now and ask if you can have the bassoon over the summer. Bassoon reeds are available for purchase (approx $15-20 each) and you may never get to the skill level where you will want to make your own.

    Band or wind ensemble does not requires transposition for clarinets; at least not the pieces I played. The music is already transposed for you.

    I learned how to play oboe after playing clarinet and it was not too difficult, but I would never claim to be even an adequate player (then I had to give the rental oboe back...I would like to try again some day!).
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    ... 2) the potential (band) alternatives (bassoon, oboe, clarinet) are not amenable to 'casual messing around with'. If he sticks with the cello, he will never be proficient enough with any of those other instruments to get real enjoyment from playing them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Meaghan View Post
    And I think it is possible, while labor-intensive and sometimes difficult to balance in terms of time management, to become proficient on two serious classical instruments...

    Given the amount of work involved, I am afraid that practicality has to be the first consideration. And, given that cost and ease of learning are both major criteria, there's only one choice.

    Notwithstanding Meaghan's reassurances, you have the greatest chance of success with two instruments if you let your head overrule your heart on this one and choose the clarinet.
    Last edited by Jeremy Marchant; May-26-2012 at 22:47.

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    If you go with clarinet, buy a plastic student model. It will serve you well for the years you'll be playing it (I still play mine 40 years later). This is a good time to buy as students who have quit will be turning theirs in to music stores for rental return or resale, and new students may not yet be looking. As you don't yet play, it's ideal to bring a friend who does along to the store to try out instruments. Start with a size 2 or 2.5 reed (you won't be on the 2 for long and your goal is to make it to 3 within a year as your embouchure develops). I'm currently playing on Mitchell Lurie and am happy with this brand although I have also used Vandoren.

    Does your new school offer marching band? That would be all kind of new fun for you. At any rate, make sure your new band director knows your primary instrument is cello and that you are interested in enrichment opportunities like youth orchestras, workshops, and solo contests so that he or she can keep you informed of opportunities that get forwarded to the music office. You may be asked to play cello in the pit orchestra for musical theatre productions.
    "To be a musician is a curse. To NOT be one is even worse." Jack Daney

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    Senior Member Moira's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Amen, sister. I suppose there aren't that many potential jazz clarinetists who have heard Mr. Fröst work the limits of what the instrument can do, but surely they have heard recordings of Mr. Fountain, so have a notion of what some of the music made in jazz Heaven sounds like.
    If you want to earn money from being a musician the clarinet is the way to go. Jazz and classical opportunities. Sounds like a good enough reason to make the extra effort.

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