Bassoon Fingerings

On Line Fingering Charts:
In 2006 I did a couple of concerts in Trinidad, where I found that there is a small and very enthusiastic classical music scene. It is, however, seriously under resourced. In particular, the bassoonists are almost completely self-taught! The instruments usually belong to the orchestra or the band and the player gets hold of a reed and a fingering chart and off they go. Now, as many of you may know, not all fingering charts are as good as they should be. So, I’ve tried to find what there is on line. This is what I’ve come up with so far (in no particular order) : On this chart you have to click on each note in turn and it will give you some thoughts regarding tuning, trills and alternatives. There is a printable version. and A fully comprehensive list of every fingering imaginable from the IDRS. Virginia Commonwealth University’s very clear chart. Very clear and easy to use chart showing good fingerings. A very good booklet to download. Seems to be a good and clear chart to keep in your case if you’re a student (costs £6).  Very clever interactive web site.  This site is fairly easy to decipher and the fingerings are all to be recommended as ones that I might use. Multiphonics! Bret Pimentel from Ohio has collected 59 separate fingerings for tenor Fsharp! has links to lots of fingering charts including French Basson, Contra etc.

When you do come across a new fingering, it’s a good idea to make a note of it. Keep a blank fingering chart in your case and jot it down otherwise you are bound to forget it.

Although I wish all players who do not have access to a teacher the best of luck, I would seriously recommend that, if at all possible, students have lessons from an experienced teacher who can find the best fingerings for their particular instrument.

Octave Keys / Flick Keys on the Bassoon:

On some bassoon fingering charts, the D,C and A octave keys are referred to as flick keys.

A word of explanation here: when a British player plays middle C and the B, B flat and A below, he will usually use the relevant octave key as a normal part of the fingering whereas an American player will often release the octave key once the note has ‘spoken’. Thus, he flicks it – hence the name ‘Flick keys’. Some other players round the world do not these keys at all and risk these notes never speaking really clearly.

I only mention this by way of explanation and I shan’t start a debate here on the pros and cons of flicking and I realise that the above is only a very general outline.

Figaro Overture:

As I’m sure you know, the start of the overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro is scored for just 2 bassoons and strings Presto and Pianissimo. Although very quiet, it must also be safe and consistent. You need a good responsive reed for this of course, but the additional trick that I use is to play the first note (D in the bass clef) and also the first note of the second bar with a special quiet fingering so that in effect I can start with a firm accent which won’t be apparent to the listener. With a bit of practice this makes the passage a lot less alarming.

All second bassoonists should have a good selection of quiet fingerings and my personal preference for this D is the normal fingering plus the right thumb B flat key and right hand middle finger. I always play this passage with the crook key locked down.

If you get asked to play this at an audition, always play it pp even when it’s marked p and be prepared to play the repeated A natural quavers at the end of its last appearance. Double tonguing is usually required here.

To see all the quiet fingerings that I use, click here