Bassoon intonation problem

Bassoon intonation problem

Bassoon intonation problem    14:30 on Sunday, August 05, 2012          

(15 points)
Posted by khsron

I have recently resumed playing the bassoon, with no experience or ambition higher than community band. Now that I have an electronic tuner, I see that my intonation is atrocious! One note may be 20 cents flat and the adjacent note is 30 cents sharp. I wonder where to look for the most likely culprit.

My bassoon is a Selmer 132 (wood), acquired new in 1978. Was the intonation very bad, even on new ones, back then? Are the current models better? Could the problem be from deterioration of my particular bassoon (wood rot, pads wearing out, mechanism needing adjustment, and so on)?

How about the reeds: worn out, not broken in, too dry, too wet, and so on?

How about the bocal? If this is a problem, what bocal would be a good match for this bassoon?

Or is the problem most likely with me: weak embouchure, improper embouchure, and so on?

I am not inclined (or able) to spend a lot of money on equipment if I myself am the major problem. Neither do I want to spend a lot of time and effort fixing myself if the equipment is the major problem.

The bassoon is a fine instrument, but I began playing it because my high school band needed one, not because I fell in love with it. The attractions of community band are the camaraderie and the enjoyment of hearing the music. I am tempted to switch to an instrument that is not so expensive, so exposed, and so finicky.

Anyway, back to my main point. Any ideas or insights as to where my intonation problem might most likely come from?

Thanks a lot.

Re: Bassoon intonation problem    12:23 on Monday, August 06, 2012          

(756 points)
Posted by contra448

A lot of possibilities here.

1. I have no direct experience of the Selmer but believe they are considered fair beginner instruments.

2.Bocal - as long as it has no major dents, kinks or any splits it should be OK. If it is undamaged this is last thing to change. Trying new crooks is a mind bending exercise even for experienced players & only the player can decide on one that fits the combination of him, the reeds & instrument. It is easy to make an expensive mistake - money which would have been better spent on getting the instrument & yourself in good playing condition.

3. Instrument: Lots of possibilities here. In an instrument over 30 years old you could expect deterioration of pads, regulation corks missing or worn, keys not opening correct amounts or not opening or closing when required, even if the bassoon appears to seal well. Loose fitting tenons & bocals can contribute to leaks as well. All of which can cause tuning problems. Wood rot should not be a problem if you swabbed it out properly when using it regularly.

For advice take it to a competent bassoon repairer - who will be able to give you an assessment of the condition & estimate of the cost of any work needed.
Unfortunately these are thin on the ground & many general woodwind techs are really only experienced with clarinets, flutes & saxes. The same applies to teachers - excellent players & teachers don't necessarily know anything about the mechanics of their instruments (Like many car owners who can only drive them but cannot do any simple maintenance or indeed don't notice that anything is wrong til a wheel falls off )

4. Reed, embouchure & breathing. These are all inter-related & can contribute to tuning troubles. Really you need to find a bassoon teacher (preferably an specialist one rather than general woodwind one many of whom don't know the bassoon as a first instrument)


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