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Bassoon lesson

Learn about the bassoon from an expert musician with the U.S. Marine Band. Includes a daily routine with exercises for scales, arpeggios, long-tones, dynamics, and more.

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  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Cyrus Parson
    About how long would you say it takes for one to learn a woodwind instrument, and why would you say that amount of time for that instrument? [Everyone is certainly different, though I'm interested in figuring out which instruments might be consistently viewed as more challenging to 'master' and if some are simply dependent on the player.]
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  • blobby green style avatar for user 50058095
    why is the mouthpiece sticking out of the side of the instrument instead of the top
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

("Symphony in B-Flat for Concert Band" by Paul Hindemith) - People sometimes imagine that as a bassoonist in a band, that you need to play louder, but in fact, if anything, you need to play softer and more delicately, because that's more of our job in the band. Probably the two most fundamental things about playing the bassoon, or ways to play and practice the bassoon, would be scales and long tones. So, I usually like to start with scales the first time I get the bassoon out on a given day. I like to play my scales through the whole range of the instrument, from the lowest note I can play in that scale, the lowest tonic note, to the highest note I can play and back down. So, I might start with something like this. (legato bassoon music) And I practice my scales with different articulations, usually, I'll do them slurred and then tongued. (staccato bassoon music) And then, I always practice the arpeggio with the scale. (legato bassoon music) And when I practice my scales, I'm thinking about, I'm thinking about two things. I'm thinking about playing my technique as evenly as I possibly can, and to that end, I usually practice them with a metronome. In fact, a metronome is always part of my scale warm-up. But I'm also thinking about my tone, I'm trying to have the most beautiful and even sound I can have all the way from the very bottom of the instrument to the very top of the instrument, and back, and the same thing, whether I'm slurred or tongued, I want each note to have the best sound it can have, so, sometimes, we think about scales as being really about how we move our fingers, but I like to think about scales as a holistic exercise for playing the instrument. And then, I often will practice long tones and there again, I actually use a metronome when I practice long tones, and this is because I had a teacher who pointed out to me that when you're in an ensemble, you don't get to choose when you start, the conductor chooses. ("Fanfare Ritmico" by Jennifer Higdon) On the bassoon, we control our pitch with a combination of air speed and lip pressure, and those two things both are operating at the same time, and so, the tuner is absolutely invaluable for us in learning how to control our pitch, especially if we want to get louder or softer on a note without changing our pitch. So, normally, I would have a tuner and a metronome when I would do my long tones, and I would just do sort of crescendo and decrescendo exercises. (bassoon music) And it's been my habit for years to choose two different notes every day that are a fifth apart because if you're familiar with triads and tonal music, the third depends, but fifths are fifths most of the time, an equal temperament, so, I choose two notes that are a fifth apart and I practice alternating between those notes with my long tones, and I also will practice with my metronome and tuner, I will practice shorter notes as well, one fifth apart, in order to be able to play notes loud and soft, and have them be in tune and sound good, something like... (loud bassoon music) And then I might practice them soft. (soft bassoon music) And then, the harder one, alternating loud and soft. (bassoon music) And vice versa, alternating soft and loud. If you can do those things every day, you can play the bassoon. ("Lincolnshire Posy" by Percy Grainger)