Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Many of the modern woodwinds we see today either originated from or are manufactured in France. In the US, French oboes and clarinets, for example, are considered the standard. Saxophones were also designed by the French, and Flutes are essentially French too. But with the bassoon, preferences have actually developed towards a German style instrument!
There have been two dominant countries over the centuries when it comes to woodwind instruments: Germany and France. German players prefer a thicker, darker sound, whereas French players prefer a lighter, more reedy sound.
These differences are particularly apparent in the German and French versions of the Bassoon.
Today in the US as well as many other countries, German Bassoons are generally considered the standard, and French Bassoons are not as common. French Bassoons are, however, seen in France, Canada, Belgium, Latin American, and other romantic countries. It has a sound that is quite different to the German Bassoon. Some say it sounds much more like a saxophone! It can sound more reedy, as expected usually from traditional French style woodwinds.
Why is this important? Well, the fact of the matter is that very few bassoonists play on both French and German Bassoons! This is because these two instruments are actually different in design in everything (reeds, fingerings, etc.) A professional bassoonist would actually probably need to spend several months (at least) to learn how to play one type even if they knew how to play the other!!
For these reasons, when starting off on the bassoon, it might be good idea to talk to bassoon teachers to ask for advice on which one may be a better fit for you in terms of availability of instruments, teachers, and supplies in your area (which are some key factors to think about.)
The French Bassoon has loyal fans and a strong following for its unique and beautiful sound.
Check out the video above from one of our talented supporters in Italy (Théo Sarazin: instagram.com/theofrenchbassoon) play Pachebel Canon in D on a French (Buffet) style Bassoon!