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Which Instrument to choose

3187 Views 18 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Woodwind guy
Today, I had a lesson where I was given the opportunity to try out bassoon and oboe and learn one. Since I couldn't decide, I took both of them home (a nice student fox bassoon and a crappy selmer bundy oboe). After playing both for a couple hours, I still couldn't decide. I know people will say "pick the one you like best", but I really don't know which one i like better. I'll list the pros and cons (for me) for both of them, but it doesn't really help

similar fingerings to sax
I can get a relatively nice tone out of it for a beginner

way too much air pressure
I can't play more than hot cross buns without my embouchure dying on me

Easy to blow
very uncommon

Weird fingerings
I keep thinking in treble clef and putting sax fingerings onto it

Can anyone help me? :? :? :?
Mucho thanks
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You will probably get a lot of very useful advice from SOTW posters. I don't currently play double reeds, but I studied them in college. I enjoyed both the oboe and bassoon. Ultimately, I decided 2 reeds were one too many, so I stuck with clarinet, sax & flute.
You have good observations about the comparisons of the two instruments. Here are some others: oboe tends to be really reed dependent, bassoon a little less so. The cost of a good bassoon will probably be much higher than a good oboe. For pit orchestra doubling situations, the oboe part tends to be very soloistic, with lots of exposed passages - appropriate for an extroverted personality. The oboe part is often put on a tenor sax book, with possibly some clarinet (probably not flute). The bassoon part tends to be less soloistic, and it is usually put on a part with bari sax and bass clarinet - not exactly easily portable instruments.
The drawbacks that you have listed can be overcome as part of the learning experience. Both instruments can be very rewarding, and good players with these doubles are in high demand.
Good luck - either choice is the right one.
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just my two cents, but this was my reasoning for choosing bassoon over oboe...

I started as a cellist, and then bassist, before ever picking up a sax, so I was more skilled in bass clef reading from the start. When I decided to learn a double reed, i went bassoon because even though I could read 4 clefs with a decent mastery, I decided bassoon would be easier on me to find music for, since all of my cello music is in a bassoon range (nothing else to buy).

That probably doesn't help much,'ll figure it out.

The advice about the doubling in pits is good too, since what sax you focus on might have a bearing on your choice...

or learn both haha.
I'd go for the bassoon too (probably because I play one) but it's really your choice.

I just like the nice, rich sounding..sound that comes out of it. But then again, it's just my personal bias. Both instruments sound lovely.
I used to play bassoon and still have my Brillhart fibrecane "mouthpiece".

I loved bassoon for it's low notes and at the time, no one else was playing it in the concert band.

Man, was that really more than 25 years ago? OUCH.
lol I'd love to learn both but it would just me too much time and money.
Bassoon. It has so much character. I still find myself "channeling" bassoon when playing classical tenor - either that or the cello. I played the bassoon through high school and college (well, one of the colleges I attended). Listen to some good bassoon recordings. How can you not love the instrument?

BTW, if you find yourself thinking that the oboe is close enough to the saxophone that the fingerings are similar, that's a good reason NOT to play it. You really need to treat double reeds as their own entity. If you don't, you will never master them.
I would add that, for 99% of the musicians out there who are only "interested in playing" a double reed, the only way to go is with an economical oboe. Even a student bassoon runs into real money, and tossing that much off for something that is only "an interest" is just not a rational way of answering this question.

That said, I have more affection for the bassoon, stupid tenor clef and all, and (if I had to choose between the two instrument families), I would go for the ***gotte each and every time. Having a bassoon that I picked up for a song (or, more accurately, $333.33, the amount that the guy would have gotten off of his taxes for donating it), and usually playing the parts in shows that end up with the bassoon stacked with baritone and bass clarinet, it makes it all the more obvious.

Then too, there are many more tonal colors on the bassoon than every you would find with the oboe. It goes from rich at the low end, through lyric in the middle, and to other worldly once you get up high.
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Lol thanks everyone, I think I probably will go with bassoon
SOTSDO said:
Having a bassoon that I picked up for a song (or, more accurately, $333.33, the amount that the guy would have gotten off of his taxes for donating it)
How the @#$%! did you get a bassoon for $333.33? That's like half the price of the cheapest chinese ebay bassoon.
I;m gonna have to go with the majority and say Bassoon. Amazing horn and you will love that sound.
I bought an Orsi bassoon at a Christie's auction in London for £50. When I got it home and bunged a reed on it, low Bb popped out dead easily, and it plays much easier than the (ancient and beaten-up Amati) one I played at school!

It's not the best bassoon in the world by any means, but for £50 I could hardly refuse!

Incidentally, I'm just about to buy an Amati contra! Yeah, I must be going ga-ga in my neither-young-nor-old age!
zxcvbnm said:
How the @#$%! did you get a bassoon for $333.33? That's like half the price of the cheapest chinese ebay bassoon.
My friend had just purchased (at near list) a new Fox bassoon, and therefore had no need for the one he had been playing for twenty odd years. He was going to donate it to a school (and take the nominal value of $1,000 as a tax deduction in the 33% bracket). I offered to buy it from him for the tax value, hence $333.33.

