3rd Bassoon Lesson with Terry B. Ewell (2008, BDP #33)

<Music: Vivaldi Concerto in E minor> 

In lesson three we are going to do what I like to call the "articulation experiments." Perhaps if 
you are in high school you have taken some chemistry and physics classes  and you have done 
some experiments where you look at the data and you do a study.

I want you to have that in mind as we are looking at these experiments. These experiments will 
tell us important aspects of articulation. I think they help determine what method we use for 
articulation on the basson and when it is appropriate. 

So, let's get on with the articulation experiments. What you will need is a bocal and a reed: 
a reed that is soaked, that is.

For these experiments I would like you to take a piece of paper and make a little graph,
little chart.

But first I will start with a little quiz. Let's see how well you do. How many ways can you think 
of starting and stopping tones on the bassoon.

I can think of five ways. See how many of these ways you can put down on your piece of paper. 
I encourage now you to stop the video and try to think of the different ways in  which we start 
and stop tones on the bassoon.

OK, so how did you do?

Most of my students are able to find three  ways in which to start and stop tones on the bassoon. 
The first way being stopping and starting the air.

The next being the embouchure. If you close off the reed all the way, it doesn't vibrate. It 
doesn't matter how hard you blow, it doesn't matter, if you close off the reed all the way 
it doesn't vibrate.

A third way is with the tongue. I actually split this up into two ways (3rd and 4th way). 
The tip of the tongue on the reed is one way to stop it, and also the tongue if it touches 
the roof of the mouth in what we call double tongue or varied other tonguing techniques 
that you might use on the roof of the mouth or the back of the tongue of the tongue (which 
is another way to stop it). 

The fifth way is very uncommon. It is one that we don't use with wind insturments (although 
a few people use it). It is called a glottal stop. If you just go "ah...ah...ah" stopping right there. 
You are stopping that tone with the glottis. That can also stop the tone on the bassoon.

But that is not something we use for stopping the tone in wind playing. I don't advocate that.

So you now have the three basic ways. You have the air stop, you have the stop with the 
embouchure, and the stop with the tongue. 

Now we are going to test each method. I want you to make a diagram like the one shown 
on the screen right now. One for charting the air, one for charting the embouchure, and one for 
charting the tongue.

Now take your bocal, take your reed and we are doing this experiment on the bocal because it 
is unstable. <Toot toot toot toot> It makes a great little party insturment. Use it on New Year's Eve!

It allows us to hear the signatures of each of these types of articulation. By signatures I mean 
the characteristics of these types of articulation. 

So the very first one we will test is the air articulation. I want you to keep the jaw the same, 
the embouchure the same, and just start with the air. Increase the air speed--like a crescendo--
and the decrease it. But keeping this [the embouchure] the same altogether.

I will do the experiment for you right here.

<rising tone with cresendo and lowering tone with diminuendo>

I started with the tongue. This time I will start without the tongue.

<rising tone with cresendo and lowering tone with diminuendo>

Did you here the change in pitch there? As I  increased the air the pitch went up. As I decreased 
the air the pitch went down. 

OK, put that on your chart right now.

Next we are going to test the embouchure. So I want you to take the embouchure 
(if this is the reed and this is the embouchure) I want you to close off the reed altogether. Then 
you are going to drop your jaw and then release the reed, the reed is going to vibrate, and then 
you are going to close it off again. 

So let me do the embouchure articulation.

<tone falling and then rising>

Did you hear how the pitch scooped down as I opened my jaw and then it went up as I closed me jaw? 

This is very important. This is is a characteristic of the double reed,  as is the air [articluation] shape. 

Last of all--the tongue. So take the reed, put you tongue on it, the air starts, the embouchure is all set. 
You release the tongue, the reed vibrates, then you put the tongue back on the reed. Let's see what the 
characteristic signature of that is. <tone>

There is just a straight tone.

OK, make sure to chart that as well. Now with those three determinations, now we are going to find 
out the speed of each articulation.

So I want you to stop and start the tone as quickly as you can with the air.

<repeated tones>

I can't do it very fast so I would characterize that tempo as slow. Next I want you to take the reed 
with the embouchure and stop and start with the embouchure as rapidly as you can.

<repeated tones>

I can do that much quicker--you can hear that. But I don't have a lot of control. You can hear how 
the notes are sagging [in pitch]. Then with the tongue, the single tongue: <quick, repeated tones> 
it is very rapid. 

So we have learned some very important things, right now, as a result of our articulation experiments. 
These results will carry over to our playing. We have learned that if we are going to choose an 
articulation by itself the tongued articulation superior. It is superior 1) because it retains an even 
pitch; 2) for speed. 

Now like many people I don't appreciate every note being stopped with the tongue, as it were, 
like a sausage cut off at the end. <tone demonstrating abrupt stop with the tongue> That tends to 
be rude. That tends to be abrupt. So often I and many others use a combination of the air and the 
embouchure to shape the ending of the note. 

We start each note with the tongue but we shape the ending with the air and the embouchure.

<tones played demonstrating starting with tongue and ending with air and embouchure>

With proper shaping--remember when the air drops--the pitch goes down. So the embouchure 
has to compensate for, it has to tighten.

<Music: La Notte Bassoon Concerto for Bassoon, Strings, and Continuo.>