That "New Bassoon" Smell...

...if it were an air freshener, that's what it would smell like around the BYU-Idaho bassoon studio.  Two students have purchased new bassoons with one more well on the way towards a purchase.

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I couldn't be happier watching these students make a huge commitment, manage a challenging process, and secure beautiful instruments that will bring them joy for many years to come.  

It has also prompted me to get more organized about presenting them with the resources they need to consider, where to go, and how to budget for this process.

Buying a bassoon is a lengthy but exciting process. It's best not to rush, playing on many bassoons will assist you in making the best decision.  When trialing a bassoon, be sure you are scheduled for rehearsals, a lesson or listening session with a teacher/mentor/colleague, and have access to a recital/concert hall.  It has been recommended by many to have another bassoonist play your bassoon and the one you are trialing while you listen from a distance.  This may not always be possible which is why it's important to have a teacher/mentor/colleague whose ear and opinion you trust.  You should also consider recording side-by-side comparisons to further assist you in hearing differences.  

In addition to the cost of the instrument, you should also budget for:
  • shipping minimum of $50 each way but can climb to $150
  • repair work typically starts at $150 from your trusted local technician (if you are fortunate to have one) for very basic maintenance
    • even if the instrument doesn't need "repair" always have the bassoon you are trialing checked by a technician for bore damage or other fatal flaws
  • instrument insurance
  • likely a new bocal to match you and your reed style to your new instrument
    • new bocals start around $750 and can easily be $1,200+ 
      • Check this out to learn what all those letters and numbers mean
    • used bocals run a wide spectrum of prices but are an excellent option
Here are my go-to sites for finding instruments for sale:
I have purchased three bassoons in my career.  Two were purchased via the trial and comparison process.  My first was a Fox 222D and, compared to my high school's instrument, it could have been a Heckel! With the exception of my first instrument, it was fairly obvious when I had found the right instrument when comparison testing.  This seems to be a consistent statement among bassoonists - when you find the right one, you know it!

I currently play on a Fox 601 paired with Heckel bocals - three that I have progressed through since 2014: CDE, BD1N, VCD0.  I have been very satisfied with my set up thus far in my career.  But that nagging question haunts me:  can I capture the ever elusive Heckel sound which is so desired and successful in national orchestral auditions?  Or will I just sound like me no matter what I play on?  Having played a few Heckels this year, a 6000 and the brand new 16000, I suspect that might be my challenge.  Granted I played both of those instruments for a combined total of 10 minutes - that's not a trial by any definition.

Much has been said/claimed about the great and mysterious Heckel sound.  Check out this enlightening conversation surrounding the question I posted on Bassoonists United.  It received great responses from well known players in the U.S. and Europe.  Not sure it solved my query but it gave me a lot to contemplate.

Genuine question for the bassoon hive mind: who has won a full-time, salaried orchestral gig playing on a Fox? I'm not interested in bashing makers - I own a Fox and love it. I also love hearing pros playing on Heckels. I am genuinely curious about the elusive Fox vs. Heckel sound in an audition context.
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Christopher Raymond Bill Buchman - associate principal of the Chicago Symphony - his primary horn is a 660.

Elizabeth Ball Crawford That's what he plays now or has he always played on a Fox?

Christopher Raymond Its his current instrument

Trent Jacobs He didn't win his jobon it.

Chad E Taylor He’s not playing Fox all the time anymore either, he just recently bought something else

James Roberson He won playing an 11,000 series Heckel

Chad E Taylor That is correct James

Robert Jordan Trent Jacobs He did however make the finals of the LA Phil on a Fox 660.

Christopher Raymond I heard a crazy story that the 2nd bassoon seat for the LA Phil was won on a renard 240!!

Sue Heineman Second bassoon NSO was won ona 201. (He now plays a 9000 series heckel)

Hans Peter Fronberg I’ve heard about that as well, however I think the Renard was customized differently than standard models

Adrián Fonseca Tellez 2nd bassoon in LA Phil, Michele Grego, was my teacher in college. She auditioned on her Heckel.

Christopher Raymond Dang lol. I wanted to believe!

Mark Ortwein Alan Goodman had a 240 that he played onaLA tour. He played a prototype Yamaha normally, but I’m sure he won the jobon Heckel many years ago.

Jessi Vandagriff Hans Peter Fronberg, I heard that Lori Wike won her first audition ona 240. Fact or fiction?