I put about six hundred into a comprehensive overhaul, and - presto - I had a more than good enough horn for less than a grand total.
I do like the gritty rasping sound bassoons make at loud volume levels, especially in the low register (and how this gravelly sound develops through a crescendo) - it's pretty unique, and cuts through well.

Although bass clarinets get reedy in the low register when played loud they're not a patch on the sounds bassoons can make.
zxcvbnm said:
Today, I had a lesson where I was given the opportunity to try out bassoon and oboe and learn one. Since I couldn't decide, I took both of them home (a nice student fox bassoon and a crappy selmer bundy oboe). ***
The Fox is a much nicer horn - but it sounds like you already know that ;)

I play bassoon, contra, oboe, EH, and heckelphone (plus the sarrusophones): of all of these, the bassoon got the most use historically. I found that bassoon and contra reeds required the least attention, whereas oboe reeds seem to require endless fiddling and adjustment. It also seems to take less time (on a weekly basis) to maintain bassoon chops vs. oboe chops. If you are at all short on time,
I think you will find that it is easier to progress (and maintain your level of playing) on the bassoon than on the oboe.

Bassoon is certainly heavier, but no worse than a bari ;) Depending on the case, it can be lighter than a tenor.

On the other hand, the oboe usually gets more solos. Can be good or bad, depending on how much time you have to practice...


Another thing to consider (and it was in the original posting so I just overlooked it) is that, if the school/organization/whatever is going to furnish the instrument, then that makes the bassoon all the more attractive. It is a argument that more than mitigates my advice given above.

Thinking back to my education days (college and high school, just under forty years ago), I cannot remember a single bassoon player (including me) that owned his own bassoon. All were furnished by the school. Only one student (who was very good indeed, but who ended up teaching in Alaska post college) actually bought one before graduation from college.

I sometimes wonder about the cost of bassoon, considering that they are no more complicated than a typical saxophone, and that polypropylene works so well for their tubes. It would seem to me that a good part of the price difference of a professional clarinet over a student one lies in the body material (with all other costs being present in both horns; adjustment, undercutting and so on).

If that is the case, then you would expect to see less cost for a cast and reamed bassoon body than you would for a wooden one, the moreso since the surface treatment of a bassoon is a bit more involved as well.

In any event, I have always loved (even while cursing it) the bassoon, something I cannot say about either the oboe or the English horn. Particularly in the upper register, you can create some awesome sounds that are not available through any other instrument. Too bad about the tenor clef, though...
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The reason why double reed instruments are more expensive than their other woodwind counterparts is the fewer comapnies specialising in their making and supply and demand - both being less popular than flutes, clarinets and saxes which are turned out in large numbers as everyone wants them.

Although you can buy a cheap but well equipped Chinese oboe or bassoon for considerably less than a relatively basic model from a reputable company, it will only be a matter of time before you realise the shortcomings of the cheaper instrument and then need to upgrade to a better one.

I just compared the weight of my Buffet (French system) bassoon with my old Orsi (German), and the Buffet weighs a fair bit more as it's in rosewood. Plastic bassoons, especially the old plastic Bundys weigh a ton in comparison to a maple one - but some maple bassoons if not well maintained can have problems with rotting timber, either in the timber by the U-tube or around the fingerhole linings in the wing joint if water gets absorbed. And it's a costly and lengthy repair should it happen.
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I would vote for bassoon. Simply because you sound like you're anxious to progress, and you will progress more quickly on bassoon than oboe.
Play the bassoon. Think of it as more like lower register clarinet with alot of thumb keys. The reeds are easier to deal with. You can get decent reeds from It will also get you used to reading bass cleff. A fox is a decent instrument. In you spare time learn oboe too, if you can... I was able to buy a Cabart bassoon off of ebay cheap and get it fixed. The old Kohlerts are good as well.
I was forced to make the same choice as you a while ago.
I ended up choosing the bassoon because I enjoyed the tone more, but now I play both bassoon and oboe, and I have to say, for a doubler, even though the fingering and clef are different (not neccesarily difficult, just different), the bassoon is by far the easier instrument to play. Oboe required huge amounts of pressure, if it's not your main instrument, you're not really going to build up the chops for it for quite a while. Bassoon, however, is easy to blow and support, and to sound good on. The instruments at your disposal are a factor too. If the selmer bundy oboe is rubbish and the bassoon is good, you'll have less difficulty and frustration with it. Don't be put off by the supposed cost of bassoons. With the internet nowadays, it's not hard to get a playable instrument for around $300. Also, there's less bassoonists round, so more gig opporunities, I would say bassoon if you're just doubling.
hope that helps
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