A bassoon is an incredibly long woodwind instrument. It has been around since the 19th century and is mostly played during orchestras and concert bands.
Just how long is a bassoon though? A bassoon isn’t much bigger than a small child, measuring nearly 4.5 feet long when it’s folded up in instrument form. If you were to unfold the bassoon then it would be longer than 9 feet.
What you may not have known about the bassoon is that it has an important role in each orchestra because of its wide range and versatility.
It is a member of the double reeds family, which creates sounds by channeling air from the mouthpiece and allowing it to vibrate between two pieces of cane.
Is The Size Of A Bassoon Important?
The bassoon is a low playing instrument, so it needs to be long in order to create low notes. It is actually a smaller model of the oboe instrument and produces a sound that is two octaves lower. The length of the bassoon also plays a part in creating a more nasally sound then the oboe.
Just because the bassoon is better used for low notes, doesn’t mean that it can’t produce high ones. Since it is a smaller structure than the oboe, it is capable of hitting notes that are a little bit higher.
A bassoon range is usually between B1 to G5. However, most music for bassoon rarely requires any note higher than a C5.
It is completely possible for a bassoon to reach a higher note, but it is much harder to accomplish. The music typically sounds better when the bassoon sticks to low notes.
Related: How Much Does a Bassoon Weigh?
The Pitch Levels Of Woodwind Instruments
The air column’s length can play a big part in determining the instrument’s pitch. A sound wave will travel down the tube of the bassoon, bounce off of one end, and come back. It may reflect off of the other end and start all over again.
When the sound wave has to travel down a larger column, it takes more time for it to complete a round trip.
Lower frequency results in longer trips. However, the length of time it takes to get from one end and back can be changed by opening and closing the bassoon’s finger holes.
When all of the finger holes are closed then the bassoon will play the lowest note possible.
If you want to play a higher note, then you will need to open the finger holes. For the most successful chromatic scale you should open the finger holes from the bottom to the top.
The Structure Of A Bassoon
These remarkably long instruments have a specific structure to them. The bocal is at the tip of the bassoon, and this is where the bassoonist blows air into.
The diameter of the bocal is usually around 4 millimeters. Attached to the bocal is the bore, which extends downwards forming a U shape at the bassoon’s lowest point.
That U lead’s to the instrument’s highest point, which connects to the bell. The bell is the opening where the sound comes out of. It is approximately 40 millimeters.
Can Sound Move In A Bassoon?
Since the bassoon is such a large instrument, it was designed so that the finger holes are comfortably spaced apart taking up it’s full length. The two lowest finger holes are actually below the bell, which creates sound from further down the instrument.
If you reverse the pattern in which you are opening the finger holes the pitch will rise. Since there is so much room in the basson’s column for the pitch to move around in, this can make it seem like the sound is actually moving around.
Often when there are performers seated in front of a bassoonist they get this strange feeling as though the music is dancing around behind them. It is unlike any other instrument in the orchestra.
Only the most talented musicians can play this giant instrument, that is nearly 4 and a half feet long. It turns out that all of that extra room inside the basson does have a big impact on the notes that come out of it.