Hans Peter Fronberg Jessi Vandagriff I do not know, but it would be possible, she plays a 240 for her outdoor concerts at Deer Valley. You could always ask, she has a Facebook account

Lori Wike Close! (It was a 220, not a 240). I won my firstjob (1 yr position with Louisville) when I was 20 on my 220. And a year or two before that I was runner up for 2nd in Rochester Phil on that horn. I play a late 6000 series Heckel now though I do in fact play on my 220 for many summer season outdoor concerts. I sound almost, but not quite, like myself on the 220.

I know Andy Gott won Virginia on his Fox --I think a 201--not sure about St Louis. And Peter Kolkay won the Concert Artists Guild competition on his 601.

Sue Heineman yeah Steve played his 201 when he was principal in Virginia too

Jason Artz I know Bob Williams in Detroit played on a Fox - might still do so.

Trent Jacobs He does now, but won the job with a Heckel

Vincent Ellin In the day that Bob won the job no one playedaFox though....

Trent Jacobs Yes but the question is who has actually wonajob playing afox bassoon. Not who won ajob and then switch to playing afox bassoon after.

Vincent Ellin I know Trent, but I think what you are playing at the moment is far less of a factor then it used to be....aPuchner is being played in Vienna( and the audition was wonona Puchner), and Foxes being used in Europe....whowould of thunk of that!!!

Trent Jacobs Yes but in Europe they're much more flexible with the kind of sound and the way of playing I think. It's much more common to actually see puchner and fox being used by lots of players. Even wolf is more popular in Europe than in the United States. Honestly I have not ever heard of anyone in winning a major job in the US on anything other than a Heckel bassoon. It's just the way things are right now.

Trent Jacobs I think the audition process in Europe is also considerably different than in America but I could be wrong

Jason Artz Trent Jacobs It might be a chicken and egg thing. People think you need a Heckel to win a big job, so serious bassoonists in the US buy them, and from that group come a lot of the audition winners. 

I’d think fewer musicians (and people in general) can afford Heckels in Europe.

Good question, though - interesting to think about.
Vincent Ellin Well I won an audition for Marlboro in 1973 onan early Fox. Sol Schoenbach was very skeptical about it but after my first summer there....he phoned Alan Fox and told him that he was convinced that someone could make great music with them....although I did later switch to a Heckel for a long time. I was also the runner-up for 2nd bassoon in the New York Philharmonic in 1971 with a Fox.....although I admit Lenny Hindell won the position.....What I'm trying to say is if they like your playing it really doesn't matter what you can always change if it is a concern.

Izabela Musiał Jason Artz here in UK people love Heckels, but also orchestras sound differently than in any other European country. For long time bassoonists used French system bassoons here. Some bassoonists own more than just one Heckel, and they just hire them out, or take the second one on tour. Yes, they love Heckels, but one of my teachers (Principal at the Royal Opera House, Andrea di Flammineis) always says that your sound depends on what you have in your head, and he sounds absolutely fantastic and he has his own sound when he takes my Renard 240 (he plays on Heckel, not sure what series exactly).Izabela Musiał Also, it’s funny how people sometimes forget that as much as good instrument is helpful it won’t do the jobuntil you practise! Lots of students have better instrument than him - or at least that’s what he’s saying, and he always puts lots of attention to the quality of sound and different colours. For him it doesn’t matter what instrument you have, as long as it matches the section etc.

Victoria King Yes Bob still plays aFox 601.

James Roberson Bob played an 11,000 series Heckel at the time.

Vincent Ellin I changed from a Heckel to a Fox. Frank Marcus said at a distance there is little difference (I'd say the Foxes play a little lighter which is not a bad thing) John Miller, Bob Williams, Arlen Fast, Matheus Racz, Simon van Holen(just his Contra)and Hans Agreda (sp???) all play Foxes BTW.

Trent Jacobs Did any single one of those people actually win any of their jobs with their Fox bassoons?

Jason Artz Trent Jacobs I think strong, talented players like those could have won their jobs on aFox or Heckel.

Vincent Ellin Jason Artz I agree things have changed.....

Vincent Ellin Trent Jacobs Arlen Fast might of won it withaFox Contra but I'm not sure.....

Wai Kit Leung Racz’s main instrument is a Heckel though

Vincent Ellin Wai Kit Leung I've wondered about that.....

