from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
English: bassoon , French: basson , Italian: fagotto
classification Aerophonic
woodwind instrument
with double reed
range Range bassoon.svg
Sound sample Staccato passage , lyric passage
Related instruments

Contrabassoon , oboe , bassoon (fourth, fifth, octave bassoon)

List of bassoonists
Category: Bassoonist
Sound example: Camille Saint-Saëns , Sonata for bassoon and piano op.168

The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the tenor and bass registers with a double reed .

Layout and function

Parts of the bassoon

The body

The body of the bassoon consists of four parts: The

(a) Bell (also "hood", "lintels", "funnel", "head" or "bell") is placed on the
(b) Bass tube (also known as “bass rod”, “rod” or “tube”) inserted next to the
(c) wing in
(d) Boot (also known as “double hole”) is fixed.

The tone holes and flaps are located on these parts , with which the length of the vibrating column of air and thus the pitch can be changed (cf. sound generation on woodwind instruments ). The wooden parts are mostly made of maple , the "French system" (see below) is made of rosewood . On the boot there is a support (so-called hand or thumb support) for the right hand, which enables the independence of all five fingers.

The S-bend (e) is inserted into the wing , which is named after its shape. Depending on the player's preferences and needs, it can be made of various metals and alloys (e.g. nickel silver , brass , silver , gold or platinum ). Similar to the violin bow , the search for the S-bow that perfectly matches the bassoon is often very tedious. Bassoonists usually have several S-bows of different lengths to roughly tune the instrument.

The instrument is approximately 1.35 m high, but the entire length of the tube including the S-bend is approximately 2.55 m, as it results from two tubes that lie next to each other: In the boot , which is also known as the “double hole” for this reason , run two parallel holes, which are connected to each other on the lower part by a U-shaped brass tube. On the cross-sectional graphic, the air column is shown in its greatest extent, i.e. when playing the lowest note (Contra-B), in blue: It starts with the pipe , then goes to the S-bend , goes over the wing into one part of the boot , there describes a hairpin turn, and then on the other half in the weak conical bass rod to run and the bell to end.

The mechanics

A diagram of all the keys on a standard bassoon

The bassoon has 19 tone holes for chromatic playing and up to 9 additional holes to improve intonation and playability. 3 tone holes on the grand piano and 2 tone holes on the boot are covered directly with the fingers and are often lined with slightly protruding rubber or silver sleeves on modern bassoons. The remaining tone holes are opened or closed with the help of a complicated key mechanism made of silver-plated or nickel-plated nickel silver. The thumb of the right hand is responsible for 4 flaps, the thumb of the left hand for up to 9 flaps. A hand rest (thumb rest) can be mounted on the boot to relieve the strain on the right hand.

The reed

two bassoon reeds

The bassoon's actual sound generator is the double reed (called “ reed ” for short), which is attached to the S-bend. The periodic opening and closing of the two blades causes the air column in the instrument to vibrate, producing a sound. It consists of stilt reed (scientific name Arundo donax ), a special type of reed native to the Mediterranean area, and is usually built and worked on by the player himself. The finest changes in the choice of wood, the curvature and the thickness profile have a major impact on the vibration behavior and thus the playability and the sound. The production of bassoon reeds is a lengthy process that requires a lot of experience. A good tube can be played for an average of three to ten weeks, depending on the intensity of use, before it becomes unusable. During this time, the wood can change again and again, so that it has to be reworked. A reed that is ideal for a bassoonist may be difficult to play for another player or with another instrument.

Sound and range

The bassoon's sound is often described as sonorous in the lower registers and as “cantabel” in the tenor register. In the box, audio samples from Beethoven's 4th Symphony (staccato part) and from Rimski-Korsakow'sScheherazade ” (lyrical passage) are linked.

The basic scale from the "empty tone" (the tone that sounds when all tone holes are open) down to the lowest tone that can be picked up without the aid of the thumb is f – F (with B instead of B). Seen in this way, the bassoon is fingered in a similar way to an alto recorder or the low clarinet register . Because of the large range of notes, notes are made in the bass, tenor and sometimes in the violin clef , in real pitch without transposition.

