If you're a Middle School or High School student thinking about starting the bassoon, there are some very important things you will want to think about.
This is an ideal time to start the bassoon, especially if you are switching from another instrument.
Here are the top 7 things you'll want to do!
1. Take the time to watch talented bassoonists playing various styles of music
So you've come across this really cool looking instrument that looks like a portable wooden canon you can carry around! In addition to looking cool, you'll want to get familiar with the instrument. Listen to the sounds and versatility of this instrument in music ensembles and as a solo instrument. You'll find lots of videos here where you can see and hear many amateur and professional bassoonists alike.
2. Try the bassoon for yourself
There's no better way to know if an instrument is the right one for you than by trying it out for yourself! I would first check with your school to see if they have any bassoons that you can check out. If you're lucky, there may be a few of them to choose from. If your school doesn't have any bassoons available, the next best thing would be to check your local music stores to see if they have any bassoons. If your school has any bassoons for you to borrow, that would be the best way to go because there won't be any costs you need to worry about. Renting a bassoon at a music store will usually have a monthly fee, but depending on the store, perhaps try asking if the music store will let you try out the instrument for a week, or even rent the instrument for a shorter period of time to make sure it is the right instrument for you. You'll find an article here on things to think about when renting
3. Get quality reeds
Reeds are one of the most important components of a bassoon. (Even professional bassoonists will describe how when making reeds, if they make one that sounds and feels good then it is a really good day!)
Luckily for beginners, you won't need to worry about making your own reeds. While it may take some time to figure out what might be best for you, and your preferences will change as you continue to improve with the bassoon, you'll find that many of the really good reeds are sold by individual bassoonists who make reeds for themselves. (Note: Your first reeds you ever play the bassoon with are so important, that it could mean the difference between getting excited about the bassoon v.s. getting frustrated and deciding not to continue! For these reasons, I would recommend being patient with reeds and understanding that it may take a few different tries or orders from different places to find something that works better for you.) Some reputable suppliers that specialize in double-reed supplies can be found here.
When I was in 6th grade, my favorite reeds were hand made by a well known bassoonist named Trent Jacobs. For younger musicians, his reeds are really great! If you're interested, here's a link to his website where you can order some of his reeds. Midwest Musical Imports which is a reputable double-reed supplier in the midwest, also sells his reeds.
4. Take advantage of online resources
While it can be difficult to find helpful resources for learning the bassoon, here's a link where you can find some helpful videos and information which are completely free, online tutorials, that could be helpful for a beginning bassoonist.
There are many other fantastic resources available online for beginners. Amanda J. Pierce has a website Blue Moon Bassoons that has some interesting resources.
Here are some of the most popular music books for bassoonists starting off on bassoon.
One of the most famous bassoonists in Canada, Nadina Mackie Jackson, has recently published a book entitled SOLITARY REFINEMENT - Chromatics, Chords & Scales, Concepts for the Committed Bassoonist, available here.
5. Search for a good bassoon teacher
One of the things that can be extremely helpful is finding a bassoon teacher to help you when you are starting off. Unlike other instruments, the bassoon is considered by many to be a bit more difficult to learn, where there are some things you will need to think about that are different from other musical instruments. Finding a bassoon teacher can help you to save a lot of time and energy in terms of getting familiar with and started with your bassoon.
To help you locate a bassoon teacher, I would recommend searching on the web for a bassoon teacher near you, or perhaps asking your local music store for suggestions. Another good resource is the website Play with a Pro, where you'll find music teachers for different levels of students. There are also other tutoring websites where you might find bassoon teachers under the music sections of those sites. For the more advanced bassoonists, here is a link to some teachers including famous bassoon professors.
6. Set aside time to practice
As with all musical instruments, practicing is important. Make sure you plan time to practice!
7. Explore ensemble opportunities beyond just your school
While your middle school and high school might offer chances to play bassoon, many of the most exciting opportunities may actually be outside of school. Try looking for local youth orchestras and other opportunities, where you will have the chance to challenge yourself, perform with more talented musicians, and expand beyond what you may play in school. Some youth ensembles require auditions, and while preparing for them can seem daunting, they are definitely worthwhile. If you're lucky, you might even get the chance to play solo parts as part of an orchestra - which is really where things start to get fun!