Derek Cliff Crane Curious to know... I'll be looking to get a better bassoon soon

Jonathan Zepp There are a number of players who have won their jobs on Foxes, Puchners, Bells, etc., and then there are anumber that started on a Heckel and switched to another (the examples I know switched to Fox, Bell, or Yamaha), because they preferred it or because it made their job easier or both.

It's also common for people who win their jobs on a different horn than the rest of the section to be eventually persuaded to match for whatever reason.

Personally, I find the idea of a "Heckel sound" problematic and sort of just marketing material. I play a Heckel and love my horn, but there are also things it doesn't do as well as other brands' horns I've tried. There are aspects of the sound (evenness of scale tone color, timbre in the very low and high ranges, etc) which I love, but I don't think they're exclusive to the brand - they're a product of the way the instrument's been put together and the bocal/reeds/player as much as anything - and my horn's had enough work over its lifetime to certainly not match the sound fresh out of the factory.

Heckel is the defacto standard and makes generally fine instruments (this has not necessarily been true across all the serial number ranges, there has been significant variation over time), but they by no means have a monopoly on good tone or the best sound or performance characteristics.

Ben Opp A quick story on this. I studied briefly with the incredible Chris Millard. In an early lesson he played my Heckel 12 (which he described as one of the best instruments he ever played) and I played his favorite Bell. I sounded just like me on his instrument and he sounded just like him on my instrument. This underlined to me how the instrument is important but what the player is doing with it is really what matters.

Joshua Luty I know Mark Ortwein switched to a Yamaha thin wall for this very reason, previously playing a Moenig thick wall which supposedly didn't match the section.

Mark Ortwein I could match just fine with the Monnig, but I'm playing a Yamaha 812 (thick wall) but with a thin bell now. It's a great playing bassoon that really feels and sounds like my old Heckel (10k) but just more in tune and great keywork.

Ben Opp Alex McCrory probably has some actual data on this question

Joshua Luty Our friend Ted Soluri obviously won Dallas on hisFox. :)

Joshua Luty Offhand that's the only person I can think of...I'm sure there are more.

Ted Soluri That is correct. I won Dallas on the 601 I play now and won principal in Milwaukee on my old 101 which I have since sold.

Alfredo Cobo How would you describe the differences working in reeds for a 101 and then, for a 601?

Vincent Ellin Yup that's RIGHT!!!! There you go!!

Trent Jacobs Roger Soren won his gig with a Moosmann bassoon and Mollenhauer contra, I know that one.

Leann Currie Did the guy(s) who won Bergen Phil (Norway) win on a Fox (I believe they’ve had two different bassoonists the last yearswho got the 2nd job.)? It’s possible both were playing Fox, since Per plays one. Anyone know?

Trent Jacobs Yes, Jeff Marquardt plays a 601 if I remember right.

Jeff Marquardt Very close, Trent Jacobs! I play aFox 660 that I’ve had for almost five years. It’s the same instrument I won my audition on. I’ve enjoyed playing it in the Bergen Philharmonic for three seasons :)

Jon Halvor Lund Also in Norway, the 2nd/contra players in Oslo Phil and Kristiansand both won their jobson Foxes, and still play them. The former principal of the Norwegian Radio also always played Fox. People have also got jobsonYamahas, Moosmanns and Püchners in addition to Heckels.

Evan Troz I think John Miller Jr's played on a fox, but I remember it had gold keys so I'm sure it was more custom than it was stock. Probably wrong, but it's hard to get a better endorsement than that if it's true.

David Saul I own that instrument now. He didn’t win hisjobon it though. He had a heckel before but he said he liked the fox much better so he switched.

Micahla Hendrix I love my Heckel but I'd also consider a Leitzinger next time I'm in the market

Joshua Luty The Leitzinger bassoons on display at IDRS 2017 were some of the finest I have tried of recent manufacture from any brand.


Trent Jacobs John won the Minnesota Orchestra jobplaying a Heckel bassoon. He switch to Fox bassoon later.

Richard Murry John Miller was one, if not the primary professional performer, involved with the development of theFox 601. He has owned several Fox 601s over his career.

Evan Troz I've sat next to him, and I've touched that bassoon. It was possibly one of the coolest things I've ever done outside of my wife and child.

Trent Jacobs Fox made serial number 40,000 for him. He has had several Fox bassoons over the years all with black lacquer and gold key work in the same key work options. They've all been Fox Model 601.

Evan Troz That's awesome. I remember talking to him about it, but that was over 12 years ago.

Trent Jacobs I've played at least two of his old bassoons. I think that fox does do some voicing a little differently for his instruments than they do for their standard stock but I can't ever verify such a thing.

