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Profile: the bassoon


The bassoon is the lowest instrument of the woodwind family but it is still able to reach very high notes. In fact the instrument is so long that it is bent in half, if it wasn’t it would be too big for anyone to play. Even so, bassoon players have to play sitting down and support the instrument with a strap. Despite its size and deep sound the bassoon is able to play very fast notes.

How is it made and how is it played?

Bassoons are usually made from maple wood. Like the oboe the bassoon is played with a double reed. To make a sound the player blows through the double reed which is attached to a crook leading into the main body of the instrument. Bassoon players change the pitch of the notes by pressing different combinations of keys.

What is a contrabassoon?

The contrabassoon is even bigger than the bassoon. It can play a whole octave lower than the bassoon, and makes a very deep sound. David Horne decided to include a contrabassoon in Emerging Dances as did Ravel in his Mother Goose suite.

What does it sound like?

Peter and the wolf, Prokofiev

The bassoon is usually heard in classical music and it has often taken on a comic role:

Mozart, Wind Serenade

...It can however play very quickly

The rite of spring, Stravinsky

And produces a very special sound when played at the top of its register:

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