BASSOON FINGERINGS

These charts contain the basic fingerings that I have used during my career along with a few muted and speed fingerings for orchestral playing and current fingerings for the altissimo register. The first fingering for each note is always my principal fingering. My choice of names for the notes follows what I tend to shout in lessons.

The “Annotated” chart is formatted on full-sized pages and contains my comments on some of the fingerings. The “Condensed” chart is reduced in size and commentary to allow for printing. Both are complete, downloadable and free. Some day I will add my trill fingerings and special noises aka multiphonics.

I encourage you to use the most beautiful, in-tune and resonant fingerings for your technique practice and scale/chord routines. These are often the most complex and ‘hardest’ fingerings. Go as far as you can in terms of speed and dynamics, then incorporate the shortened fingerings for extreme velocities, maintaining pitch integrity by comparing sound and pitch of the shortened fingerings to the full ones.

Sometimes the best fingering is one that allows you to play extremely softly or to fine-tune a tricky note in a chord, or to create a particular tone colour, attack or diminuendo. Like everything, these become better with practice, so occasionally incorporate the short and muted special fingerings into basic scale routines that resemble the challenging passages you are preparing.

Think about how your fingers touch the bassoon keys, observe which tone holes open and which ones are closed by your fingers or the keys. Some keys open when pressed and others close. Sometimes one key will open while another closes and then you must slightly stagger the finger movement to allow for a perfect legato..

As a study technique, take the time to play the fingerings in your mind without moving your fingers. Can you remember which fingers come up and which go down?

 

When you are building your technique, it begins with an idea of what is possible for you to achieve. Curiosity combined with research and development will lead you to a wider knowledge of the bassoon. You can always aim high while keeping your feet firmly on the ground

 

A word about the extreme high range.

Like all bass instruments, the bassoon can go very high through the use of harmonics and overtones. In fact, while using your teeth lightly, you will sometimes pop up an octave or higher than the highest note in this chart. When that happens, make a note of it!

Awareness of the existence of these notes is the first step towards mastery. Including them in our daily practice routines eventually gives us the necessary time to develop the skills. I find that as I struggle to add one more semitone to my top range, notes that were previously challenging become easier. Practically speaking, working on a G5 will automatically make your high E’s and F’s more accessible

As with all elements of practice, be aware, don’t force and take many breaks. Make life easier in your early days of practicing in this range by choosing a reed that favours extreme highs. Other preliminary techniques include using a reed made with harder cane, dryer cane, a shorter reed, a reed with a leak, a bocal with a leak, teeth placed lightly on the top blade, teeth placed lightly on both blades.

You will find techniques that allow you to experiment with fingerings. And at this stage, I use my teeth starting at A flat5, just like a string player lightly placing their fingers to allow harmonics. No excessive force is required, just heightened sensitivity. I have included only the fingerings that work for me in the extreme high range, but there exist MANY more. Please also look at the charts by David Wells and Kristian Ona Rønnes.

Practice the high range long before you need these notes in performance. Refine the fingering options that work for your bassoon will eventually lead to greater command. Contemporary composers tend to be cautious and write only the notes that are guaranteed to be accessible for the soloist because they want their music to be played with confidence by students and orchestral bassoonists, yet maybe in 50 years, maybe composers can explore this most ethereal range of the bassoon without getting a signed permission slip from the bassoon world.

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PHOTO CREDITS: BO HUANG
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