On Line Fingering Charts

In 2006 I did a couple of concerts in Trinidad, where I found that there is a small and very enthusiastic classical music scene. It is, however, seriously under resourced. In particular, the bassoonists are almost completely self-taught! The instruments usually belong to the orchestra or the band and the player gets hold of a reed and a fingering chart and off they go. Now, as many of you may know, not all fingering charts are as good as they should be. So, I've tried to find what there is on line. This is what I've come up with so far (in no particular order) :

http://www.people.vcu.edu/~bhammel/main/bassoon/fingers/chart.html On this chart you have to click on each note in turn and it will give you some thoughts regarding tuning, trills and alternatives. There is a printable version.

http://www.johnschroder.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Fingering/index.html Very clear and easy to use chart showing good fingerings.

http://www.class.uidaho.edu/uibassoon/FingeringChart.pdf A very good basic chart.

http://www.musicked.com/musicked/pages/instruments/woodwinds/Bassoon/Bassoon-Fingerings.htm A fabulously ingenious site but I would disagree with quite a few of their suggested fingerings as basic fingerings to start from.

http://www.drdowningmusic.com/Bassoon-fingering-chart.html Seems to be a good and clear chart but it will cost you £3.50.

http://www.pocketmusician.com/bassoonfinger/ This one is for Cybergeeks; you can download a chart on to your hand held computer.

www.bassoontrainer.com/  Very clever interactive web site.

http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/bassoon/  This site is fairly easy to decipher and the fingerings are all to be recommended as ones that I might use.

http://www.leslieross.net/multiphonics.html Multiphonics.

 

When you do come across a new fingering, it's a good idea to make a note of it. Download this Blank Fingering Chart (which was very kindly sent to me by James Turbett), print it out and keep it in your bassoon case to fill in when the need arises. It would also be very useful for teachers.

 

Although I wish all players who do not have access to a teacher the best of luck, I would seriously recommend that, if at all possible, students have lessons from an experienced teacher who can find the best fingerings for their particular instrument.


Octave Keys / Flick Keys on the Bassoon

 

On some bassoon fingering charts, the D,C and A octave keys are referred to as flick keys.

A word of explanation here: when a British player plays middle C and the B, B flat and A below, he will usually use the relevant octave key as a normal part of the fingering whereas an American player will often release the octave key once the note has 'spoken'. Thus, he flicks it - hence the name 'Flick keys'. Some other players round the world do not these keys at all and risk these notes never speaking really clearly.

I only mention this by way of explanation and I shan't start a debate here on the pros and cons of flicking and I realise that the above is only a very general outline.

 

Figaro overture

 

As I'm sure you know, the start of the overture to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro is scored for just 2 bassoons and strings Presto and Pianissimo. Although very quiet, it must also be safe and consistent. You need a good responsive reed for this of course, but the additional trick that I use is to play the first note (D in the bass clef) and also the first note of the second bar with a special quiet fingering so that in effect I can start with a firm accent which won't be apparent to the listener. With a bit of practice this makes the passage a lot less alarming.

All second bassoonists should have a good selection of quiet fingerings and my personal preference for this D is the normal fingering plus the right thumb B flat key and right hand second finger. I always play this passage with the crook key locked down.

If you get asked to play this at an audition, always play it pp even when it's marked p and be prepared to play the repeated A natural quavers at the end of its last appearance. Double tonguing is usually required here.

Quiet Fingerings on the Bassoon

Having talked about my quiet fingering for the start of Figaro, I thought I might as well divulge all the quiet fingerings that I use. All instruments and players are different but these fingerings work for me. You might have to find alternatives.

Low B flat and B natural: use a mute if you need to. I was told by a very well known international soloist that he plays the quiet low B at the end of the first movement of Tchaik 5 by fingering low C, taking the reed almost completely out of the mouth and lipping it down a semi-tone. Talk about a high risk strategy!

Low C: if your bassoon has the extra touch on its low C key, move your thumb round and close the B flat key or, if you haven't, wedge the B flat key on the bell joint closed with an old reed or a small wedge of cork which can be useful for one or two other funny fingerings. I often half-close the B natural key (careful not to do this too much). This can be useful for diminuendos.

Low C sharp: close the B natural key. this has a strong effect. Alternatively, half close the B natural key as above.

