Digital Resources for your Bassoon Player
By NAfME Member Elizabeth Rusch Fetters
We are certainly living in the digital age. Never have there been so many resources for esoteric interests or uncommon musical instruments. For a bassoon student with or without a local bassoon teacher there are many resources available on the internet. Here are some suggestions to point your bassoon student, or yourself, in the right direction.
Search Techniques and Ensuring Credibility
Before we get started, remember the ways of the internet. The more search terms you enter, the better chance you have of getting results you need. A Google search for “bassoon” brings back more than eight million results. “Bassoon technique” brings 500,000 results. However, if you can’t figure out why your bassoon student sounds so bad whenever they play an e-flat, “Bassoon technique e-flat” returns 361,000 results. Make your basic internet search as specific as possible for the information you need.
Also remember that other factors such as advertisers or website metadata can skew the results. A Google search for “bassoon” brings up Wikipedia and Amazon first. Fox Products, the largest manufacturer of bassoons in the United States and a worldwide renowned instrument maker, is third in the list. The International Double Reed Society, the large worldwide organization for double reed players and teachers, doesn’t even appear on the first page of results.
We are all in a race against technology to teach our students to be good digital citizens and educated consumers of information. Consider the website you are viewing and its relationship to reality. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. In researching this article, I found a brand-new bassoon for $2,000. Too good to be true. Trust respected music retailers. Trust respected news sites, official university and college pages (generally addresses ending in “.edu”), double reed companies and suppliers, and professional music education and performance organizations (generally addresses ending in “.org”). Websites of general and broad interest or commerce will not have the kind of specialized tools or information a bassoon player needs. The same goes for purchasing reeds and supplies from online sellers. Trust companies that specialize in double reed supplies.
International Double Reed Society
The International Double Reed Society (IDRS) has recently launched a new website. There are a few resources that are free: fingering charts, academic research, reed projects, advertising, and the all-important stolen instrument list. However, the real gems of the website are available to members. (The online-only student membership is $35; regular membership is $60.) Members have access to all past publications of the IDRS in PDF format, with searchable text. Once a member has logged in, they need only type terms into the search box to retrieve any number of articles, and it’s a gold mine.
A warning to non-bassoonists: you’ll get more than you bargained for. Double reed players adore minutia about reed-making, tone production, acoustic properties, and relationships to obscure instruments. You may find yourself reading about bassoon instruction on Deep Space Nine—and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
What might be most helpful for young bassoonists is the Double Reed Forum. The forum is haunted by many a fine bassoonist (and oboist) who are quick to answer any question about anything. Really. There’s a section for conversations not immediately related to the bassoon or oboe. This is a tight-knit, worldwide community with a wealth of knowledge. Consider the forum your trusted bassoon great-aunt who can guide you in the right direction no matter what the trouble.
Fox Products has a resources section on their website with the Let’s Play Bassoon book and helpful articles all in PDF format. Chip Owen has a number of excellent articles posted to the Fox resources page. Mr. Owen has been a bassoon and contrabassoon product specialist at Fox Products for many years.
- “Bassoon Bocals” answers every question you have ever had about bocal: how they are made, selection, and how to make repairs.
- “Bassoon Modifications for Small Hands” will be helpful to any band teacher looking to start a bassoon player with small hands.
- “Odds and Ends About Bassoon” is just that—and probably only of interest to a bassoon player.
- “Taking Care of Your Bassoon” is a very important article for bassoonists, parents, and band teachers.
- The Let’s Play Bassoon book contains a clear and easy-to-read fingering chart for the bassoon. There’s a Let’s Play Oboe book, too that is equally as good. This is the standard fingering chart for the instrument.
YouTube has a wealth of bassoon-related information, if used carefully. I hesitate to give YouTube a blanket recommendation because of its mechanics which has been in the news as of late. A few things to remember as you search this site. Videos with the most “views” will show first. Individuals can purchase “views” from an outside company to boost their ratings on YouTube. YouTube will also take into account your location and your previous searches when providing you with results. Anyone with a camera and an internet connection can post to YouTube. I always “proof” videos before I share them with students in the classroom. And, just like a Google search, the more search terms you provide, the better chance you have of getting what you want. Thankfully bassoon-related videos are not yet the “hot news” topic of the day, so one can hope that our searches will return related results.
With all that in mind, YouTube includes a wealth of performances. Never have we had so many performances at our fingertips. Music teachers are divided about allowing students to hear a performance of a piece before they’ve learned it, so use your professional judgement before sending a student to YouTube. YouTube is the second most-searched site for young people. I will bet that your students have already looked up their band, orchestra, and solo music on YouTube.
Since so many performances are posted on YouTube, you can listen to a dozen different recordings. Can’t decide on a tempo for a particular piece? Type it into YouTube and listen to ten different performances at ten different tempi. What a great way to teach students to listen critically to performances and learn to develop constructive feedback. Plenty of students post their own videos, so consider your students and use your professional judgment before encouraging posting. Most helpful would probably be to post a video and then send the link to another music teacher for feedback. Typically feedback in the YouTube comments section is not going to be helpful or constructive. There are also educational videos about the bassoon, too. You can watch videos about how to put the instrument together, create the first tones, or learn how to tackle tricky passages.
All our students have smartphones in their pockets, and there are lots of tuner and metronome apps available. Encourage your student to download a tuner and a metronome to their phone. No more excuses about not practicing with a metronome!
There is some fun to be had on the internet, especially if you are looking for bassoon-related gifts. Many sellers on Amazon and Etsy have bassoon mugs, T-shirts, pins, jewelry, and artwork. I never thought I’d get a bassoon T-shirt as a gift from a student! Bassoon players have never had it this good.
About the author:
NAfME member Elizabeth Rusch Fetters received her music education degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, her master’s degree in bassoon performance from Kent State University, and her master’s in Library Science from the University of Maryland. She currently teaches middle school vocal and general music for Harford County Public Schools in Maryland. She is a founding member of the Hunt Valley Symphony Orchestra. She is also a freelance musician and soloist in the area. Mrs. Fetters teaches bassoon privately and her students have won chairs in honors ensembles and received excellent ratings at festivals. She has numerous articles published in The Instrumentalist, The Maryland Music Educator, The Double Reed Journal, and the NAfME “Music in a Minuet” blog. She can be found on Twitter at @TeachMusic2001. When she isn’t making reeds, Mrs. Fetters likes to read, cook, and run or cycle on the trail.
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