Bassoons have 8 feet of tubing and are bent into a “U” shape, which makes them easier to play, according to Makingmusicfun.net. Like the oboe and the English horn, bassoons have conical bores. With conical bores, one end of tubing is wider than tubing at the other end of the instrument. The curved metal tube that makes up the body of the bassoon is called the bocal. At the end of the bocal, a double reed is attached. Double reeds are usually made from cane reed, which is extremely similar to bamboo.
The first bassoons were called curtals and dulcians, according to Makingmusicfun.net. Unlike modern bassoons, early bassoons were carved from a single piece of wood and didn’t have any keys. Musicians played early bassoons by using their fingers to cover up holes in the wood. The first bassoon with separate joints was made in the 17th century in France. The modern 17-key bassoon was developed in the 19th century. The first bassoons only had eight finger holes, according to Western Michigan University.
The modern bassoon was designed in 1823 by Gottfried Weber and Carl Almenrader, according to Western Michigan University. The design used to make the instrument was called the Heckel System. Carl Almenrader’s sons continued to make improvements to the bassoon through two generations. By the early 1900s, Heckel’s company was the main company producing bassoons. It produced 4,000 bassoons by the turn of the century.
The bassoon is the largest woodwind instrument aside from the contrabassoon, according to Makingmusicfun.net. Bassoons are 8 feet long, according to Makingmusicfun.net. Contrabassoons are 16 feet long.
Bassoons have a normal range of three octaves, according to Georgia State University. There are four tonal sections. The lowest tonal section ranges from the B-flat below the bass clef to the first line G of the bass clef. The second tonal section ranges from the first space A of the bass clef to the D above middle C. The third tonal section ranges from the fifth line E of the tenor clef to B-flat. The fourth tonal section starts at the A above the tenor clef staff to the next highest E-flat, according to Virginia Tech.
Bassoon music is usually written in bass or tenor clef, according to Virginia Tech. Students' bassoons are usually made out of plastic to make them more affordable.
The bassoon is often referred to as the clown of the orchestra because of its ability to make comical and unique noises, according to Thinkquest.org. The original role of the bassoon was to double the cellos, thus enhancing the bass line. Solos for the bassoon are few and far between.