Low D: close the B flat key either with your thumb or, if your instrument has that extra touch on the C natural key, use a wedge as described above. This has a strong effect.

Low E flat: again close the B flat key. This has a moderate effect and produces a nice warm sound but is a bit awkward to use in fast passages.

Low E: Not much to suggest here but try it with and without the C sharp key and also the B flat key.

Low F: try lowering the E plate a tiny amount. But be careful. This can be useful in diminuendos. Another trick is to put the crook key on, close the B flat key and then half close the B natural key (and also the C and D keys)

Low F sharp: put the crook key lock on and then add the low D key and E flat key. This gives a very quiet note which also flattens the pitch. Or, try carefully closing the E plate a little.

Low G: half close the E plate or, for something a bit more extreme, close it completely.

Low A flat: try very carefully closing the F key a tiny amount.

A natural in the bass clef: close the thumb F sharp key (which also closes the F key). This has a big effect.

B flat in the bass clef: put the E plate half or fully down or add the F key (very useful for the beginning of Beethoven IV or Die Walkure). For a much greater effect, finger a bottom B flat but move the third finger of the right hand off the G key and on to the 'front' B flat key. This last fingering is extremely quiet but is rather inflexible in pitch so, if it's a bit sharp or flat, you're stuck.

A trick you can use to play B flat in the bass clef and also an octave above quietly is to set up the right hand third finger B flat key so that it opens the tone hole on the back of the instrument a little less than it is normally opened by the thumb key. You can do this by sticking a piece of cork on the under-side of the key. I keep my instrument set up like this since normally I never or hardly ever use this key. I believe it is only there as a relic of the French system, but I may be wrong about this.

B natural in the bass clef: Normal fingering plus E plate and low B flat and B natural keys. Same problems as with the similar B flat fingering.

C natural in the bass clef: crook key lock on and then add all the left thumb keys. Same problems as above. Or, very carefully lower the first two fingers of the right hand so as to partially restrict the air flow from them.

C sharp in the bass clef: not much to suggest here but try half or fully closing the B finger hole. Or try the same trick with the right hand fingers as with the C natural.

D natural in the bass clef: normal fingering and add right thumb B flat and A finger hole. Very quiet and very useful. Right thumb B flat and B finger hole is even quieter. (Try these for the Overture to Figaro).

E flat in the bass clef: my normal full fingering for this is: left hand fork fingering plus low E flat little finger key; right hand second finger A hole plus thumb B flat key. My quiet fingering substitutes the right hand first finger (B) for the second finger (A).

E natural in the bass clef: normal fingering plus right hand G key and E plate.

F natural in the bass clef: normal fingering plus right hand G key and E plate as with the E.

F sharp below middle C: add the low D + E flat keys. Strong effect.

G below middle C: add the E plate.

G sharp below middle C: not much to suggest here.

A below middle C: add the F sharp key.

B flat below middle C: close or half close the E plate or add the F key.

B natural below middle C: very carefully shade the A finger hole

Middle C: Very carefully shade the B and A finger holes.

Middle C sharp: rather than use the long (or full) C sharp (which includes the right hand A hole G key and F key) try the short fingering (i.e. nothing in the right hand but add the low D key as well as the C sharp key). Alternatively, try the C - D flat trill key (right index finger on most instruments) but the pitch of this is usually a bit suspect.

Tenor D: add the right thumb B flat key and the right hand second finger.

The notes from E flat upwards are mostly quite amenable to being played pp.

Good luck with these fingerings and if you have any additional suggestions please feel free to e-mail me .

 

Embouchure:

 

There are many ways to describe a good bassoon embouchure (i.e. one that surrounds and encircles the reed rather than clamping it between top and bottom lips). One is to compare it to a sponge bag with a double draw string (e.g.  http://www.oboes.com/oboeglossary.html ) but I reckon you could do worse than aiming for this:

http://www.dhuey.com/lj/2007/monterey-sunfish1.jpg or this:http://de.mongabay.com/travel/files/p11153p.html and avoiding this:

http://www.chinatraderonline.com/Files/Gifts-and-Crafts/Garden%20Decoration/Artistic-Stone-products/Gardening-Decorative-Frog-2045285084.jpg 

 

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