Wednesday, February 18, 2015

lefreQue follow up

I wanted to write a follow-up to my first post about the lefreQue sound bridges.

In the first post, I mentioned that I use only the bridge for the bocal/wing joint connection. After some experimentation and trial, I've branched out significantly.

After hearing from other bassoonists about their experiences with these sound bridges I thought I'd give the larger 76mm bridges another try.

I had heard that attaching them to the bell/long joint juncture would add resonance and help response. Initially, I was skeptical because I didn't hear enough of an improvement to warrant a purchase.

That all changed when I took a friend into Severance Hall while it was empty to try them out again.

Trial with and without the bridges on my bell/long joint juncture with my friend at the podium and me in the bassoon section yielded no difference to his ears.

However, when trying them with him placed in the audience seats on the orchestra floor, the difference was quite noticeable. With the bridges, my sound had more power, depth and evenness throughout the range. With them, I could sustain a crescendo a bit farther than without.

I repeated this trial for two other people, both of whom noticed a difference.  I also tried with bridges on the bell/long and long/boot junctures (also 76mm size). The bridges on the long/boot juncture added less of an improvement, but it was noticeable -- especially in the low register. An added benefit was greater security when producing a "pp" attack in the low register.

I tried them out in our concerts last weekend. We played the Sibelius Violin Concerto. In this piece, along with much touchy writing for the second bassoonist, the first bassoon part has its share of delicate entrances and tough low note slurs. With  these bridges on I felt more secure making those tough entrances in the slow movement

At the end of the second movement, there is a very lonely slur from low F to low Bb for the first bassoonist.  Here was the method I used to make that slur secure:

1. Insert a small strip of note pad cardboard backing (about the size of a long match stick) under the low B key so that it fits between the low B and the low C touch. This will lower the low C and low D keys slightly. It will mute the F a little bit and make the slur a bit more secure.

Warning: make sure that the strip isn't so thick that the B pad will not close completely when the low Bb is fingered!

2. With the register lock on, play the low F with the low Bb key depressed.

3. Slur to low Bb. Make sure the left thumb contacts all four low register keys at once.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Off-label uses

Many bassoonists browse hardware stores, craft stores and other shops wondering how they could modify what's on the shelves for bassoon playing.

My former colleague, Phil Austin is particularly good at this. Here are a couple of ingenious uses he's found for these common items.

Low A Extension

Using a wiffle ball bat (found in most sporting goods stores), mark out a 7" section of the bat from just above the word "OFFICIAL" stamped on the fat part of the bat extending towards the handle.

Cut with a saw.

Color black with spray paint or a Sharpy permanent marker.

Warp a layer of black electrician's tape around the area that contacts the bassoon bell.

Insert into bell and check pitch of Low A. If flat, you can cut shorter!

Perhaps due to the hard plastic, this Low A has a better sound than the paper towel roll often used and is MUCH cheaper than extensions marketed by double reed suppliers!

Case Humidifier

Take a film canister (people of a certain age will tend to have more of these laying around than others!) and drill some holes in it.

Cut up a sponge into a cylindrical shape with scissors.

Insert sponge into the film canister, put lid on and wet sponge under a faucet. 

Shake out excess water so sponge is damp, but not soaked. 

Put in case for higher humidity.

Anyone have any off-label uses for everyday items to share?