Ruth E. Wilson My 601 was made for aFox artist to choose from, so I got a discount. Wonder if it was made for him, and I love it. ❤️❤️❤️

Mark Ortwein Both Sam Banks and I won our jobs in Indianapolis playing Fox 601's. I had played a Heckel 10k for over 10 years prior to switching to the 601. After I got the job I wasn't happy with the 601 and switched to a Yamaha 821 (thin wall) and was much happier playing principal on the Yamaha. Now I'm playing an 812 (thick wall) with a thin bell though. Sam now plays a newer Heckel in Toronto.

Elizabeth Ball Crawford Mark Ortwein would you be willing to elaborate in more detail why you made those switches?

Mark Ortwein The 601 didn't have the sweetness and focus up high and was just on the darker/duller side. I wanted alivlier horn that could really sing (get more of the older Heckel sound).

Daniel Nester I won 2 full time gigs and one year’s replacement full time in Israel on my 660.

Schuyler Jackson I won my job with the Baltimore Symphony on a fox 601.

Schuyler Jackson I play on an 8,000 Heckel now, but played for 3 seasons on my 601.

Jeremiah Broom The first two teachers I studied with won theirjobs on Fox 601’s from the early 90’s.

Ruth E. Wilson Mine is circa 1994

Richard Murry I "won" my first bassoon position on a 01

Richard Murry fox 601 in 1992. I played on it until I got a FoxModel I with the Weisberg system in 2010. Switched to a Heckel 4k with the Weisberg system in 2012. I know it is more a reed and musicianship that makes the sound work when using a Fox vs Heckel, because Foxes are Heckel copies.

Alfredo Cobo Could you go in more details Richard about your switching from a 601 to a model I please?

Richard Murry I began playing the Weisberg System to have the security of playing the second octave from a to d without flicking. The Fox Model I instrument already had the system on it. I loved my 601 that I bought new in 1991 at the IDRS conference in Towson, MD.

Robert Jordan Andrew Gott won his position with the Saint Louis Symphony on a Fox.

Mark Ortwein I think he still plays the 201.
Christopher Weait Won two full time orchestral positions on my Polisi bassoon back in the 1960's.

Mark Ortwein My -1st Bassoon was a Polisi 👍🏼

Hugh Ponnuthurai I won my first two positions on a Fox101 from the early 1980’s. I went on to have a Moosmann, Puchner and 2 Heckels! I play ona late series 9 Heckel now.
 · Reply · 51w

Kevin Fuller Wow, Mark... That's just too weird! MY first bassoon was a Polisi!!!!

Jim Schaeffer As was mine. #862 and I still have it. Won principal jobs with Va Beach, Cambridge (UK) and Montgomery orchestras with this.

Christoph Wichert I won my job on a 601. a fantastic instrument, that got me through university and the start of my career. After 18 years on the instrument I switched though to a Püchner.

Mark Ortwein I like the new Püchners too.

Jacqui Hopkins What made you want to switch to the Puchner?

Christoph Wichert Jacqui Hopkins After 18 years I felt that my instrument lost a bit of strength, yet we play in a big hall and have a strong playing wood wind section. And with my Püchner antique finish I found an instrument that has astrong, flexible, yet very singing voice which I really love.

Jacqui Hopkins Did you have to change your reed style at all?

Christoph Wichert Jacqui Hopkins yes, the reeds need to be a bit heavier in the back, but it was an easy

Marc Weyl BWBQ Used to be half Fox and half Heckel. They are now all Fox. I actually like them a bit better when they were mixed.

Giuseppe Lo Curcio I play fox ( cagliari teatro lirico, first bassoon)

Vincenzo Menghini Ho provato strumento(fagotti))di tutte le marche!l Heckel e il migliore in assoluto suono legato facilita d emissione intonazione meglio del meglio kaaaa

Brian L Hicks My father owns a 7××× series Heckel, one night took my 601 cold to a performance, no one knew, and he didn't have any difficulty. Heckels are great. Foxes are great.

Victoria King Won my position on an 11K Heckel and played it for 20 years, then switched to a Fox 601 13 years ago. Both work great for playing second. Both are thick wall resistant horns.

Bob Martin I have played heckles, and puchners.....
I have a 1948 Thiboville now, with custom network.......
I have never seen another one like it....
Neither has anyone I have ever shown it to.......
It has a beautiful dark sonorous sound......
I use a # 2 heckle german silver bocal......

