Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Contrabassoon for sale

 My recent post about the contrabassoon inspired an email exchange with contrabassoonist William Safford.  He has an excellent Fox Fast System contrabassoon for sale.  For anyone who is already playing professionally or who is thinking about a possible career as a contrabassoonist, this instrument could be life-changing (and career-changing). 

The Fast system contrabassoon was developed by Arlen Fast, contrabassoonist of the New York Philharmonic.  Arlen explains in this comprehensive article why it was necessary to rethink the contrabassoon.  I know from a recent phone conversation about the Herzberg profiler with Arlen Fast  that he is an absolutely brilliant man whose mind knows no limits.
Image result for fast system contrabassoon
Arlen Fast, NY Phil contrabassoonist and developer of the Fast system contrabassoon
William Safford explained to me that the Fast system is an enormous improvement over the standard contrabassoon in the upper range starting with half-hole G.  Notes such as written middle C, C#, D and Eb are all in tune, sounding clear and resonant with matching tone colors and no cracking.  Also no cross fingerings are required (except an optional one on Eb).  The middle C to high Bb slur in the Mother Goose solo speaks with more clarity and ease than on a bassoon.  The instrument plays all the way through the treble clef with beauty, security, and resonance.

Based upon what I've heard about the Fast system contra, I'm wishing that Arlen would get to work on a Fast system bassoon!!

Here is the Musical Chairs ad for William's contrabassoon for sale:

Fox Fast System Contrabassoon #5xx

Fox Fast System Contrabassoon #5xx, pic 1
Fox Fast System Contrabassoon #5xx, pic 2
Fox Fast System Contrabassoon #5xx, pic 3
Click images to enlarge

Price: $39,000 USD

One owner. The patented five-vent register system, with two semi-automatic mechanisms and three keys, greatly improves intonation, tone, and clarity of attack of the mid- and high ranges, with more than a four octave range and simplified fingerings. It is equipped with the standard Fast system keywork, plus F# trill and right thumb Ab keys.

In excellent condition, it has an incredibly even, resonant, and clear scale.

It is the right instrument for a professional or aspiring professional contrabassoonist. Fast-system instruments are being played by members of the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, and others.

Available immediately. Includes the instrument freshly serviced at the Fox factory, one Fox #2 bocal, and the original hard case. Located in upstate New York.

Link to the issue of the Double Reed, with information on Fast system: https://www.idrs.org/publications/4-the-double-reed-2016-39-4/
William Safford
Tel: 518-281-8153  Email: cbsnbiker@yahoo.com

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Contrabassoon for Dummies

This post is intended for the type of contra player who still needs a fingering chart.
 If you are a bassoonist who is suddenly called upon to play the contra for the first time, maybe as a student receiving a seating assignment in band or orchestra, or as a professional serving as an emergency replacement for the real contra player, then this post is for you.  This is a presentation of a few basic facts about the contra which will most likely enable a clueless bassoonist to conquer the contra.

There are a few basic differences between bassoon and contra.  The one which stands out the most to me is the contra's lack of whisper key.
It's true....there is NO whisper key on the contra!

Once we get over the fact that there's no whisper key, the second major challenge is hand and finger placement.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out where to place my right hand and fingers.  I kept trying to place my first finger on the alternate Eb key.
Another difference between bassoon and contra is the manner in which Eb2 (the second octave Eb on the instrument) is played.  This is the contra fingering for the note:

Here are the keys for the left hand fingers.  As you can see, the Eb key is situated above the C key and below the D key:

Here are the keys for the left hand fingers (not labeled are the low Eb and low C# keys which are the same as on the bassoon).  Notice that there are no open holes for the fingers on the contra.
The contrabassoon does not require the use of half-holes.  Instead, the second octave F#, G and G# require no first finger of the left hand at all.

There is a movable hand rest or hand support on the contra:

The player's left hand goes underneath the support.  The support is adjustable, and it can really help stabilize the hand position if it's correctly adjusted.

Unlike the bassoon, the contra has a tuning slide which is moved by pushing or pulling the ring at the bottom:

And the contra has a spit valve, which in my opinion should be used liberally:
It seems to be helpful to blow into the contra while opening the spit valve.  If you don't remove the reed first, you might find yourself creating an embarrassing noise.

What about the reed?  I had no idea where to buy a contra reed so I did some quick research online and saw a recommendation for GoBassoon contra reeds.  I ordered one and it looked perfect.  I know from my experience with bassoon reeds that looks can be deceiving, but when I played on this reed I was thrilled with its sound and response.  I highly recommend GoBassoon contra reeds.

Hopefully this post provides enough information for the novice to get through the first rehearsal.  If anyone tells you that you shook the stage, you'll know you're well on your way to conquering the contra.