The lowest note of the instrument is the Kontra-B, since the end of the 19th century composers have sometimes also prescribed a Kontra-A, which can be played with another, enlarged bell (the so-called Tristan falls). However, because the use of the same affects the sound of the instrument, it is avoided.

In terms of height, the limit varies depending on the player, instrument, S-bow and pipe: the e '' is no problem for experienced players, as a professional player you can also achieve the g '' , as it is e.g. B. György Ligeti prescribes in his violin concerto. The highest note of the official Heckel - fingering chart is as '' , in theory but there is no upper end.

Playing technique

Idealized representation of a seated bassoon player

The player holds the bassoon diagonally in front of his body. Because of the high weight, an aid is necessary, usually a neck or shoulder strap with a hook, which is hooked into an eyelet provided on the upper edge of the boot. With a balance holder (balance) the center of gravity of the instrument can be individually adjusted in this way of carrying. Other ways to relieve the player are seat belts (attached to an eyelet on the underside of the boot), leg rests or play stands. A special feature of the bassoon are the up to three so-called grinding keys . When playing unbound in the middle position or when jumping into the middle position of the second register, they are only opened briefly when blowing the note to make it easier to respond, and then usually closed again immediately to control the intonation and sound of the corresponding note improve.

As with other woodwind instruments, there are a number of extended techniques , including multiphonics , flutter tongue , circular breathing , double and triple tongue , and overtones .


The main formant of the bassoon is at 500 Hz, secondary formants in the ranges around 1150, 2000 and 3500 Hz; the timbre of the instrument therefore resembles the vowel "o". Below the main formant, the sound power spectrum drops by around 8 dB / octave, so fundamental tones are correspondingly weak in the lower register.

The acoustics of the bassoon, especially its radiation characteristics , have already been the subject of extensive scientific research. Here it was determined, among other things, with acoustic cameras that the sound output varies little in the median plane , but is highly irregular in the horizontal plane . For low frequencies it basically applies that they are emitted omnidirectionally, while high frequencies are more directional. Measurements by the Helsinki University of Technology have shown that the third overtone is prominent regardless of direction , while lower overtones are more likely to be emitted to the front right. As part of a dissertation at the TU Dresden , it was found that the resonance behavior of an instrument can be calculated in advance based on acoustic impedance spectra if its body geometry is known . In experiments with simulations of the human mouth , connections between the elasticity of the lips and the dynamics of the game were demonstrated.


The bassoon has a dynamic range of about 33 dB . Distance of 10 meters in the instrument reaches pp about 50 dB, in ff about 83 dB.


Dulcians in the Syntagma musicum


The name of the instrument is borrowed from Italian ( fagotto ) and has been traceable as such since the early 16th century (in the form of bassoon for the first time in 1518), in German only around a hundred years later. It is uncertain how it is to be explained etymologically . In Italian, fagotto also means “ brushwood ”, and so the assumption is obvious that the instrument is named after its multi-part design, ie “because it can be broken down into several parts and packed up like a bundle of rice” ( Friedrich Christian Diez ). This explanation is found for the first time in 1636 in the writings of the French music scholar Marin Mersenne and has been repeated many times since then, but it may represent a learned pseudo-etymology . There is some evidence that the name of the instrument and it. fagotto “bundle” - or the synonymous French fagot that Mersenne mentioned - is mere homonyms, i.e. two identical, but fundamentally different, and therefore unrelated words. At least in Italian, the literal meaning “brushwood” was apparently still uncommon in the 16th century and even seems to be the younger one. In Occitan , on the other hand , fagot has this meaning as early as the 13th century, but the etymology of this word is also obscure, especially since it has no equivalent in the other Romance languages ​​(i.e. Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese) or was only borrowed from French late . Among other things, a derivation of the Latin fagus “beech” or a Germanic origin (cf. Old Norse fagus “stack, bundle”) is suspected . Diez and Ernst Gamillscheg , on the other hand, derived it from the Latin faxKienspan ”, or from a diminutive form (* facellus > * facottus ) of this word, which also resulted in German Fackel . In Latin, the name of the ceremonial hatchet of the Roman lictors, the fascis , in Greek φάκελος ( phákelos ) “bundle”, is probably based on the Indo-European root * pak- “flechten, bind”.

