“Why do we need another children’s bassoon?”
If you’re thinking about encouraging children to find out about making music and playing an instrument, you’ll soon face the question of which instrument to choose. Children who really like low-pitched instruments, such as the bassoon, have a bit of a problem.
The size and weight of a bassoon mean that a child has to be of a certain height to be able to play it without too much difficulty. Also, actually getting a bassoon ready to use isn’t an intuitive process; it isn’t very straightforward just to pick up the instrument and get on with playing it. Just assembling it and taking it apart are complicated enough – and not only for children. In the worst case, parents might end up facing expensive repairs. This is just one of the reasons why playing the bassoon is so uncommon, in statistical terms, compared with the flute, clarinet, guitar or piano.
While many youth orchestras have a bassoon, a children’s recorder ensemble has to get on with playing without a proper bass line, even though a number children really like a good, “fat” bass sound.
The conservatoires also have to cope with the same dilemma, due to the apparent lack of interest for the bassoon. The fact is that young bassoonists are still at a relatively early stage, because they start playing the instrument quite late, although the conservatoires expect competition level performances.
Ergonomic adjustments to the standard bassoon (reducing distances by lengthening key rods and the partial use of different materials) are not really an adequate solution to the main obstacles, such as the size and weight of the instrument, because the decisive parameters such as the shape of the reed and the position of the finger holes remain unchanged.
One compromise between sound and feasibility is offered by the smaller-scale instruments – the quart bassoon in F and the quint bassoon in G. The sound and range of these instruments match those of the standard bassoon to some extent. But they also raise the thorny issue of transposition. Later on, when the pupil makes the transition to the “real” bassoon, he or she will have to re-learn certain tone/fingering combinations. This can be a major problem for children with advanced muscle or pitch memory.
The octave bassoon (in C), a sort of miniature bassoon, is one solution for many of the problems outlined above. Unfortunately the tone suffers, partly due to the format, the scale and the register, and this instrument still cannot be described as a true bassoon.
These problems can add up to quite a drastic gear-change for many youngsters who start playing on the fagottino. The Dresden-based company HEYDAY’S (www.heyday-s.com) has for some years been converting innovative ideas for musical instruments and instrument manufacture into what it does and produces. It has been closely following the development of children’s bassoons. It’s no great surprise that the company’s product development manager – a former professional bassoonist, teacher and instrument builder with 30 years of experience – has an undeniably strong affinity for the bassoon. It was and is predictable, and even inevitable, that they would dream up a completely new concept for a bassoon that would be suitable for children and then manufacture the complete instrument from scratch. An entirely new development was up and running.
The goal we set ourselves was to create an instrument that was made for small hands and that could be played intuitively, one that anticipated the needs and lifestyles of children in every respect and one that worked, in principle, in exactly the same way as a genuine “large” bassoon.
Basing the construction on materials innovations at HEYDAY’S, which had already been applied with considerable success (e.g. the “214 Diamant Del Sol” bassoon by Gebr. Mönnig, oboes by L. Frank in Berlin and many others), allowed us to achieve this goal from a completely different starting point.
The register, range, fingerings, blowing resistance and reed of the Fagonello coincide with the standard bassoon. The simple manufacturing methods mean that the joints of this instrument do not have to be assembled, so it can be used straight out of the case. Take the instrument out of its gig-bag, insert the bocal and reed and just play it – whenever you feel like it! Even a guitar would have to be tuned up, at the very least.
The Fagonello is made from selected native timber, artificially “aged” via a special HEYDAY’S process. This gives the wood not just some outstanding acoustic properties, but also an attractive appearance. On top of that, the wood is very lightweight, moisture-resistant and easy to work with. Unlike its top-heavy cousin, the standard bassoon, the total weight of the Fagonello, at just over 1 kilo (about a third of the weight of the bassoon) means that it hangs perfectly in balance in front of the body. All of the parameters for hand position, fingers, height and positioning of the bocal have been re-engineered to children’s sizes, to suit children between 5 and 10 years old.
The Fagonello is manufactured entirely in Germany, using high-value materials and based on a great tradition of instrument making, and it stimulates the child’s sense for the aesthetic as well.
The Fagonello is no cheap child’s toy, but a fine and genuine “tool” for the future bassoonist. Made with craftsmanship, yet still highly affordable thanks to the latest technology.
Finally, the Fagonello gives children the opportunity of really “playing” with pleasure! The entirely newly thought-out ergonomics and the many small details finish off the concept nicely. With the correct sound in the ears and the correct feel in the fingers, the transition to the standard bassoon is virtually seamless.
representation | advice | service – Netherlands: FagotAtelier Maarten Vonk