In 2006, a number of instrumental teachers approached the company Mönnig &Adler, asking if they could develop a children’s bassoon. What they wanted was an affordable but fully-fledged instrument, costing less than €3,000, for children who wanted to play bassoon.
Their idea was to avoid problems that might result from playing a fagottino. It seemed that pupils often had problems making the transition from playing a fagottino to playing a “standard” instrument. Another of their objections was that developing the children’s listening skills when playing a fagottino was hampered because the tonal and intonation problems hindered rather than helped their progressive development. The different fundamental pitch of quart or quint bassoons, the difference in sound and the difficulties of transposition made it hard for the children to play alongside the teacher’s “standard” bassoon.
Another problem seemed to be the timing of changing from fagottino to bassoon, since the wrong moment was often picked for this – either too early or too late – which curbed the pupil’s enthusiasm and playing enjoyment.
Everyone involved knew about these problems, which was why Mönnig & Adler took up the challenge to develop an instrument to plug this gap. The Model “1350”, specially developed for this situation, turned out to be both an excellent alternative to the fagottino and an ideal beginner’s instrument for children.
Adler developed this children’s bassoon against the background of lots of good ideas and business acumen. The result – despite the limited possibilities – is a “genuine” bassoon, with the instrument’s proper pitch and sound.
Weighing just 2.2 kg, the instrument is nearly 30% lighter than normal bassoon, with a great deal of thought put into it to make playing it significantly easier. Making the wood thinner means that the instrument speaks more easily, and the position of the right hand is clearly improved as a result of the pronounced downward curve of the bocal.
The basic equipment accompanying instrument includes a harness and balance hangar. The small groove in the long joint, where the left hand meets the instrument, makes it easier to seal the first hole on the wing joined with the left index finger. Extending a number of the keys also reduces the distances between finger placements.
Some concessions had been made to the mechanical keywork because of the price range that the teachers were looking for. These make little difference during the first three years of learning to play the instrument. The 1350 bassoon plays down to low C and has no whisper key mechanism. This can be ordered as an extra option for model 1350 P, and can also be added on at a later stage. In principle, the instrument is played normally, although obviously it can never fully replace a standard bassoon.
The most remarkable feature of the “1350” is the bell joint, which is made of plexiglass. This so-called “Plexi-resonator” is part of the artificial extension designed to achieve the normal acoustic length of the bassoon.
This significantly stabilises intonation in the lower register and overall equality of tone. The differences are clearly apparent if the instrument is played with this bell. The fact that this joint is not made from maple means that the bassoon is lighter and it also improves the instrument’s balance. It also reduces manufacturing costs, which is evident from the pricing.
As with other bassoons, the instrument is manufactured from lacquered mountain maple and the keyword is silver-plated. As well as the bocal, balance hangar and harness that we have mentioned, the accessories include a lightweight but very practical gig bag including a bocal carrier, a set of pull-throughs and a shortened hand-rest. In 2011, the asking price was €2,850.
Since it appeared on the market in 2007, the “1350” has already made a large number of new friends. Music teachers have noted increased enthusiasm among their pupils, since they can now play a “real” bassoon from about the age of 8. The instrument also clearly encourages a faster learning curve in comparison with the options that used to be available.
FagotAtelier Maarten Vonk
Gebrüder Mönnig – Oscar Adler & Co.
D – 08258 Markneukirchen