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 contra question
Author: Jaysne 
Date:   2009-05-19 01:49

What's it like going from a regular bassoon to a contra? What are the differences in the feel of playing? Any drastic fingering changes?

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 Re: contra question
Author: Ian White 
Date:   2009-05-19 17:53

Apart from the different feel of the keys, fingerings for the lower two octaves are very similar to the standard bassoon except that many contras do not have the G# & F# keys duplicated - just one or the other. The main difference is that you cannot use the normal fork E-flat or LH 1,2 + C# trill fingerings but must use 1,2 + 3 on the E-flat 'trill' key.
Above the staff the register keys (A & C on bassoon) work differently & higher notes have quite different fingerings which vary from contra to contra.

With the larger instrument the breath requirement is different - you need more volume but there tends to be less pressure than on bassoon. You really have to fill your whole body with air to produce a rich sound.

I suggest getting 'The Contra Bassoon - A Guide to Performance' by Cornelia Anderson Biggers, published by Elkan-Vogel which tells all you need to know.

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 Re: contra question
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2009-05-31 22:10

You don't have the crook key to be held closed on contras - just the two 8ve keys instead.

Some bassoons have alternative Eb keys for either the right thumb (above the Bb key) or for RH finger 1 to operate, so this makes having to slide LH3 on/off the Eb key much less likely.

Some contras have the duplicate RH pinky F# key and also the RH thumb Ab key as well, but the keywork layout varies from one maker to the next.

I must say I'm still pleased with the Amati contra considering the cost is well below the other makes - it's by no meals perfect, but is still a very useful entry level contra and far better than the older Amatis.

The compressed felt used for the keywork has hardened to the point of being very noisy, so I'll have to change it all for something softer - I'll use ultrasuede for all the keywork to keep the clattering down to a minimum. Just means I've got to take the lot apart to do this which'll be fun!


Post Edited (2009-05-31 22:13)

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 Re: contra question
Author: Terry Stibal 
Date:   2009-06-08 17:19

The design state of bassoon keywork is some number of decades behind that on clarinets and saxophones. The use of the long joint "clapper" keys continues, despite the racket that they make during quiet passages.

I have a recording of a German bassoon quintet Fagottissimo is the title, I think) which has eight or ten different arrangements of interesting "modern" music on same. The only problem is the noise during the fast passages. The march "Entry Of The Gladiators" sounds like a giant crab scurrying across a Formica table, so loud is the noise made the keys flying through the rapid passages in the piece.

I understand that the axle keys used on my bass clarinet may be a bit heavier, but it is a hell of a lot quieter. One would think that it would be a no brainer to use on the bassoon, but I guess the makers know better.

leader of Houston's Sounds Of The South Dance Orchestra

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