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How Difficult is the Bassoon?

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

One of the things many younger musicians ask when seeing a bassoon for the first time:

"How difficult is it to play the bassoon?"

The simple answer: It is not that difficult if you are interested and spend time practicing!

However, it might take time and some patience. Here are few things to think about.

Almost all bassoonists start on a different instrument before switching to the bassoon. Some started on clarinet or flute after they are introduced to these instruments in their elementary school band. Others maybe started from piano. Still others perhaps started from a string instrument such as violin or cello. One of the big reasons that younger musicians don't usually start on the bassoon as their first instrument is quite simply a practical one. For a young musician who may be between to 10 years old when they are first introduced to a musical instrument, the bassoon is probably too big an instrument to start on.

Beginning as early as around 5th grade (around 10 or 11 years old) is when some musicians begin being introduced to the possibility of switching to bassoon, if they are lucky enough to have the chance to learn this unique instrument.

At this age, younger musicians are better able to handle the weight and balance of a bassoon. Around this time, young bassoonists can be able to more easily stretch their hands to be able to reach the bassoon's different keys.

In terms of keys, one of the really interesting facts about the bassoon is that it is the only wind instrument, where similar to the piano, it requires all 10 fingers to play! The left hand thumb alone is involved with at least 9~10 different keys.

If you are switching from the clarinet to bassoon, the transition may be a tiny bit easier at first because the fingering on the clarinet for one of the octaves on the bassoon is very similar.

If switching from the piano, younger musicians may be easier to adapt as well because they are familiar with playing a musical instrument with all 10 fingers.

One of the more challenging aspects of the bassoon is the mouthpiece. On the bassoon this is called a double-reed (note: bassoons are one of two types of double-reed instruments, the other is the oboe.) Bassoon reeds are each unique, and usually handmade. Advanced or professional bassoonists dedicate a lot of time to making their own reeds. Making reeds can be a more challenging process especially for a younger bassoonist, as you need certain specialized equipment and supplies. However, the good news is that there are many pre-made bassoon reeds available for sale which are sold by music stores which specialize in double-reeds, as well as by both amateur and professional bassoonists around the world who carefully make their own reeds, sometimes making them for sale from their own websites. Younger bassoonists will probably want to try different reeds when playing the bassoon for the first time, to see which ones might work best for them. This is where it is a really good idea to get the advice of a bassoon instructor for suggestions.

In terms of playing on a double-reed instrument for the first time, this may be a very unique experience, even for younger musicians who may be familiar with other single-reed instruments such as the clarinet. Double-reeds are quite different from single-reeds, and take some getting used to when starting off on bassoon. But don't be too frightened about this though, as this is where a good bassoon instructor can help quite a bit, providing tips on embouchure and how to correctly play on a double-reed.

While some of the above differences may seem a little bit scary at first, the truth is that just like with any instrument, with lots of practice, the bassoon can definitely be something that anyone can easily learn. While starting off initially on the bassoon may take some getting used to, it is definitely one of those instruments where the more you play, the more you will love your instrument.

If you would like to stand out from other musicians in your band or orchestra, it is definitely an instrument you should try!

Please check-out FAQs and Common Questions & Answers if you're interested in learning more about the bassoon!

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