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 Discouraged beginner
Author: Surprenant 
Date:   2012-07-20 05:15

Hi, this is probably not a new question, but I am a beginner bassoon player and I'm having difficulty with my fingering. I first started taking lessons with one teacher who never used the whisper key and my progress was amazing. However, he moved away and my new teacher is very strict about pressing the whisper for all notes below A on the top line, the A key for the A, and the C key for B-flat, B, and C. I've basically had to re-learn the bassoon and my left hand thumb seems to be furiously fumbling all over the bassoon keys. It's a hot mess when I play in that register...when I looked at various fingering charts online, I found discrepanices all over the place. I used to play the oboe, which doesn't have many alternate fingerings, so bassoon is proving to be a serious challenge. Do most bassoonists press the whisper key down all the time and use the A and C keys as mentioned above? Any advice? This is much harder than learning how to drive stick. Thanks!

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: CocoboloKid 
Date:   2012-07-20 05:25

The whisper key is absolutely to be held down for all notes from top line half-hole Ab down to low F (below that, the low E key automatically closes the whisper key). Your teacher is teaching you what is known as "flicking", and the vast majority of bassoonists do this. Do yourself a favor and spend an hour or so Googling it and learning about it. It does take some time to get the thumb accustomed to hitting the right key, but once you do, it becomes second nature (and it happens rather quickly).

The alternative, of course, is horribly embarrassing cracked notes around the top of the staff, and nobody wants that. :)

You should also know that there are an extraordinary number of alternate fingerings for a large percentage of the notes in the bassoon's range, so be prepared to learn different fingerings for different playing situations. (I can think of three F#4 fingerings off the top of my head that I use on a regular basis, for example.)

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: Surprenant 
Date:   2012-07-20 05:46

Thanks for your reply. In fact, my teacher prefers that I depress the A key for the entire time I play an A, and the C key for the entire time I play a B-flat, B, or C, not flicking. I hope this is not a stupid question, but is flicking more of an American practice?

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: Ian White 
Date:   2012-07-20 07:25

AS the previous poster says get your left thumb used to dancing about on those keys! There will be less chance of notes cracking or jumping up an octave. It soon comes naturally along with gauging the opening of the half hole for F#, G & G#.

As for flicking - yes, particularly in USA, people do get hot under the collar about this. I was taught to hold the keys down - I find it helps the pitch & stability of A especially but there are times in tricky passages when flicking is the only way & even at times not using them. Just don't try flicking the C# key.  :)

All the alterative fingerings as you go higher are fun (?). I use different ones at different times depending on the instrument, the reed, the dynamic or to match sound with another player.

Welcome to the mad world of bassooning!

Good luck.



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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: CocoboloKid 
Date:   2012-07-20 14:48

Then your teacher is a proponent of venting (as opposed to flicking). Same idea, different approach. I personally don't see the need for full venting when flicking accomplishes the same result (cleanly attacked middle register notes) without tying up the thumb for the full duration of the note.

But, as you are a beginner, it is best to just do what your teacher tells you until you know enough to form your own technical workarounds for the difficulties of playing the bassoon. Rest assured that the techniques that your teacher is trying to impart to you are not at all unusual, and virtually every bassoonist on earth uses these techniques, or has at some point. (There ARE some bassoonists who do not flick, but they almost certainly at some point at least tried it...)

Of course, if you can afford to get your bassoon fitted with the Weisberg System, this will all become a moot point. :)

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: Merlin_Williams 
Date:   2012-07-21 14:44

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is whether the OP's teachers have mentioned slurring. Flicking is a given for tongued attacks, but when slurring - say from an A to C above the staff - I'd flick the A, then slur to the C with no further thumb action.

I only use venting to stabilize notes in terms of pitch.

Jupiter Canada Artist/Clinician
Stratford Shakespeare Festival musician
Woodwind Doubling Channel Creator on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/WoodwindDoubling

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: wkleung 
Date:   2012-08-07 15:41

Hello Surprenant, your new teacher is teaching you a proper way of playing. I am suprised that your first teacher never used the whisper key. Was he a specialist bassoon player?

By the way, I am also an oboist and a bassoonist.

Sincerely,
Wai Kit Leung

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: Surprenant 
Date:   2012-08-11 14:42

No, I don't think he was a specialist...I think he was just a laid-back teacher. Not sure if you agree, but I have found it very interesting to go from oboe to bassoon. First, the reeds seems to last much longer. Also, despite it's larger size, the bassoon seems easier to blow air through. The half hole is giving me slight problems, especially top line a-flat. I need to be more careful how much of the hole I expose. It's not like the oboe, which has a half-hole plate to slide on. But then, I just saw a Polisi bassoon online with a similar half-hole plate, so I guess at least one manufacturer has played around with them. I guess the others just didn't see the need for it.

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 Re: Discouraged beginner
Author: wkleung 
Date:   2012-08-12 23:19

Hello Surprenant, I agree with you totally. I started on oboe and moved to bassoon. Bassoon reeds do last longer, and it is less resistant to blow air through a bassoon than an oboe. Half-hole plate doesn't really work on bassoon, because depending on the note, one has to 1/4 hole, 1/2 hole or 3/4 hole. I recall cracking the Ab in a solo during an orchestra competition in the Hong Kong Schools' Music Festival. Only years later did I learn that for Ab it should be closer to 1/4 hole.

Are you a native of Hong Kong by the way? I am from there.

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