It is puzzling how the bassoon relates to the phagotum , a kind of miniature organ which, according to Teseo Ambrogio degli Albonesi, in his Introductio In Chaldaicam Lingua, Syriaca [m], atque Armenica [m] around 1520 by his uncle Afranio, printed in Pavia in 1539 degli Albonesi, a canon who came from present-day Serbia but was founded in Ferrara , Italy . In any case, it is remarkable that Teseo Ambrogio explained the name of this device, which has not survived for posterity, around 100 years before Mersenne and did not refer to brushwood or other bundles, but to Latin fagus "beech" and Greek φαγεῖν phageín " eat "or rather its participle Perfect Active πεφαγὠς ( pephagota ), ie" having eaten ", because the ingenious windwork of the ominous" phagotum "is able to" eat "a wide variety of sounds and emit them again at the push of a button.

Some composers such as Richard Wagner or Richard Strauss still wrote “ first or second bassoon” in their scores , but more recently the neuter article has established itself.


With the further development of polyphony in the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the variety of instruments expanded at the same time. Complete (register) movements from soprano to bass were developed from individual instruments. The various deep double reed instruments , such as the bass pommer and the conical renaissance trellis, were really new here . They all can be considered ancestors of the bassoon, in form but which is commonly dulcian called precursors. It was still made from a single piece of wood and already had a conical bore.


In the middle of the 17th century, resourceful woodwind instrument makers began to manufacture the instrument from several separate parts: In music history this is considered to be the hour of birth of the bassoon, which from now on was able to prevail against other deep reed instruments for two reasons: On the one hand, the bassoon rose Quality of the instruments, as the individual parts could be turned and drilled more precisely than the whole block, on the other hand, the bassoon also gained popularity with traveling musicians because it was easier to transport than other bass instruments such as the double bass or viola da gamba . At that time, the bassoons (and dulcians) still existed in different sizes and tunings, which today, with the exception of the contrabassoon one octave lower , have largely disappeared.

See also: Baroque bassoon

The Heckel reform

Bassoon, around 1870 (Heckel system)

In the course of time, the instrument, which was initially only equipped with a few tone holes and a few keys , was given numerous additional keys that made it easier to use the chromatic and play in higher registers. The design was finally reformed in the 1830s by Johann Adam Heckel in Wiesbaden-Biebrich , who worked with the bassoonist Carl Almenräder (1786–1843) for this purpose .

Interestingly, it was precisely at this time that the bassoon's use of the bassoon as a soloist in orchestras and chamber music decreased significantly, possibly because the musicians needed time to adjust to the new instrument. The Heckel system can now be found on almost all modern bassoons and is also used by other companies such as Fox, Moosmann, Püchner, Schreiber, Mollenhauer or Yamaha . Only in France can you still find the buffet system ( "basson" ) in some orchestras , which is more similar to the classical instrument and sounds a little more nasal.

Other members of the bassoon family

In the meantime the fifth, fourth and octave bassoons (Fagottino) have risen again. In terms of mechanics, these are clearly slimmed-down bassoons that have been reduced to scale, which, due to their design, transpose, i.e. H. sound a fourth / fifth / octave higher than notated. In terms of sound, they have less in common with the bass instrument, the bassoon. The tone is more aggressive, the range and dynamic range are clearly limited. U. to be rewritten. Due to their smaller size (smaller finger hole spacing) and weight, they are used as entry-level instruments for children. For playing in lower pitches, see the keyword contrabassoon .

The so-called "Fagonello", a development from Germany (Fagonello), is a new way of making the bassoon possible for small children. Despite its “child size” and child-friendly mechanics, the instrument plays in the “correct” bassoon pitch, almost fully chromatic from C to C ". It is built from one piece, so that only the S-bend with reed has to be attached Bassoons own, somewhat complicated, assembly is completely unnecessary, which gives the Fagonello a certain intuitive usability for children.

Use in music

Solo literature

The oldest solo works that are played on the bassoon are mostly composed for a low instrument without any further details, for example the canzones for a bass instrument and figured bass by Frescobaldi . In the 17th century under the name "Fagotto" nor the dulcian requires, after all, increasingly explicit. In the Spaltklang duty system, the bassoon / dulcian voice was indispensable component.