Bob Martin Key work

Robert Williams This is a very interesting thread. I have been playing on a Fox 601
(definitely not a 680 or 685!!!!) since 1993. I"m on my 6th or 7th
generation 601, #55555 that was made just before Mike Trentacosti retired
and Barry Trent started redesigning the Fox pro horn line. I have never
regretted my decision to change from the Heckel to the Fox 601 ( not 680 or
685!!!). As far as auditions I did make the finals in the Cleveland
Principal audition on my 601. The first classical concert the Detroit
Symphony played in the 1993 season was the Strauss "Alpine Symphony". This
starts with a three octave Bb minor scale doubled in the 1st bassoon and
lower strings. The first rehearsal I used my Heckel #11534 and was having
a very hard time matching the pitch of the strings and just getting the
horn to respond cleanly with the descending scale. I had been to the Fox
Factory a week before and played a "Pops" concert on the 601 and though it
played nicely I thought it was nothing special. There is not really much
exposed bassoon in Pops concerts. I asked Alan Fox if I could keep the
horn for another week, thinking my thoughts would not change but at least I
could play it in a situation where it could be heard. The second time
through the "Alpine" I used the Fox 601 and was frankly amazed at how much
easier it was to match pitch and how it responded to the slurs going down
the scale. I thought it had a great sound and played the concert on it.
Ted Oien, our Principal Clarinet also commented on how he found it easier
to match pitch and only said good things about the Fox, a very important
thing when you are playing in an orchestra. I sent the horn back to the
factory to have all the extras I had on my Heckel added and have played on
601's (not 680's or 685's!!!) since.

Trent Jacobs Bob, tell us how you feel about the 680 and the 685! LOL!

Mark Ortwein I’ve tried the new ones ( a couple for a whole month each) and felt the acoustics were weird with the new tone hole placements. In sound tests close up and in the hall they lost every time to Heckels, Mönnigs and Yamahas.

Elizabeth Ball Crawford Robert Williams thank you for adding your detailed experience!

Vincent Ellin And thanks to Bob and John Miller who both recommended I try the then new Foxes....I was playing a late model 12,000 Heckel and frankly liked it until I tried to get more from it....and it wasn't cooperating with me at all....I tried a 601 and it actually responded quickly with reliable attacks, and intonation.....I sold my Heckel eventually and got a Fox.

Vincent Ellin I was much more comfortable when I played the Joilivet Concerto with the Fox 601, then I would of ever been on a Heckel (or at least my Heckel)......

Roger Soren Bob, your John Williams sounds incredible!!!!

Roger Soren  The way we all sound our best is to play on what bassoon is the most comfortable for our particular playing style and reeds. I’ve been a full time member of 4 ICSOM orchestras and have used Heckels 7, 10, 12k, Fox 601 and 201, and Moos 222ap, 200e and currently 150e. So many makers are making better bassoons than ever. It’s exciting to await which brand will make another break through. I played as a guest recently in a section with 2 Bell bassoons, that were a great match in their hall. I keep hearing about people loving their Puchners and Leitzingers. Its a good time to be a bassoonist!!

Jim Kirker You the man Bob!!

April Brennan Not to mention it's a gorgeous bassoon with gold keys! I'm now a believer in Fox bassoons because of your model.

Erkki Suomalainen Very much agree with what Roger Soren says. IMHO the importance of having a certain (whatever brand) instrument is often being highlighted a little bit too much. I am sure we have all heard some great player pick up almost any instrument/reed and in ju…See More

Janet Harris Won Huntsville Symphony 2nd Bsn audition many years ago on a Renard! Two weeks later I won the 2nd Bsn audition in Florida West Coast Symphony now called Sarasota Orchestra onthe same Fox Renard. Everyone always thought I played on aHeckel.

Leigh Muñoz This is an interesting thread indeed! My 9xxx series Heckel was damaged this past week so I have been performing onmy backup, a 240. In a week packed with performances it has exceeded my expectations in color, ease, projection. It is nice to live in a place with so many awesome choices to find exactly what works for us!

Gareth Newman Won three principal positions in the UK on Foxes - 201 then 601. Play the 601 and a 10,000 Heckel now in the London Phil. Happy with both!

James Roberson Amanda Swain won the Principal bassoon Houston Grand Opera/2nd bassoon Houston Ballet on a Fox 601. She has been a finalist at several recent auditions and is amarvelous mysician.


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