In the Market for a New Bassoon: First Impressions

First, I have to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who has left comments, sent messages and emails to offer insight, help, even potential instruments for sale as I have shared my videos.  THANK YOU!  I really appreciate the feedback - keep it coming!

A culmination of several events over the past 6 months has pushed me into the market for a new bassoon.  Only about 10 days into the process, I have already learned so much.  I'm always peeking at the cost of bassoons - don't we all?  And who doesn't enjoy the vendor hall play-testing at various conferences?  However, the reality of how much the market has changed since I purchased my Fox 601 in 2009 has been humbling.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • playing a bassoon for 10 -15 minutes in a vendor hall is not how you trial a bassoon.  It's a good place to start but shouldn't be the singular litmus for a $25,000+ purchase.
  • it's concerning to me how much a person can spend on a fairly mediocre instrument. 
  • this is a highly subjective process filled with colorful adjectives, intangible concepts, and unquantifiable components of value. 
    • enlist the help of people you trust.
  • everyone has an opinion!  This isn't a bad thing.  Absorbing years of experience, wisdom, and insight from others can afford you the data needed to distillate meaningful axioms for the process.
    • it can also help you filter the dearth of well-intentioned, "I love my bassoon, so you should buy the same!"  It's deeply personal for each of us and when we fall in love, we just want others to have that same joy!
The last few days playing a Leitzinger and a Yamaha (videos to come) have allowed me to concisely articulate what I want in a new bassoon:
  • I want an instrument that keeps all the things I love about my current instrument, improve upon the shortcomings I currently struggle with, while not introducing new complications.
The result of this clarity has quickly led me to a better understanding of how and why bassoonists keep inching up their budget.  It is easy to see, at this early point, how bassoons in the $20K-$30K price range are really quite similar.  It becomes more a question of an exchange of challenges rather than a question of wholesale superiority.  

The Leitzinger and Yamaha bassoons are fine instruments but they both have concerning flaws.  They have features that would resolve some of my concerns but new ones I flat-out DO NOT want to deal with whilst breaking in a brand new bassoon.

Which reminds me: for many years I have cautioned students about buying brand new because we all know it will take at least 12 mos for the bassoon to finally start settling and opening up.  Which mean the instrument you try-and-buy will not be the instrument you end up with.  Now, if what you try-and-buy is something you immediately love, rational thought and experience dictate that most likely it will only get better.  Conversely, if there are significant concerns, who knows?  They could get better or they could simply remain. 

Back to me and my needs ("Enough about you, let's talk about me!").

What do I LOVE about my instrument:
  • apparently I love my keywork!  I didn't think it was that important to me but playing on bassoons with a few less keys, rollers, and different placement quickly made me realize that I want those details to remain on a new instrument OR I need to be prepared to pay for custom work after purchase.
    • I did this when I bought my Fox 601 with Keith Bowen and it was money well spent.  Also, really quite affordable to make changes to keywork.  
  • I like the option to play with a HUGE, full sound that doesn't start to split or just cave in on itself.
    • What does that mean?  See comment about adjectives, intangible and unquantifiable aspects of a bassoon.  All I can is that I played a gorgeous 6000 series Heckle this weekend that was absolutely marvelous but was never going to play with the huge sound that I have used on my own instrument especially in chamber and solo performances.
What specifically do I want in a "new" instrument:
  • I want stunning tapers!  No, that's not about my reeds.  My reeds can taper.  I want a taper that doesn't turn me inside out in the process.  The Leitzinger Model II has that taper - WOW!  It keeps the sound spinning without the urge to tragically cut out right before that beautiful moment when sound dissolves into silence - think: clarinet.    I want that!
  • I HAVE TO HAVE a responsive and in-tune (as much as possible) top octave.  The 6000 Heckel I had the great fortune to play this weekend had the free-est, most in tune, responsive top octave I have ever experienced.  There simply was no fight!  They spoke, they were in tune, they moved easily into the next note.
  •  Nuttty core to every note.  Capable of a full tone no matter how short you play.  This is very much the player but also very much the ability of the instrument, in my opinion.  Any master player can make almost any instrument sound pretty awesome.  But I am convinced there are also master instruments that, when paired with a master player, well, *MAGIC.*  I heard it at Meg Quigley from multiple bassoonists.  I heard it from all the teachers with whom I studied.  In my life as a Wild West Bassoonist I don't hear it and likely I'm the one who needs to be creating it for my students and the ensembles in which I perform.  I'm failing them.  
That's my current list of needs from my next instrument.
  • keywork
  • ability to manage a huge sounds
  • stunning tapers
  • brilliant top octave
  • nutty core
Really, is that too much to ask?

This is also way my budget has grown in the past 10 days.  I'm moving from my initial budget of $20K-$30K into the next bracket and wondering: what can $35,000 get me?  


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