What is a Bassoon?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2015
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The bassoon is a member of the double reed group of woodwinds, which also includes bagpipes, baritone oboe, English horn in F, heckelphone, oboe and oboe d’amore. It comes in two forms: bassoon and contrabassoon or double bassoon. Contra usually indicates an instrument an octave lower than what it is named after, and this is the case here. Both forms are non-transposing instruments. The player is called a bassoonist.

A bassoon has five parts:

The instrument was developed from the baroque bassoon, which had a similar shape but fewer keys, and was most used in the 18th century. Two models found today are the German Heckel and the French Buffet bassoon.

The bassoon and contrabassoon are both used in orchestral as well as band ensembles. Perhaps the most famous use of it in an orchestral work is either the part at the beginning of Russian-American composer Igor Stravinsky’s ballet, Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), Part I, “L’Adoration de la terre” (Adoration of the Earth), or as the grandfather in Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. There are also memorable passages in French composer Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen during the Entr’acte before Act II and in the very first bars of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s overture to his opera Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro).



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