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Since buying a brand new bassoon is usually an expensive endeavor, purchasing a used bassoon is often the best option. This is a particularly good idea for beginners as it requires a lower initial investment. When looking for an instrument, it's important to pay attention to four main factors. These include the overall condition of the instrument, the pads, bocals and tenons. Thoroughly evaluating these parts of a used bassoon should help the buyer to find a quality instrument.
Usually the first thing to investigate is the overall condition and appearance of the bassoon. Any noticeable damage like discoloration or large scratches are red flags. While it's normal to have a few dings and dents, highly noticeable scratches are a problem. Also, major discoloration of the wood means that the instrument probably didn't receive much care. Since bassoons often suffer from moisture damage, it's also important to check for any signs of mildew.
The next area of a used bassoon to check is the pads. Since these are responsible for making notes, it's extremely important that they are in proper condition. An easy way to check the pads is to simply finger them. If the pads are in good condition, they will move back and forth with minimal noise. In contrast, if there is a problem, they will be quite noisy.
The pads should also be checked for cracks along the seals. Noticeable cracks are a problem that can jeopardize the overall functioning of the instrument. In addition, there should be a moderate level of resistance when pressing the pads. A common sign of moisture damage is when the pads press down with hardly any resistance.
The bocals or mouthpiece is another important part to look at in a used bassoon. A dent-free surface is the usually the most important sign of a well-functioning mouthpiece. Instruments with structural damage to the bocals, such as scratches or dents, often have problems with tone production and should be avoided.
An additional component to check is the tenons of a used bassoon. It's important that all tenons are securely in place and show no signs of being loose. Also, there should not be any cracking or splits in any of the tenons. Otherwise, a restoration might be needed in order to produce the right sound.
If possible, bringing along an experienced bassoonist is ideal. He or she will have a trained eye and ear that can make the process much easier. It's also smart for the buyer to look at three or four different bassoons before committing to a purchase.