Antonio Vivaldi wrote 39 solo concertos for the baroque bassoon. One of the first great works definitely designed for bassoon is Telemann's Sonata in F minor . Other important solo sonatas from the Baroque period come from Johann Friedrich Fasch and Joseph Bodin de Boismortier .

In the Classical and Early Romantic periods there were hardly any bassoon sonatas, but the most important concertos were composed, above all the works of Mozart , Carl Maria von Weber and Johann Nepomuk Hummel . Smaller masters such as Johann Baptist Vanhal , Carl Stamitz , Franz Danzi also produced interesting works, and there is even a concert by Gioacchino Rossini , the authorship of which has not yet been fully clarified.

Not least because of the reform of the key system (see above), the bassoon initially played a more hidden role from the middle of the 19th century, but important works such as the sonatas by Camille Saint-Saëns , Paul Hindemith , Josef Schelb , and Alexandre were only created again in the 20th century Tansman , the solo pieces by Malcolm Arnold , Egon Wellesz and Hans Erich Apostel or the “Duett-Concertino” for clarinet , bassoon and string orchestra by Richard Strauss .

Important contemporary works are "Monologue" by Isang Yun , "In Amfriendship" by Karlheinz Stockhausen , "Klaus-ur" by Heinz Holliger , the "Sequence XII" for bassoon solo by Luciano Berio , "Interferences I" by Roger Boutry , as well as the Bassoon concerto by André Jolivet . Maxwell Davies wrote his "Strathclyde Concerto No. 8" for bassoon and orchestra.

Thanks to the sometimes mysterious and mysterious timbre of the bassoon, the instrument has increasingly found its way into modern alternative music styles in recent years, for example with Tom Waits . His album " The Black Rider ", a free shooter story, is characterized by bassoon and bass clarinet.

Chamber music

Fox Renard bassoon

The bassoon plays an important role in pure woodwind chamber music, as it usually has the bass function . In harmony music , wind octets and sextets there are usually two bassoons , in woodwind quintets one bassoon. Since the 20th century there has also been an increasing number of freer forms such as the various duos with other instruments by Francis Poulenc , Heitor Villa-Lobos and Sofia Gubaidulina .

A special case in chamber wind music are the two quintets for solo piano and four wind instruments by Mozart and Beethoven .

Also in the mixed (brass and strings) Chamber Music has the bassoon a variety of tasks, such as the octet of Franz Schubert or Beethoven Septet . Mozart, François Devienne , Georges Bizet and Bertold Hummel composed duos with cello , and Jean Françaix's divertissement for bassoon and string quintet is also worth mentioning .

see also : List of woodwind quintets (with bassoon)

In the orchestra

Bassoonist with the New York Philharmonic (1917).

In the baroque orchestra, the bassoon is used almost exclusively as a figured bass instrument, especially in works with high winds. Jean-Baptiste Lully likes to use a solo trio of two oboes and bassoon in his orchestral works , which he juxtaposes with the string apparatus, a technique that was also adopted by Bach and other composers.

In the Viennese Classic , the bassoon emancipates itself as an orchestral instrument from the pure bass function and is almost on a par with other woodwinds as a melody instrument: Examples of this can be found in the late symphonies and especially in the piano concertos by Mozart, but also in Joseph Haydn and with Beethoven : He uses the bassoon for both lyrical passages (coda in the second movement of the 5th symphony ) and for fast staccato passages as in the last movement of the 4th symphony . The use of the bassoon in Mozart's overture to “ The Marriage of Figaro ” is of a similar character . The humorous bassoon solo from Antonio Salieri's overture to “ Falstaff ossia Le tre burle ” also deserves mention, in which Edvard Grieg'sIn the Hall of the Mountain King ” from the incidental music to Peer Gynt is anticipated.

