Ever wondered what’s inside the beautifully complex bassoon? It’s an oft-overlooked woodwind instrument that emits the most wonderfully decadent sound you’ve ever heard.
Whether you’re learning to play or just interested in how this striking instrument works, there’s a ton to learn about the bassoon and its parts.
Here, we’ll be going over the various parts of a bassoon and how they influence the unique sound it makes. The bassoon is an oft-overlooked woodwind instrument, but we hope you might find its construction and design just as interesting as we do.
Anatomy of a Bassoon
To an outsider, the bassoon might seem like a simple flute-like instrument. However, the reality is that it has several small parts that work together in complex ways.
Here’s a quick overview of the seven pieces that make up a bassoon:
- Bocal Crook
- Tenor Joint
- Bass Joint
- Double Joint
Keep reading if you want to learn more about how each of these pieces is essential to a working bassoon.
The bell is the part of the bassoon responsible for emitting the instrument’s sound.
Bassoonists regularly swap out their factory-issued bell parts for other bells of various shapes and materials.
Doing so allows them to change the tonal quality of their instrument in significant ways.
The player blows air into the reed, which travels through the bassoon’s conical tubing system upward and out of the bell.
These tubes grow wider, amplifying the sound as it moves through the instrument.
Like other woodwind instruments, a bassoon bell has a circular ring attached to its outer rim, known as a bell ring.
While the bell ring does help project sound waves slightly, it’s mostly for show.
Bassoon bell rings used to be genuine ivory, but modern manufacturers use faux-ivory plastic material instead.
The bass joint connects the bell to the boot joint.
Inside, the same cylindrical tubing is slightly narrower than it is at the bell end.
While it might seem to an outsider that the bass joint is just a connector piece, the truth is that it’s an essential part bassoonists needs to master.
It features a complex series of holes accessed by fragile keys and rods.
Applying too much pressure might break the keys, so bassoonists need to take special care when playing.
The holes positioned down the bass joint allow the player to hit bass notes that are impossible for the tenor joint.
This is because the tubing system is slightly larger on the bass end than the tenor, rounding out the sound in such a way that makes bass notes playable.
Otherwise known as the butt or the double joint, the bassoon’s boot joint is the part that connects the bass joint to the tenor joint.
It folds in on itself, doubling back towards the reed and the player.
The boot joint is a unique instrument part in that it helps fit almost eight feet of tubing inside the instrument.
Considering most bassoons measure around four-feet long, we’d say that’s pretty impressive!
The boot joint also has an important series of tone holes accessed by another intricate series of keys and interior rods.
This part of the bassoon is also where the base of the player’s strap attaches to the instrument.
Sometimes, you might see a spike extending downward to the floor.
This helps the player support the instrument, especially if it’s made of heavier materials than the standard bassoon.
The u-tube is a small attachment that screws onto the end of the boot joint.
It connects the borings on either side of the instrument.
The u-tube features a u-shaped boring that changes in size, going from narrower on the tenor side to wider on the bass.
The tenor joint is the part of the bassoon that handles the instrument’s tenor notes.
It connects the bassoon to the bocal crook and reed and features several important holes and keys that the player fingers to produce notes.
You might also see the tenor joint labeled or sold as a wing joint, which is the same thing.
Since most of the player’s breath gets funneled down into the tenor joint, this bassoon piece experiences more moisture than other parts.
As a result, the tenor joint’s interior is lined with rubber to prevent the wood from warping.
Warping is dangerous, and if it occurs, it might ruin the entire joint.
The tenor joint is also home to the whisper key, an important key that keeps the high notes from cracking.
The bocal crook is a curved, thin piece of metal that attaches the tenor joint to the player’s reed.
It’s about the same width as the interior tube that extends through the rest of the instrument.
However, it’s a separate piece that the player attaches before playing.
The bocal crook’s curve helps pressurize the air before it starts traveling downward towards the boot.
Bassoonists often switch out their bocal crooks for a wide variety of alternatives, all of which can affect the pitch and tone of the sound coming from the bell.
Bocal crooks are typically silver, but the exact material depends on the type of sound you’re going for.
Thicker bocal crooks are typically made from softer silver, resulting in a deeper tone, while thinner ones are harder and raise the instrument’s pitch.
The crutch is a hook-shaped piece attached to the bass joint that extends outward from the bassoon.
Players use it to hold the instrument and stabilize their right hands as they play.
You can adjust the crutch to match the width of your hand, allowing different bassoonists to play the same instrument without additional parts.
The reed is the final piece of the bassoon and is often considered one of the most important.
It’s a small, wooden attachment that you fasten to the bocal crook.
As the player blows air into the reed, it vibrates, creating soundwaves that travel down the rest of the instrument.
Bassoon reeds are double reeds, meaning they’re made from two pieces of cane wood tightly wound together.
As you breathe into the instrument, the cane wood pieces vibrate against one another as a result of the air pressure changes.
Making a Bassoon Reed
Bassoonists take great pride in their reeds, and not just because they like the manufacturer.
Bassoon reeds are unique in that bassoon players often make their reeds themselves.
You purchase the cane wood from your preferred manufacturer and wind the pieces together yourself.
Not only that, but reeds are expensive, wearing down and breaking over time.
Professional bassoonists replace them all the time, and making your own is a great way to save a ton of money throughout your playing career!
Creating your own reed can be a fulfilling experience that deepens your understanding of how the bassoon works.
Summing Up the Parts of a Bassoon
There you have it! All the parts of a bassoon and how they work.
As you can see, the bassoon is a complex piece of equipment that requires more care to maintain than other instruments.
However, once you get a handle on the different parts of a bassoon, the options with this instrument are nearly endless—play in a concert orchestra, a jazz band, or even a rock band.
Find out your unique sound and start your first bassoon lessons today!
Interested in learning more about the bassoon?
Check out our list of famous bassoon players to discover new music and inspiring stories!