As in other areas, the solo use of the bassoon in the German-speaking world in orchestral music declined sharply around the middle of the 19th century: Johannes Brahms , Anton Bruckner and Richard Wagner valued the instrument primarily for its sonic mixability: Bruckner should do that Even once called the bassoon the “whore of the orchestra”, because it can be combined “inconspicuously” with strings, woodwinds or brass. Wagner likes to use the bassoon for bizarre or comical effects, as in the Beckmesser brawl in " The Mastersingers of Nuremberg ". This tradition is continued by Gustav Mahler and can be found to this day, especially in the field of film music , for example in cartoons .

This devaluation is not felt among the Russian composers, who prefer the tenoral cantilenas of the instrument, which can be heard in the Tchaikovsky symphonies or in the “ Scheherazade ” by Rimsky-Korsakov . In Italy, too, the great masters of opera presented the bassoon with grateful passages: examples can be found in Donizetti's “ Liebestrank ”, in Luigi Cherubini's “Medea” and in countless Verdi operas.

The role of the bassoon in orchestral music of the 20th century is strongly influenced by the use of the instrument by Stravinsky , who at the beginning of his “ Le sacre du printemps ” has a bassoon solo played in an unprecedentedly high register (up to the d '' ) and also otherwise (in “ Der Feuervogel ”, “ Petruschka ” or “Pulcinella”) composed many difficult passages. In Maurice Ravel's piano concerto, an e " can be found for the first time in an audible solo passage, Alban Berg goes up to the f" in his " Wozzeck " . In keeping with the tradition of his older compatriots, Shostakovich also wrote a large, high and lyrical bassoon cadenza in his 9th symphony .

Famous bassoonists

Edgar Degas: L'Orchestre de l'Opéra

Most of the names of earlier bassoonists are only preserved for posterity because they were composers themselves or because they were dedicated to a famous composition. The case is different with Désiré-Hippolyte Dihau, the bassoonist at the Paris Opera, who was a good friend of the painter Edgar Degas and whose painting “L'Orchestre de l'Opéra” (1870) can be seen in the foreground.

Mozart's bassoon concerto was written for Freiherr Thaddäus Wolfgang von Dürnitz (1756–1807), his “Sinfonia concertante” for the Mannheim virtuoso Georg Wenzel Ritter (1748–1808). Carl Maria von Weber's concert is dedicated to the Munich bassoonist Georg Friedrich Brandt, Richard Strauss dedicated his “Duett-Concertino” to the soloist of the Vienna Philharmonic at the time with the dedication “ Hugo Burghauser , the faithful”.

Composing bassoonists included Etienne Ozi (1754–1813), François Devienne (1759–1803), Adolph Weiss (1891–1970) and Victor Bruns (1904–1996). The English composer Edward Elgar took part in a wind quintet, for which he wrote the pieces himself.

Among the modern bassoonists, Milan Turković and Klaus Thunemann are particularly noteworthy, who contributed a lot to the development of the playing technique and the popularity of the instrument; the Italian bassoonist Sergio Azzolini is best known for his increased commitment to the baroque bassoon. Other important contemporary musicians are included in the list of bassoonists .


Important authors of bassoon schools and etude collections are Julius Weissenborn , Ludwig Milde , Alamiro Giampieri and Karel Pivonka . Most of them played the bassoon themselves, and some famous bassoonists are still very successful as teachers, such as Klaus Thunemann or Milan Turković, who have enabled countless students to achieve important positions in international orchestras.

For a long time, due to the size and weight of the instrument, learning to play the bassoon was not started until around the age of thirteen. In the meantime, a rule seems to be enforcing, according to which the young bassoonist should be at least “two fingers wide” or “one hand wide” larger than his instrument, so that there are also nine-year-old bassoonists. Since the 1990s, however, the designs of the smaller, upwardly transposing fourth and fifth bassoons, which became extinct in the 18th century, have been restored for the lessons of younger students (“bassoon”). New practice and performance pieces are constantly being created for these instruments; however, this practice is not supported by all bassoon teachers.

The list of published bassoon schools provides an overview of the bassoon schools published over the past 250 years.

Instrument of the year 2012

In 2012 the bassoon was voted instrument of the year by the Schleswig-Holstein State Music Council. During this year special attention was paid to it with the aim of arousing awareness and new enthusiasm for the instrument. In numerous diverse concerts, workshops and events, enthusiasm was made for the specific timbres, playing techniques and subtleties of the bassoon. Numerous events related to the bassoon were collected, published and advertised by the Landesmusikrat .

The German Orchestra Association welcomes and supports these campaigns as well.


The following description of the bassoonist can be found in the "Neue Musikzeitung" from 1882:

“The bassoon players are basically good-natured, outwardly apparently light-shy and drawn in, but original and whimsical, humorous among friends. Noticeably greyish with age. Their bassoon is their bride, they are already looking forward to the 5th act of the overture, in which they have to solo a bar. "

In 2010 five companies in Germany produced a total of 2,326 bassoons and oboes.




  • William Waterhouse: The Bassoon (Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides), Kahn & Averill, London 2001, 2005. ISBN 1-871082-68-4
  • William Spencer: The Art of Bassoon Playing , Summy-Birchard, Evanston Ill 1969. ISBN 0-87487-073-9


  • The bassoon (instruments in concert) . 1995, Koch-Schwann - a cross-section of concerts and chamber music from three centuries
  • Musique pour Basson & Piano . 1994, Dabringhaus & Grimm - Dag Jensen and Midori Kitagawa play French chamber music
  • Fagotto concertante . 1991, ORFEO Munich - Milan Turkovic plays Mozart, Françaix, Villa-Lobos and Gershwin
  • Bassoon Fantasia - Mahahito Tanaka plays his favorites 1991, Pavane Records - Fagott & Klavier.
  • Fagottissimo - virtuoso rarities for bassoons 1990 and Fagottissima nova 1994, Dabringhaus & Grimm - Gürzenich bassoon quintet

Web links

Commons : Bassoon  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Bassoon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Instrument collection of the Musicological Institute of the University of Tübingen ( Memento from April 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) , B 19, Wilhelm Heckel, No. 3047, Biebrich, c. 1880.
  2. Meyer, Jürgen: Acoustics and musical performance practice: guidelines for acousticians, sound engineers, musicians, instrument makers and architects . 3., completely revised and expanded Aufl. Bochinsky, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-923639-01-5 , p. 68/89 .
  3. Malte Kob, Timo Grothe: Investigation of bassoon directivity . In: Proceedings of the Stockholm Music Acoustics Conference 2013, SMAC 13, ed. v. Roberto Bresin and Anders Askenfeldt (Stockholm, Sweden), pp. 391–397
  4. Jukka Pätynen, Tapio Lokki: Directivities of Symphony Orchestra Instruments . In: Acta Acustica united with Acustica . tape 96 , no. 1 , January 1, 2010, ISSN  1610-1928 , p. 138–167 , doi : 10.3813 / aaa.918265 ( [accessed October 22, 2018]). PDF version online
  5. ^ Grothe, Timo: Experimental investigation of bassoon acoustics . Dissertation, Technical University of Dresden (2013). P. 139 (PDF online )
  6. Grothe, Timo: Investigation of bassoon embouchures with an artificial mouth . In: Proceedings of the Acoustics 2012 Nantes Conference . Nantes 2012 ( ).
  7. ^ Friedrich Diez: Etymological dictionary of the Romance languages . Fifth edition. August Scheler, Bonn 1887. p. 130, sv Fagotto, fangotto .
  8. Lemma fagot (houten blaasinstrument) in: Marlies Philippa et al .: Etymological Woordenboek van het Nederlands . Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2003-2009.
  9. Josef Brüch : Comments on the French Etymological Dictionary E. Gamillschegs, sv Fagot . In: Journal for French Language 52, 1929, pp. 393–483, here pp. 408–411.
  10. ^ Francis W. Galpin: The Romance of the Phagotum . In: Proceedings of the Musical Association 67: 1, 1940, pp. 57-72.
  11. Bayerischer Rundfunk: 62nd ARD Music Competition: Announcement 2013 | . August 30, 2012 ( [accessed July 7, 2018]).
  12. a b Bassoon - Instrument of the Year 2012 - Current Archive ( Memento from April 18, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). Article of the German Orchestra Association of January 5, 2012. Retrieved on April 18, 2014.
  13. ^ Production of Musical Instruments. Accessed February 27, 2013.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 22, 2005 in this version .